“Be who you are and say what you mean, because those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind.“ — Dr. Seuss
These simple words are so profound when you take a moment to realize what they are saying. They are an invitation to be exactly who you are, unabashedly, and to put aside the judgment of others in pursuit of doing so.
But these words are a lot easier said, than done!
In today’s fast-paced, technological world, women are inundated with images and messages suggesting who they should be and how they should act, feel, think, dress, etc. These messages are delivered in a range of ways, and begin in early childhood and continue over the course of our lives.
A subtle example of this is seen in the representation of female models, in that, for the most part at this time, they do not represent what the average woman looks like, yet have been positioned as an ideal to strive toward. A more blatant example is receiving unwanted feedback about your actions from others, such as “you’re laughing a bit too loud” or “shouldn’t you be thinking of getting pregnant at this age” which can leave you feeling like the way you are falls just short of who and how you should be.
The problem is, you our brains can’t help but take these messages in. This leads to a slippery slope, where you then allow them, consciously and unconsciously, to define how you move through the world. As a part of this, you can forget who you are and what creates meaning in your life.
When this happens, you begin playing the role of yourself (in your own life), however, the script hasn’t been written by you and is instead influenced by others expectations for you.
There is safety in playing this “role of yourself.” It protects the “authentic self” from harm and negative messages that leave you feeling insecure and low. But it also subconsciously affirms the messaging you that “I must be someone different” as your actions in this case, speak even louder than words.
Being who you really are is hard work. It takes an extreme amount of bravery to remove the mask and let go of the role to share who you truly are with the world. Judgment feels like it’s everywhere you go. You see it on social media, the news, and experience it from others in your daily lives in small and large ways.
And what if I told you, that the biggest judge of them all, is actually you?
This isn’t something to get caught up on; it’s true for so many women. We so often find that we are our own worst enemies, especially when it comes to judging ourselves.
But there is also an empowerment in the awareness that you are your own worst enemy.
It means that you have all the power you need to start to flip the script and change the way you see yourself and the way you perceive and take in messages from the world around you. Below you will find some practical steps to start the wonderful journey into becoming who you are. This journey will be exciting and challenging, and it will ultimately being a new meaning to your life and the self within you.
Explore Who You Are.
Take time often to really reflect on who you are without all the outside noise. Ask yourself what makes you strong and worthy; what makes you unique and how do you share this with the world around you? Explore critical moments in your upbringing and past that have contributed to molding who you are today. Identify some key words that truly describe who you are on the inside. Part of this exploration by be visiting a psychotherapist so you have some guidance as you explore the parts of you that make you… well, you.
Neutralize Personal Barriers.
Once you have a better understanding of who you are, minus all the external expectations, go a step further and identify things that obstruct you from being your authentic self. Ask yourself when it’s the hardest to be you and identify certain situations and people that contribute to this. More importantly though, identify how you are holding yourself back, whether due to fear or criticism or that you will not be accepted, and determine if these should outweigh the empowerment that comes from being yourself. Do you really want to be accepted as someone you are not or be seen and accepted for who you actually are?
Be Courageously Yourself.
Experiment with being your authentic self as often as you can. This generally starts with a select group of trusted family and friends and as you get more comfortable will project onto the larger social realms. Solicit feedback form the regarding your strengths. Read books about authenticity, vulnerability, and courage (Brene Brown is always my go to!) to get a better idea of how others are successfully being authentic. When you find old barriers creeping up that are trying to oppress your true self, stand up to them, be who you are in spite of your fear, and note how this makes you feel so powerful.
Practice Self-Love and Acceptance.
In an effort to continue to maintain and grow the authentic self inside of you, be sure to frequently practice self-love, gratitude, and acceptance of your flaws and imperfections. A formal way to do this is to practice loving-kindness on a regular basis, where you are giving focus to the parts of yourself you are working to accept and coming closer to embracing them. Another way to do this by acknowledging when your unique strengths show up, such as kindness or curiosity, and taking some time to appreciate that these are a part of what makes you perfectly imperfect.
Empower Others to Be Authentic.
You empower yourself when you empower others to embrace who they are, imperfections and all. Be a model of authenticity and redefine what realness looks like with those around you. When you notice someone struggling trying to fit the mold of expectations set for them, invite them to push through despite their fears. Share thoughtful and truthful affirmations with them regarding times they have been themselves and the positive impact this has had on you and others. Another way to empower others is to be mindful of when you are being judgmental of others and being careful not to impinge these judgments on them, but rather reflect on why judgment is showing up for you and then release it.
About the Author:
Dr. Kayla LeLeux-LaBarge is a highly skilled organizational psychologist and executive coach at Equilibria Leadership Consulting. Kayla applies her expertise in human behavior and dynamics to the workplace and believes that with awareness and willingness, we have everything we need within us to succeed. She specializes in delivering captivating seminars on professional authenticity and creating positive, person-centered work environments that thrive. She is a foodie who loves cats, yoga, and a good adventure! Kayla is also a facilitator at Rise Gatherings Annual Weekend and guest facilitated at a Day of Renewal retreat.