How do you feel about the persona you present to the world? Do you feel genuine? Do you think you can be yourself or do you have to put on a front for others? Do you even know how to be yourself anymore? In the world that we live in, there is a lot of pressure to succeed, so people may think they need to speak and behave differently than their personalities otherwise ordain.
And, if something is wrong in your life, people expect you to grin and bear it without complaint. People anticipate that we’ll be strong. When someone asks you how you are, the socially acceptable answer is, “Fine.” No one wants to hear something like, “Well, I’ve been feeling very down, and I don’t feel like I’m coping.”
Others expect a lot from us, and what they expect does not always agree with what is important to ourselves. Look at it this way – do you ever find yourself doing something that makes you unhappy because you think others expect you to behave in a certain way?
Do you feel unable to relax because you think you cannot be who you are? Or that who you are is not good enough? How many times have you hidden your true self or pretended to be someone you’re not?
If you’re like most people, you wear different masks depending on the situation. You have a different persona for work, at home, at church, etc. At home playing games you might act boisterously, but in church or at work, it’s appropriate to be more serious. It is sometimes OK to behave differently in various settings, but you may also be denying your personality. You might not even realize anymore that you’re acting, but it weighs you down.
Pretending to be someone else is exhausting. It’s draining to up the pretense. It’s also soul-destroying because you never really get to express your own truth. Don’t you think it is time to make a change?
Don’t you think that it’s time to start being yourself instead of always trying to act as you think you should? In this post, we will explore how you can start being more faithful to yourself. We’ll work through small steps that you can take so you can gradually adjust to presenting a more honest face to the world.
Is it Going to Be Easy?
No, it won’t be. You will change the way you act, and the way you think. And, we’re not going to lie to you, some people in your life are not going to like the change. But then, this exercise is about making yourself happier and more fulfilled, so it’s not about them at all.
But People Won’t Like Me
That’s going to be true whether you are true to yourself or not. But, let’s be honest – the people who like you because you act a certain way don’t know you anyway. Besides which, there are probably people in your life right now who don’t like you because they think you’re insincere.
It’s hard to maintain that façade perfectly all the time. It’s easy to make a slip and get caught. The other person probably won’t say anything because it wouldn’t be polite to do so, but it will still affect their opinion of you.
When you start acting more authentic, you won’t worry about maintaining appearances. You’ll naturally find it easier to be confident. Acting naturally will make you more likable. Besides which, the people that care about you want you to be happy. They want you to be able to live your best life. The others don’t count.
How Will My Life Change?
Imagine having a conversation with someone and not having to think: “What do they want me to say? How do they want me to answer this question?” Even better, imagine not having to remember what you’ve said before, and maintaining that illusion over time.
You’ll be able to relax and focus on things that matter, instead of having to always worry about maintaining the façade.
Where Do I Start?
Step 1: Identifying the Situations
Your first step is to identify situations in which you use a mask. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to figure that out:
- Who are you? Can you describe your strengths and weaknesses confidently?
- Do you act the same way in every situation? Or do you adjust your behavior depending on the people with whom you are dealing?
- In which situations do you think you need to be at your best behavior? Where do you think you can’t be yourself?
- When you’re around others, do you feel uncomfortable, or do you find it difficult to relax?
- Has anyone ever commented that you’d changed a lot since they first got to know you?
- Do people tell you that you that you’re different when you’re with different sets of people?
- How do you behave when people judge you or reject you? It’s bound to hurt a little, but you may feel like you need to act as though others’ judgment doesn’t touch you.
- Have you ever pretended to be like someone else, even if you really aren’t?
Step 2: Identifying the Masks
In life, there are times where it makes sense to hold back a little. You might think that your boss is acting like an ass, for example, but it’s not going to do your career any good to tell him that directly. What you could do instead, is to let him know that he acts unfairly.
But think about all the other times that you use a mask. Maybe it’s a simple matter of saying that you agree with someone even when you don’t. Or maybe wearing a mask is more a case of disguising the fact that your life is not going to according to plan.
Do you like playing the victim in some instances? Or do you like pretending that you know everything? These are all different masks that we use, and we need to be able to identify them.
Step 3: Consider Changing the Situation
In Step 2, we spoke about how it would be unwise to call your boss an ass. There are other situations where you might want to put on a mask because you feel unsafe. Maybe you don’t want to be criticized, or incur the other person’s anger.
As with most things in life, sometimes it is best to change the situation. Let’s say that you have a friend who makes fun of you when you disagree with her, so you don’t ever tell what you think. If there is no way of relaxing around this friend, it might be time to end the friendship.
If you feel that you have to put on a show when you’re with someone or in a particular situation, it might be time to start limiting your exposure to that person or situation.
Step 4: Be Patient With Yourself
Now that you are aware of the masks that you use, and the situations in which you use them, you’re no doubt in a hurry to change. But keep in mind that these are behaviors that you have developed over a long period.
Changing might not be easy, especially if you have automatically started adopting masks. Permit yourself to be patient when it comes to improving. Habits are hard to shake, so you might not get it right immediately, or even after the first few tries.
So, permit yourself to fail and don’t be hard on yourself if you do. Take things slowly and evaluate the results of the change. What positives did you note? Where there any negatives? Did trying to be more authentic help you to feel better? What could you do differently?
Then take that information, and try to do better next time.
Okay, So How Do I Change?
Changing your behavior can be simpler if you approach it the same way a child would. How much do children care about what society thinks of them? How inhibited are they? How do they see the world around them?
We’re not saying that you should start throwing temper tantrums when something doesn’t go your way, but do try to connect with your inner child. Be freer with yourself and be more honest about what you want.
Dance in the rain if that’s what you want to do. Say “No” when you don’t want to do something, and don’t think you need to provide a reason for saying “No.”
A child will flat out tell you they don’t want to do something. Many children are blazingly honest. One thing is true, though, and that is that they do act as they wish. Take a cue from children.
Take Note of Your Thoughts
How hard are you on yourself? If you’re like most people, you probably chide yourself often. We’re usually our own worst critics. So start taking note of your negative thoughts. Don’t just take negative thoughts as the gospel truth, start analyzing them.
Ask yourself the following two questions:
- Is it true? Are you really the worst parent in the world? Are you truly stupid? Is it possible that you never get anything right? That negative voice in our heads is quick to exaggerate the negative aspects of a situation. Challenge what that negative voice says.
- Would you say negative things to a friend in the same situation? Would you tell your friend that he is the worst parent in the world? If you’re fighting, you might say something nasty, but on a daily basis, how would you talk to them? Be as supportive of yourself.
Do yourself a favor and sit quietly for at least five minutes a day. During that time, let the thoughts run through your mind. Be an observer and see what kinds of things your mind brings up, without any judgment about them.
Over time, you can start to explore some of the recurrent themes in your thoughts and work on changing the negative patterns.
Trust Your Gut
How many times have you ignored your gut instinct because it was contrary to what others expected of you? Maybe you hate your life or your job and are dying to quit to follow your dreams, but you don’t because your family would be disappointed.
It’s time to start trusting your gut. What about the next time you get an urge to do something a little crazy, you follow that hunch? Don’t get mired down in what might go wrong, also consider what might go right.
There is a lot more to life than just what we are supposed to do. Our subconscious minds continuously try to communicate with us about what’s right for us. Your gut instinct is one way in which the subconscious might be trying to get into contact with you, so don’t dismiss it.
The instinct may not always prove correct, but your gut instinct will improve over time if you start listening to it more intently.
You don’t have to start with the big things like quitting your job and running off to an Ashram in India. Maybe your gut is telling you that you need more adventure in your life, or more peace and tranquility, so try to incorporate those aspects into your day-to-day life.
So, instead of booking a ticket to India, why not start with a simple daily meditation? Or check the job boards for a more interesting job? Or see if you can get away for the weekend? Start listening to your gut, and you’ll find it surprising how many times you start making the right decisions.
Wrapping Things Up
Many of us have different personas that we present depending on the circumstances. It’s only natural, we all want to fit in, and, at times our personas may afford us protection against the criticism of others.
But, while it may seem useful at times to adopt a different mask, it is seldom the most productive use of your time. It means that no one is ever going to know the real you, and that is an unfortunate thing. Every single one of us has something to offer the world, so it’s time to get real.