I was at a networking/industry event years ago as I was transitioning away from being a Designer and stepping more into my role as a Life Coach. I met new people at the event who asked me what design projects I was currently working on and I reluctantly shared that I was moving out of design and into life coaching. I remember them looking a bit confused and I immediately felt embarrassed and a little like an impostor about this new identity. It felt vulnerable to tell them about my new career direction because it felt so different from what they were all doing and for some reason, it felt “uncool” and a little silly. I realized why I had avoided telling certain people about this exciting new chapter in my life…Even though personal development and helping others lit me up in a massive way and I was openly sharing all about this new path on social media, plus I was already working with amazing clients, getting some pretty incredible results – it felt unsafe to share this side of me with certain people, in certain environments.
It felt vulnerable to stand out, be different or possibly feel misunderstood in regards to something that felt like a true calling for me.
Have you ever felt this way? Is there something that feels super authentic to you that you’re scared of being judged for? Like myself, many of my clients have something inside of them that feels so incredibly meaningful and special but they don’t feel safe to show it to the world or embody more of it, so they protect it like a dirty little secret.
Before we talk about ways you can feel safe to be more yourself and allow these pieces of you to see the light of day – let’s start by looking at where the impulse to hide parts of yourself from others stems from.
This most likely started in early childhood and progressed from there. Perhaps you were teased for being different or more sensitive than others or maybe you felt judged for your love of reading, arts & crafts, imagination (insert your own story) and from there, you perceived it to be something that made you “uncool” or “not-popular.” Like many sensitive and introverted individuals I work with in my coaching practice, you may have felt misunderstood because you learn and process information in a different way than the majority of your peers which can feel challenging in classroom or group settings. Whatever the reason(s), whether it’s specific memories, societal conditioning, etc. – this has led you to experience a level of shame or embarrassment and as a safety precaution, you’ve learned to hide or suppress these aspects and act in alternative ways in order to be liked, loved or feel like you belong.
Some protective measures may look like: trying your best to fit in and be like others, picking a spot in the back of the room vs. the front, not trying new things, being “nice” and following the rules to ensure you don’t overstep and make anyone else feel inconvenienced or uncomfortable, etc. You may also be very hard on yourself when you make mistakes or don’t do as well as you expected; you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be a certain way. Operating in these ways, for many years of your life has most likely manifested into low self-esteem and a lack of confidence and I want to help you shift out of that and into thinking more highly of yourself, as an individual.
Now that we’ve touched on some potentially tender topics, let’s get to the bright side of this article: how to start making the conscious decision to be more of yourself, which may feel uncomfortable (and even a little scary at first) AND it’s absolutely the key to living a more authentic and meaningful life.
Here’s a list of simple, yet powerful ways you can begin to feel safe to be yourself and allow the world to see more of you.
1. Tune into yourself.
Even if you’re not an introvert or an HSP, spending time alone, unplugging from the noisy world on social media or getting out in nature every so often can be helpful ways to detach from outside voices and tune into your own inner guidance system. Sometimes what we want or even who we are can feel unclear and quiet contemplation can spark deeper questions in yourself or bring clarity to what feels good vs. what isn’t working in your life.
2. Surround yourself with people who you feel safe to be yourself around.
Cultivate friendships where everyone feels supported to be themselves, free of judgment. Spend time with people who make your heart feel good – the ones you can let your hair down around (metaphorically and not), help you get through your bad days, celebrate your wins and everything in between. These friends may be walking on a totally different path than you but there’s a shared level of respect, support and excitement as each of you progress towards becoming your best, most authentic selves.
3. Show up bigger, one small step at a time.
Overwhelm can get the best of us so taking small steps or exposing ourselves in gentle ways can feel less intimidating and way more encouraging for you to keep going vs. take a huge leap, feel discouraged by the outcome and not try again. Small steps for you might be contributing more in a conversation when someone asks about you, raising your hand at a meeting or wearing something you love to a coffee shop (even if you’re unsure of what others will think.)
4. Seek out like-minded people you can explore and go deeper with.
If you have awareness around the part inside of yourself that you LOVE or are curious about, but are currently hiding (let’s use spirituality as an example) you can begin by finding podcast groups, searching Instagram hashtags or looking up other online platforms. Some of my closest friends have come from free online communities – your people are out there!
5. Assume people are curious vs. critical.
I wish I would have had this in my head years ago, like the example I shared at the beginning (when I talked about my new life coaching business to my design peers.) I remember assuming in my head that they would think life coaching was “weird” and that affected how I talked about it and majorly limited how much I shared. Now when I tell others what I do, I introduce myself with a level of excitement and enthusiasm because that’s how I feel about the work I’m doing. This doesn’t mean that everyone else will feel the same way but it definitely opens the door for people to ask questions if they’re curious.
*Important side note – if you’re on a new path or trying something different, it may take time to feel comfortable sharing this with others. Give yourself grace and use these opportunities as practice to feel more confident; your confidence will progress overtime, it’s not something that you can rush.
6. Don’t be afraid of different experiences.
You are highly capable of navigating different experiences and emotions. You are no longer that little kid who needs to protect themselves from all possible, non-ideal outcomes and scenarios. Even if something someone says stings or you feel a little awkward, remember, it’s part of the human experience and it’s just temporary. Chances are it’s not as personal as it feels – allow the experience to pass and move on.
7. You will be rewarded for your brave, authenticity.
The most authentic people in the world allow themselves to be who they are in their core and they own it in unapologetic ways – these people are magnets for what’s meant for them. In the most simple terms, when the universe knows what you like, opportunities with those aspects will begin to come to you in kismet and effortless ways.
*Journal prompt to allow yourself to dream bigger:
“what could be possible if you allowed the world to see more of this side of you?”
8. Study and get inspired by others who are comfortable with themselves.
You know those people who have a real sense of ease around themselves, who don’t take themselves too seriously, who let their freak flag fly and really give themselves permission to be their fullest self, in an imperfect way? Yupp, study those people. Listen to interviews with them, follow them on social and take note of how they navigate societal pressures and remain authentic individuals.
9. Journal prompt: “what would you have to allow in order to be more of yourself”
I ask clients this question all the time and the most common answer is something like:
“I would have to allow that others might not like me and that’s okay.”
See what comes up for you when you journal this question and what you may need to allow vs. what you may be trying to control.
10. Create safety in uncertainty.
What’s something you can do to make yourself feel more comfortable while you’re getting out of your comfort zone and allowing people to see more of you?
Is there a mantra that would feel supportive – you could try one of these: “it’s safe to be myself” or “I’m proud of the person I’m becoming in the process.”
Perhaps, there’s a podcast that gives you an extra burst of courage, or maybe there’s something you can do to prepare, like practice with a friend or speak it out loud in the mirror? If you’re willing to get creative, there can be many ways to feel supported in the process.
In closing, similar to the journal prompt in point nine, being more of yourself is not about “doing” or “trying” more to be yourself, it’s really about allowing yourself to be more of yourself. Allowing people to hear you when you speak, allowing people to know more about you, allowing yourself to take up more space on the sidewalk, allowing yourself to try something even if it’s not perfect. Freedom to be yourself comes from a place of allowing, not controlling.
As unique individuals, we each have so much to offer and when we can operate and move around the world more freely as those people, we can step into living more fulfilling lives and inspire others to do the same. Let’s work together and encourage each other to share more of our true colors, the world needs our authentic gifts more than ever.