But who are you beyond that?
Roles are things that can change - you might get divorced, so you’re no longer a wife; you might lose or change jobs, so you’re no longer a teacher or accountant. Who are you then?
When you know who you are outside of the roles that you carry out, you understand that it doesn’t matter what you ‘do,’ because you bring who you are to anything that you do and if what you do goes away it doesn’t matter, because you can easily apply yourself to something else.
However, many of us don’t really know who we are, and when you don’t then you’re likely to experience greater struggle because you will become more identified with what you do and with other people’s expectations for you, and think that’s who you are.
In this post I’ll discuss:
- some of the challenges that come when you don’t know who you really are
- how life improves when you commit to self-awareness, and self-acceptance
- how you can learn to be your real self,
- and why you’ll want to.
Knowing Yourself, and Why it Matters
- the comedian who always knew he was born to make people laugh
- the person who loves to act or sing and always knew that's what they wanted to do
I’ve worked with many people who, like me, never had such a strong sense of self. When you look at people who have always known themselves that well, it’s easy to feel that there must be something wrong with you if you don’t. That’s certainly how I felt for a large part of my life.
When you don’t have a strong sense of self, it’s difficult to accept yourself, so I became a people-pleaser, doing everything I was asked in the hopes of gaining acceptance and approval from others. If someone had a problem, I felt it was my job to fix it.
I took on other people’s problems, and other people’s pain because I thought it was up to me to make things better for others.
I held myself back. I never spoke up for myself, and I let people dump all their problems onto me - at work and at home - because I thought it was my responsibility to make them happy with me.
I thought I was the only one who felt like this, but I have since discovered that there are many of us, looking for approval and acceptance from others because we cannot give it to ourselves. We cannot give it to ourselves when we don’t know who we really are, so we turn into a version of ourselves that is formed by the needs and expectations of others.
The Problem with Not Knowing Who You Are
- You sometimes (or often) feel you're not good enough
- Your perfectionist tendencies often get in the way
- You work really hard yet never seem to find the success and fulfillment you're looking for
- You tend to become anxious and get hurt really easily, which makes it difficult to stay on task and develop relationships
- You have issues balancing engagement with others and giving yourself the solitude you need for re-charging
- You tend to absorb negativity and/or other people's drama
- You find that pressure builds up until you feel completely overwhelmed, then feel embarrassed to share that with or ask for help from others
- You often attract needy, co-dependent people
- You want to find a job that you love and gives you purpose, but it seems difficult.
I could go on.
You may be wondering what these things have to do with knowing, and being who you are. They may seem like random, external things to you, but they are not. They are all connected, because when you don’t know who you really are, you:
- take things personally
- have trouble setting boundaries and telling others “no”
- you may feel guilty if you do something good for yourself
- or you feel insecure, don’t think you’re very good at anything and won’t amount to anything.
This also leads you to have no idea what it is that you really want, so you find yourself in jobs that are unfulfilling, or working so hard that you become exhausted and overwhelmed. You have no passion for what you do so you feel under-valued and unfulfilled.
You have no sense of why you’re here and what your true gifts and passions are, often you even wonder if you have any, or if you just got the short end of the stick. So you feel lost and drift from one thing to another without any sense of where you’re going or why. Until you wake up one day wondering how you arrived here and may even feel there’s no hope.
You find yourself fitting into other people’s agendas, so you’re always last on the list. Other people’s needs come before your own. You somehow feel responsible for others’ pain and insecurities. So you end up doing things that feel meaningless and unfulfilling to you, yet you don’t know how to stop the cycle.
What Changes as You Learn Who You Really Are?
When you focus only on the challenges associated with the trait it will cause you to try to ‘shut off’ your sensitivity, and deny it, because you want to fit in. When you resist it in this way, you will only experience more challenges. When you are able to accept it, then you learn how to deal with the challenges and benefit from the best aspects of the trait.
Truly knowing, accepting and connecting with who you really are is liberating. You begin to accept that you’re not like everyone else and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
- When you know and accept who you are you can own your uniqueness which leads to confidence, peace and meaningful success.
- You become bigger than your fears, so that when fear arises, you are able to face it and learn from it, rather than letting it control you. When you are willing to learn what your fear is telling you, then you move through it to the breakthrough(s) that’s on the other side.
- You are able to set boundaries and stop allowing people to manipulate or mistreat you in any way. You learn how to say ‘no’ from a place of strength, and feel good about it. You no longer tolerate rude or disrespectful behavior from others.
- You become clear about what it is that you (really) want and how to achieve it.
- You attract supportive and positive people in all areas. The toxic and negative people (such as co-workers or personal relationships) you may have attracted in the past will no longer see you as a target. Once you learn how to interact with them, they won’t be able to affect you any more and they’ll be replaced by people who are healthier, more conscious and positive.
- Amazing opportunities open up for you that you never thought possible.
- You accomplish far more than you ever thought you could - a satisfying and fulfilling career, positive and meaningful relationships, and greater vibrancy and well-being, for example.
- You improve all your relationships - even the most challenging ones.
How to Be Yourself
It’s really a process of unlearning - of letting go of who you thought you were, and in the process, discovering who you really are.
For example, as someone who used to be a chronic people-pleaser, I thought that’s who I was. I have since learned that I’m actually a really good people-challenger. If someone treats me badly now, I will call them on it right away - whereas I used to just accept it. If someone lies to me, I will let them know that I know, instead of being afraid to say something as I used to be in the past.
Get used to asking yourself questions
Whenever something doesn’t feel good or you’re not sure about something, you can ask questions like:
Is this really true for me?
Is this what I really want to be doing?
What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself in this situation?
What is it that I really want?
Asking questions in this way puts your energy, your focus and attention on finding what’s true and right for you. Don’t worry if you don’t have answers to the questions right away. Get used to asking yourself questions like this and answers will come to you and your truth will begin to emerge.
Learn from everything and everyone
Pay attention when someone says something they really like about you, don’t just dismiss it. For example, if someone says “you’re a really good listener,” and you find that people often come to you with their problems, then own the fact that you have this ability. Not everyone does.
In particular, be willing to learn from the difficult people and situations you encounter. Instead of resisting them, or talking about how unfair they are, ask yourself what you can learn from that person or situation. This is one of my favorite strategies, because you learn that every difficult encounter is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Once you learn what it is that you need to learn, then you won’t need that difficult person or situation any more.
Get used to treating yourself well. The better you treat yourself, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the more everyone around you benefits. This is surprisingly difficult for many people, and it used to be for me. I think not treating yourself well goes hand in hand with not knowing who you really are.
Treat yourself with love and kindness - as you would treat anyone else you really cared deeply about. Care for yourself in the same way.
Give Yourself What You Need
Often we get stuck because we’re not getting what we need from those close to us. Your family may not understand you, your spouse may not give you the response you were looking for when you share a challenge with them. You may feel unappreciated and unloved.
Instead of being upset that other people are not giving you what you need, learn to give it to yourself. Appreciate and value yourself, and you’ll find that you receive more appreciation from others. Release your expectations that others should give you what you need. Give it to yourself first, rather than needing it from someone else.
Know What’s Most Important to You
Sometimes people have a hard time with this. If you’re having trouble knowing what you really want and what’s really important, then start by making a list of what you know you don’t want. For example, if you hate the fact that you’re busy all the time and you never have any time to do things that you want to do, then perhaps your time and freedom to do what you want are particularly important to you.
As someone who used to put her own needs last and everyone else’s first, it was a revelation to me to learn that one of the most important things for me is my time and freedom to do what I want without being controlled by others. I no longer tolerate someone wasting my time or trying to tell me what to do.
Start learning about what is really important to you.
Take Care of Your Energy
Make your energy and vitality your number one priority. This means that you learn to set boundaries - saying no to what doesn’t serve you and yes to what does. To be able to do this you must know what is really important to you, as mentioned above.
The more you do this, the easier it is to let go of things that don’t support your energy. This includes people! If someone drains your energy, then why would you want to be around them?
Sometimes you have to be around someone who affects your energy in a negative way. Perhaps it’s a family member or co-worker. If that’s the case, accept who they are, and set the intention that you won’t allow them to take or manipulate your energy in any way. Refuse to let them pull you into their negativity.
As you begin to respond to them differently, they will no longer be able to negatively affect your energy.
Be Willing to Let Go
You will discover that there are things in your life that don’t support you and are not good for you. Be willing to disconnect from them and let go. Perhaps it’s a job or a group that you’ve been part of for a long time, but that doesn’t really serve you.
If you are a highly sensitive person or empath, it’s also highly likely that you take on (often without being aware of it) the energy of others. It could be individuals, or it could be collective energy - such as ancestral energy or global energy.
For example, think about all the emotional and physical pain that’s going on in the world right now - with COVID, fires in the west and storms and flooding in the east. There’s a lot of uncomfortable energy and if you allow yourself to take that on and be hooked into it, you will never be able to make any progress.
Learn to recognize when it is affecting you and be willing to let it go.
7 Tips and Reminders for Becoming Yourself
- Remember that this is an inner process - there is no external solution, you must do the inner work
- Be patient, loving and gentle with yourself
- This is not a race, you’ll make a little progress every day, let that be okay
- Nobody can do this for you - only you can do it
- As you become more yourself, you may experience resistance from others who are used to you being the way they want you to be. Keep going anyway.
- Allow others to support you - find those who support and encourage you, these are the people you want to hang out with
- Make a commitment to yourself - this work isn’t easy, but once you commit, you will never want to go back!
If you don’t feel great about yourself and some aspect of your life, then there’s (inner) work to do. You’ll want to start right away by implementing what I’ve shared in this article.
We’re only here for a limited amount of time - and none of us knows how long that is. Don’t waste another day not knowing and being who you really are. Start the process now.
It’s your choice of course, you don’t have to do this. But do you really want to be repeating the same patterns and be in the same place 1, 3 or 5 years from now?
Try it for one month for just $1, if you like it, the price is just $47/month after the first month. You can cancel at any time.