Does it sometimes happen to you that when you go somewhere you get so nervous because you don’t know how to behave? This was something that happened to me all the time. I lived to please my parents, be the best daughter I could be, a good student, good grand daughter,… It took up so much energy that there was no time to think of anything else. So when someone would give me the GOLDEN ADVICE: “just be yourself”, I’d smile politely and think to myself “What the heck am I supposed to do with that piece of advice… rolling my eyes internally”. I just never understood what it actually meant to be myself. I just knew how I was supposed to be, and so that was my life philosophy: Do what you have to do. I much later started asking myself the question: what does it actually mean to be myself? If you are someone who struggles with this question, these tips may help you to be closer to your inner self.
What you like/love is not unimportant
It’s not because your hobby is something not many people do (as long as we speak of a hobby that doesn’t harm or disrespects someone, just to be sure), it doesn’t make it something stupid or unimportant. It’s not because everyone in you family plays the piano and that you’re the only person who loves drawing that that hobby isn’t as worthy. So when people speak of their hobbies, you should also tell them about your preferences. As long as you equally show interest to what others do, you shouldn’t be shy to tell them about the things you love.
Certain hobbies are sometimes considered as classy (playing the piano, dancing ballet, playing the violin,…), while other activities used to be or might still be considered as something negative, (drawing makes you poor, belly dancing or pole dancing is dirty,…). If anyone discourages you, you shouldn’t think that what you’re doing is stupid. Rather think of it as: I’ll prove you wrong. I’ll show you why it is an art. Furthermore, don’t be discouraged by one single person. This person might be very close to you, someone you strongly respect. But this however doesn’t mean they’re always right. If you do something, do it because you love it and because you believe in it. That is truly what will make you shine and be the best version of yourself.
It’s okay to not be liked by everyone
I wish someone would’ve told me this when I was at school. I ended up giving away some of my stuff to “buy” friends, because some were really not nice to me. They ended up still laughing at me anyway… I guess, with grownups it’s different. People are mostly always nice to you in your face. You just don’t know what they might say behind your back. And honestly, you should let that go. First of all, it will drain you and make you feel miserable all the time just thinking about WHAT they MIGHT say… You will lose your shine and you end up becoming obsessive about it. It doesn’t make you look attractive either. Furthermore you don’t live to please others. Have some self respect and make a clear distinction between being friendly and polite to someone and being friends with someone. Not everybody wants to be your friend. And that’s okay, right? You don’t want to have certain people as friends either, so that’s okay. If someone doesn’t like you, there might be different reasons for that. Things you are often not aware of. If you get the same comment from several people AND you get the confirmation from your loved ones about your behavior, you might want to ask yourself whether there might be some truth in that and maybe work on it.
If people tell you how they feel about you to you, be thankful to them. Because most people don’t have the guts to tell you straight up and will just gossip about you. You may do what you wish with that feedback. As long as you do what feels right to you.
But often, there are things that trigger people. When you have a certain passion and feel confident about that topic, this can also intimidate others and give them an excuse to gossip about you. This might be because they don’t understand your passion, because they think it’s silly,… In any case, it makes you admirable for loving what you do. And that’s something you shouldn’t let go.
Don’t ignore your inner “no”
I had often found myself in situations in which I was asked to do something that in my gut didn’t feel right (for example writing mean e-mails to suppliers or colleagues, you actually don’t like to spend time at a certain place, some people ask you to do an administrative task that’s actually not part of your job, someone making jokes about a loved one and thinking that I don’t feel hurt about it,…). It feels like a coil in your stomach and it slightly makes you want to throw up. If that’s how you feel, don’t force yourself to ignore it or tell yourself that you’re wrong. Because that’s your instinct telling you that you shouldn’t do it. It may sound like stupid advice, but if someone had explained this to me, I wouldn’t have let people step on my feelings so much. When you don’t allow to show that you don’t want something or don’t like something, people will end up thinking that you like it or that you like to do it.
I often said “I don’t mind” and inside myself I’d be pushing that itching feeling back that I didn’t want to do it. It resulted in people saying about me: “oh no worries, she doesn’t mind anyway”… Also, if people think you don’t mind, they will continue asking it of you and even expecting you to do it (whatever that may be: going somewhere, giving something, helping out with something you truly hate,…). At some point you’ll be very frustrated.
It will also happen that you do something because you feel like it is your duty as a daughter/son, sibling, parent, partner,… If deep down it doesn’t make you feel happy, you must say it. Because otherwise, you’ll build up an unseen anger inside of you. It’s a feeling that will creep up on you and consume you completely. You may carry this on for many years. And the problem with buildup anger is that when it does come out, it’s because you don’t have a choice and it will mostly come out in an aggressive way, like a you’re cornered animal. Your surroundings may act surprised and say things like: “What’s wrong with you? I don’t know you right now… Oh it must be because you’re stressed right now”. At this point, don’t go doubting yourself and blame it on you being stressed, sad,… If you don’t like something, you don’t like it, PERIOD.
If however, you don’t wait that long to say how you feel, you can be more calm and controlled about it. So that people will understand. But you KNOW, that it doesn’t feel right. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re cursed to do, to undergo this for the rest of your life. Also, you’ll have to repeat it several times that you don’t want something, because people “forget”. You’re the only person to know how to defend your own feelings.
You don’t know everything about yourself
You’ll learn things about yourself your entire life. You may believe you’ll behave in a certain manner, in a certain situation and it often doesn’t go the way you expect it. You will discover things about yourself in a relationship with a partner, with colleagues, in stressful situations, with your parents, with your friends,… You’ll learn a lot from those experiences. But don’t think that because you made a certain discovery about yourself that that is the end of it. It changes each time you encounter a new situation (becoming a mom, getting an illness,…). The day you realize this, I just would like to tell you not to be judgy (or try not to) to someone else when they go through something.
I used to be extremely judgy, because I was raised in a strict way. And I lived according to the rules that were set in my mind. So anyone who would deviate from that mindset, I thought was just weak and undisciplined. I now feel like, I was so far off. I was the one being behind everything. I truly admire the people who stayed close to themselves from the start.
The last few years, I have experienced several times an epiphany, a realization about a certain situation or about my behavior (for example: why I have a hard time accepting help). And this would give me a feeling of euphoria for a few days. It felt like the realization uncoiled something in me. And we’re all complex people. Everyone has coils. So I like to think, we spend our lives, trying to uncoil piece per piece. It would be sad, if you’d have to live with those coils, not knowing, not wanting, to relieve that tension for the rest of your days. How stressed and frustrating would your life be…
I think, there is so much more to say about this topic. I shared here the tips that were applicable for me. I hope that somehow, it would help someone out there. If you have things to add or maybe have some other tips to give, feel free to comment below. I’m really eager to find out what works for you!