Ok, so the cliche goes… Just stay true to yourself. I get it. Not a very original thought. And often an elusive concept. What exactly does it mean? How does one “stay true” to themselves? Despite being an overused phrased, there’s immense power tucked into this kernel of wisdom. And today I’m going to unpack it in five short points. (Forgive me now for overusing the phrase even more within the confines of this essay.)
Staying true to yourself can be difficult. I’d argue that it’s the most difficult task in life. A task or journey we are each called to embark upon. But one that many people never take up.
Staying true to yourself doesn’t mean being selfish in the negative sense, although many may interpret it that way. In actuality it’s selfishness in the positive pole. A selfishness that lends itself to the highest good for not only one’s self but for everyone. Therefore, it’s both selfish and selfless at the same time.
Tending to one’s own truth is about honoring your unique differences, needs, wants, and desires. It’s about knowing what these are first and then setting boundaries and creating relationships that reflect that.
Stepping into an active role of engaging one’s core truthfulness can be immensely challenging (no wonder many people opt out!). It naturally challenges the central gravitational pillar of your life – you. As you claim your true self, relationships and situations, which stem from the core pillar, are necessarily affected.
People closest to you are forced to reckon with their own true selves and how they may or may not be living in accordance with that, whether they want to or not. It’s an encouraging force that creates opportunities for others to do the same, even though it often isn’t recognized as such.
In short, here are five ways to consciously work the truthfulness of who you are.
- Cultivate your relationship with yourself
So you can’t exactly stay true to yourself without knowing who you are. You need to cultivate that relationship, first and foremost, just like you would with any other important and intimate relationship in your life. All relationships take active, tender love and care. The relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. It’s the one relationship that all other relationships are based on. In other words, how you are in relationship with yourself is how you’ll be in relationships with others.
Plus, the points following are difficult to enact if there’s no basic relationship with self. It’s from this foundational relationship that you’re able to know who you are, what makes you different from others, what your needs and desires are, and what your subsequent boundaries need to be.
You can cultivate this relationship in a myriad of ways. Perhaps I’ll get into that in another article at a later time. But if you have any ideas, please feel free to message me and let me know.
2. Communicate your differences
As you grow older, what makes you unique becomes apparent. But it’s not always apparent at first. Sometimes it takes concerted effort to get to know who you really are. You’ll need to break away from the societal, cultural, and familial roles and identities you’ve taken on. And in the process, identifying and communicating what makes you different becomes essential.
As you extract yourself from all the things that aren’t you (the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, ways of being, style, jobs, and relationships), things you’ve picked up over the years as a way to survive and be a part of the group, you’ll need to fill the void.
When something is removed it must be replaced with something else. Identifying and naming your differences, what makes you you in these disparate areas, helps to solidify who you know yourself to be. It also helps other people know who you are, too.
For example, if you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a long time, and now you’re coming to know yourself in a new way, you’ll need to update them on who you are now. You can do that by stating, “In this situation, this isn’t really me. It’s really more my style to do XYZ. I can see that it’s always been more your thing to do this. But not me. Rather I prefer to be and do XYZ.”
Be prepared though. As you share what makes you different now, especially in long-standing relationships, others may initially have adverse reactions. Over time, most relationships smooth out. Any relationships that don’t adjust to the new you, the you that’s your truest you, then these relationships will need to be examined and potentially released.
3. Claim your needs
What naturally arises from your true identification and reclamation of self are your needs. Once you’re able to identify your unique attributes and ways of being in the world then a whole set of needs come along with that. What you need and how you tend to those needs will be different than what your false self needed. Honoring your truest self means identifying your needs now and claiming them.
Part of that process has already been done by communicating your differences. It’s your unique differences that form your unique needs. From there, you state what your new needs are. It’s important to be gentle with yourself as you come to identify your needs. Identifying needs can take time (and could be a whole post in and of itself). But honoring your needs, like the need for a certain amount of alone time or time with other people, becomes a cornerstone for staying true to who you are.
4. Arrange and enforce your boundaries
Each of these steps blends into the next in the most beautiful way. Because what we have here is the necessary container for getting your needs met – boundaries. Boundaries are protective mechanisms that you have to enforce. No one else can enforce these for you.
Other people can honor your boundaries but they can’t honor them if they don’t know what they are. And you can’t know what they are if you don’t know yourself and your needs. Once you know what your needs are then you can create boundaries that help you get your needs met. Boundaries are your responsibility and no one else’s.
5. Speak your desires
Finally, speak your desires. Staying true to yourself means speaking out loud what you desire for yourself and for your life. As you speak what you desire you set in motion processes to align your life with what you most want. Speaking what we desire, beyond our basic needs, puts us in a position to actively co-create with life.
Many people, particularly those living from the false self, fail to speak up for what they desire or do so from desires that aren’t theirs but rather desires that they’ve blindly accepted for them from others. Failure to speak up for one’s desires is very common among women as we’ve been trained to be easy, go-with-the-flow, passive, conflict-avoidant, and amenable to what other people (men) want.
You have to understand that staying true to yourself is not an easy process. Along the way conflict will arise. As you claim yourself, other people will have adverse reactions as they are forced to adjust to the new person they’re in a relationship with. Who they’ve thought you to be is changing and they have to reconcile their perceptions of you. And some relationships will fundamentally change or disintegrate.
How we show up affects how other people show up in the world. We are all affecting each other all the time for better or worse. Coming into alignment with our true selves helps others to do the same. Some people may not be ready for this. Don’t be surprised when certain relationships fall away. Stay the course. Stay true to yourself. And reach out for help when you need it.