Just be yourself: what does that even mean?

“Just be yourself.” You hear it all the time. But what does that even mean? And should we really be ourselves all of the time?

In this article, I elaborate on frequently asked questions regarding the advice: Just be Yourself. 

Should we really be ourselves all of the time?

‘Being yourself’ doesn’t mean that you have no filter for what you show to the outer world. Likewise, being ‘authentic’ does not have to mean that you behave in the same way at work that you would in the privacy of your own home or when hanging out with close friends.

We all know moments in which, instead of behaving genuinely, we tell people what we think they want to hear and act in ways that go against our true nature. These are facts of life and socialization.

No, there is no harm in showing a curated version of yourself

There might be no inherent harm in showing a carefully curated version of yourself.

Sometimes showing a carefully, intentionally curated version of yourself is a way to set your boundaries around what you want to share and with who.

It does, however, become a problem when the balance gets skewed. For example, when we constantly act in ways that go against our true nature and our values. Or when we put these polished sides of our personalities on a pedestal and, by doing this, reject the parts of ourselves that do not match this idealized version of ourselves. Showing a curated version of yourself out of a fear that being yourself is unlikeable or not ‘enough’ can become problematic.

What does ‘being yourself’ look like?

Per definition, there is no single prototype for what ‘being yourself’ should look like. However, often we have a particular image in our head of what it means to ‘be yourself.’.

See for yourself when you scroll through your social media feed or when you look around in the workplace how you judge if someone is being themselves or not. What criteria are you holding that person against? What criteria are you holding yourself against when you apply the advice ‘just be yourself.’ 

‘Being yourself’ looks different on everyone

Showing up as yourself means being intentional about what parts of yourself you show to others and what features you may decide to switch off in a particular situation.

Just be yourself

How to be yourself? 

‘Leaning into being yourself is like any learning process: it starts with pausing to reflect and become self-aware of who you are.

Start with self-awareness

Being yourself, in the first place,  involves knowing who you are.

Reflect on your core values, strengths, qualities, and what makes you tick. What energizes you? What drowns your energy?

Identify the gaps

From a place of strengthened self-awareness, you can start to look where you feel out of alignment with yourself in your life.

For instance, do you feel trapped in a mask when you’re at work? Perhaps you’re acting more extraverted when you are with your team than you’d like to be because you think that’s how a leader gets things done. Or, maybe you’re not sharing your ideas because you’re afraid that they will be shot down, and this leaves you feeling unseen in the workplace.

Identify the gaps and reflect on the reasons why these gaps exist. For example, are they intrapersonal, e.g., a result of your assumptions and beliefs, or is your environment not fit for your ways of working according to your true nature? Often it is a combination of both.

Practice being yourself

Combining your strengthened self-awareness and the identified gaps, you can look for ways to fill these gaps and start practicing being more your ‘authentic’ self in low-risk environments.

For example, you might realize that you’re naturally reserved in large meetings but are more comfortable stating your opinions in smaller groups. Think about how you can still contribute in larger settings without feeling intimidated.

Practice together

If we want to create a safe space where there is more space for all parts of ourselves, including the aspects that show our flawed humanness, we must find ways to practice together.

We have to create (workplace) safe cultures for people to show up with more humanity. Cultures that allow for every individual to be authentic and vulnerable on their own terms. Free to choose what you want to reveal about yourself in any situation.

Because when we dare to be ourselves and be authentic, it both liberates us and permits other people to do the same.

Tips to be yourself

Acknowledging the complexity

Being yourself is one of those topics that leaves you thinking: easier said than done.

The truth is, we do not always have the freedom or feel the safety to make these choices intentionally. And creating a world where this is possible is a very nuanced and complex issue to solve. Something that cannot be covered in a blog article.

Nevertheless, I strongly believe in the importance of raising awareness about this topic and discussing steps forward, no matter how big or small. Therefore, if you have any thoughts on this article, feel free to share them with me by emailing me: contact@lianangelino.nl.

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About Lian

Hi, I’m Lian Angelino, a certified Career coach passionate about helping women move through their careers and daily lives with more ease and meaning.

I combine my background in Work Psychology, Mental Health Sciences, and Leadership development to help you get clear about what makes you tick and gain clarity around difficult career choices.

If you would like help in searching for your next role, finding clarity around a career challenge, or are looking for a structured way to approach your job search, learn more about my services here

career coach for women

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