“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
What a thought-provoking quote. It gets me every time, stops me dead in my tracks. To be yourself, what a beautiful thought. From here, I got curious about myself - am I truly myself, now or ever? When do I feel most authentic or like myself? Does it change from who I’m with or in different environments or settings?
How am I showing up in this world? And, more importantly, how am I showing up for myself?
“Showing up” is how you present yourself to the world. The version of ourselves that we share day-to-day. The person we are for our partner, friends, families, workplace, community, etc. I will say person, persona, and version of ourselves because we aren’t often the same version of ourselves for everyone in our lives, even sometimes including ourselves. For instance, you don’t let as much of yourself be seen with a new colleague as you would a dear friend. It’s as if we have a variety of masks that we put on depending on who we’re with or where we are.
Showing up means embracing yourself, your authentic self.
Authenticity is hard to define, but Mind Tools put it beautifully. “Being authentic is living your life according to your own values and goals rather than those of other people. Put simply: authenticity means you're true to your own personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure you're under to act otherwise.”
Let’s pause here for a moment to reflect, grab a pen and some paper.
How have I been showing up in the world?
How have I been showing up for myself?
How am I being authentic to myself?
How am I being authentic to myself?
When was the last time I owned my entire personality with someone?
What masks am I wearing with different people, including myself?
For many of you, this will show up differently for each person you interact with or in a new environment. Almost as if you put on a mask to disguise yourself, blend in, or fit into a role: mother, sister, partner, friend, or a good employee. You wear masks to protect yourself in social situations, holding different pieces of yourself back without even realizing it.
Have you ever held back interest from a friend? A type of music or a hobby you love? Not shared inspiring things going on in your life when others around you are struggling to make them feel more comfortable? Have you hidden a quirk, passion, or sexual preference with partners? Do you hold pieces of yourself from your parents, thinking they wouldn’t accept or approve of these pieces of you? We hold all these beautiful things that make us unique from the people most important to us. We do this out of fear of not being accepted as our unapologetic selves.
Wearing these masks day after day is a lot to carry around. How has hiding these glorious pieces of you from the world been beneficial? Have you been allowing society and what others might think to control how you show up in life? If you are always living your life for others, that can make it easy to lose your sense of self. Performing daily, you will forget some pieces that make up your unique blueprint.
So, what masks are you wearing, and who are you currently showing up for? It will be hard to start without first becoming aware of how and when you’re most like yourself. Let’s go even one layer further and ask ourselves what it feels like to be me? And, what pieces of myself am I most afraid of exposing to the world?
By not showing up as your full self, you’re not only putting more work on yourself to try and be the person you think people want you to be, but you’re also depriving the people who care most about you of getting to know your true and whole self. How amazing would it feel not to have to carry these versions of yourself everywhere you go. Or to wear a mask out of fear, or to fit in?
Benefits of living an authentic life and showing up for yourself.
Authenticity is living your life according to your needs and values rather than what society, friends, and family expect from you. Living authentically offers several benefits, the most rewarding of being true to yourself. Others include:
You will feel lighter - Wearing these masks and pretending to be someone else can be emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting. The more you embrace your authentic self and get comfortable showing up that way, the more relaxed and free you’ll feel in every area of your life.
You’ll deepen your relationship with yourself - Feeling confident to embrace your authenticity doesn’t always come easy. Spending some time to get to know who you are, what your passions are, and what lights you up can be a great first step in unlocking your authentic self.
Live your life by your own rules - One of the main reasons people end up moving away from their authenticity is to conform to other people’s expectations, being who we think people need vs who we are or being worried about what people will think of us. When you move towards living authentically, you’ll take charge of your life and decisions, allowing you to live more freely and by your own rules. By owning your life you won’t have to worry about people-pleasing, and instead live by your own expectations.
You’ll have enriched relationships- Being authentic and allowing people to truly see you, all of you will not only bring you closer with the people that are meant for you and welcome all of you. But, it will also help people to feel safer around you and inspire them to let their authentic self out. Allowing people in, can deepen your connections with the people you love.
Better decision making - Yes, you will make better decisions when you are true to yourself. When you give in to social norms and follow the herd, you’re more likely to value other people’s opinion more than you listen to what your heart is saying. The more you listen to what you need and desire, the more likely you’ll make decisions that support the future you truly want. And, the more decisions you make for yourself the more confident you’ll be in decision making.
Deeper trust in yourself - When we aren’t connected with our authentic self on the regular it can feel impossible to follow your instincts, or to even recognize what you need and desire. By focusing on who you are, and what is meaningful to you, you are able to navigate and become clearer on the little nudges and signs your body or mind are trying to tell you. Get curious about the little messages you receive and start to notice what happens when you follow them.
Stronger Boundaries - Being true to yourself, and showing up for yourself fully means standing up for what you believe in, and prioritizing your needs and desires. To do this effectively boundaries need to be made. Not only to help prioritize what helps you feel most in tune with you and helps others know where your edges are.
More time dedicated to what lights you up - When you are able to make the time to get curious and get to know yourself more, you begin to learn what makes you come alive. You’ll naturally lean more into making the time for the things that light you up. For many of us, the distance from these activities makes us forget how they made us feel. Introducing more activities that bring you back to this feeling and make you feel connected with yourself will inspire you to dedicate more to these times.
You’ll become more present - When you’re navigating life worried about what people might think of you, or how to fit in, it’s hard to be present and in the moment. When you’re learning to embrace your authentic self and be you, you don’t have to worry about what to say next or how it will be received. You’ll get to be engaged in conversations, cherish the moments those you love, and even learn more about yourself through genuine interactions with others. Not to mention the beautiful memories you’ll make along the way.
Live a happier and more fulfilling life - When you’re true to yourself and allow the outside world in you’ll find so much more meaning in your day-to-day life. You’ll feel lighter with less worry. You’ll have deep genuine connections, where you feel seen and heard. You’ll have goals that align with who you are and what you want out of life. You’ll feel more confident but most importantly you’ll be living life on your terms, meaning a more fulfilling life.
We spend so much of our lives living for others that we lose touch of who we truly are.
Whether it is believing something because we were raised or conditioned that way. Saying the perfect response because we think that’s what the other person wanted to hear, behaving a certain way to maintain a relationship with a significant other or wearing a certain piece of clothing because it’s the trend of the season and want to fit in, we choose to wear these masks or show up as a version of ourselves to become what we believe others want us to be, or to fit into the social norms instead of being who we are truly meant to be.
Living Authentically and showing up in a powerful way.
Living authentically is like any learning process: it starts with reflection to pause and become self-aware of who you are. From a place of strengthened self-awareness, you can begin to show up as your authentic self in your relationships, at work, and in life. By living in line with your values, paying attention to your goals and their importance, and then reflecting on your journey, you can become energized and grounded by being the truest version of yourself. Authenticity is not a binary thing, strive to be more authentic today than yesterday.
Many people are on autopilot, so the idea of being “present” enough to see and feel how you’re showing up in your daily life might be a huge first step, and that is totally ok. Your authenticity can show up differently in every situation, group, environment, etc. Take the next few days or even a week to observe how this shows up for you. Awareness is the first step in seeing how you show up. There is no destination we’re running to. Take this journey at your own pace. I promise you’ll get so much more out of it this way.
Prioritize time to get to know yourself. Schedule time with yourself to explore old passions and hobbies: read that book you’ve been putting off for the last year, try something new. Deepening your relationship with yourself is a sure way to know what it feels like to be you, and a great practice to be in your own skin.
Get familiar with your values. It’s hard to behave in an authentic way if you do not know what you value and desire. Often, we hold tight to the same values we grew up with, when we need to reevaluate what feels right to us now and align our actions around those things. Get clear on what you care about and authenticity will take hold. Brene Brown has a great values tool you can find here to help you if you’re not familiar with this process.
There is no authenticity where there is no truth. And truth does not exist where there is no vulnerability. Get curious and learn to lean into the discomfort of expressing how you feel. Start small with close friends, family or a partner. Learn to speak up for yourself and what’s important to you. “Honesty and openness are oxygen for authenticity to thrive. There is no genuineness without a candid dose of reality first. Speak from your soul and you’ll never lack authenticity. It’s that simple.” - Chris Rackliffe
Be intentional with who and what you give your energy to. If you don’t feel safe to be yourself in a certain situation or with specific individuals, ask yourself why that might be? Is it something you can adjust and become more comfortable with, or perhaps these situations and people don’t align with your values and who you are. Really listen to your intuition rather than losing it in the noise of what others think. Allow this self-monitoring to become an ongoing process and listen to your needs, desires, and fears.
Living an authentic life, and showing up for yourself doesn’t just happen overnight. To be honest, there isn’t a done state for it either. What is authentic to you will also evolve and change as you evolve and change. The goal isn’t to achieve a specific space of being and that’s it, but rather it's a lifestyle and commitment to yourself to not rob yourself, or the world, of who you truly are.
I know my journey has had many peaks and valleys when it comes to how I show up and how true I’ve been to myself. Major life events are a great reminder to reflect and go inward to see how things have shifted. I know that in certain circumstances and around new people I need to be more intentional about not holding myself back. I know it’s easier to be myself at home with my partner or around close friends and family, but I use those moments to remember what it feels like to be me and use that as a reminder in other areas of my life.
I’m curious whether you feel like the leading lady in your life or the supporting actress.
What choices are you making for your happiness?
What do you need to feel fully alive and fully authentic?
When was the last time you truly felt like yourself?
How can you make what you hold essential a priority?
Reflect on these questions, and consider all of this new information as data. Data that can help you have a better understanding of who you are, and take inspired action towards your happiness, your authenticity, and making yourself a priority.
Let out that little girl inside to show the women on the outside how to be free and play. The old ways of showing up no longer serve you. Ask yourself: what does showing up authentically without a mask look like to me? Anyone who deserves your love and affection will still be standing there with your masks off. Trust that you're enough, and let the world marvel at it.
This is your call to take back that power and rip those masks off. This is YOUR LIFE! You should live it authentically according to YOUR values, not someone else's.