It’s Good to Be YOU: How to Feel Whole in a World of Conformity
“You wouldn’t like me, if you knew the real me.” I couldn’t believe it when Katie, one of my clients, said this during a session! She’s a beautiful woman inside and out. Yet, she felt ugly and unlovable. Some past experiences had caused her to develop negative thoughts and feelings about herself and her worth. She’d become a master at blending in, conforming to what other people found comfortable. It took a lot of work for her to accept my words, “It’s Good to be YOU”!
We live in a society that prides itself on being open-minded and accepting of differences. It’s the subject of headlines, talk shows, movies, books. Yet why is it so necessary to call attention to it, if it really exists? If we are truly open-minded and accepting, it would be the norm, not newsworthy.
Do you feel like it’s good to be YOU or do you feel like Katie?
Katie was fragmented between the Part of herself she would reveal and the Part she kept hidden, even from herself. Very early in life we realize that some of our qualities and behaviors are accepted by our family and some are not. We learn to adapt. We shape in accordance to what is valued and accepted by our family, social circle, community, society at large. Our authentic self slides into the background making room for the performer that likely will be accepted.
I recently found a terrific explanation of this in a book by Ritu Bhasin, “The Authenticity Principle: Resist Conformity, Embrace Differences, and Transform How You Live, Work, and Lead.” She developed a model called The Three Selves that helps us unravel the mystery of who we are as a whole. The Three Selves are:
Your Authentic Self — your core values, beliefs, needs, desires, thoughts, emotions, and traits — and how you would behave if you didn’t fear the consequences of your behavior. This is the truest reflection of who you are — the Authentic YOU.
Your Performing Self — who you become as you conform to what others want, so you don’t risk rejection or ridicule.
Your Adapted Self — in between the two previous selves, you’re the person who makes purposeful, mindful choices to adapt to meet your own needs or the needs of others. These are never fear-driven decisions. You’re authentic self wants to change your behavior. For example, your value of kindness leads you to stop what you’re doing to soothe the hurt in another individual, and your value of loyalty makes you vacation at the beach with the family, even though you prefer the mountains.
This practice of knowing your three selves is a powerful tool for understanding the choices you make and guiding you toward decisions that better serve you.
Another aha moment is reading Brené Brown’s book on vulnerability, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, she defines belonging as “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” She notes that “fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” Putting this into the 3 Selves model: Fitting in requires Your Performing Self to emerge. Belonging requires Your Authentic Self to be manifest. It becomes a false sense of belonging, when we conform because we fear. Brené makes this important point,
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Don’t you love the wisdom these women bring to us? Basically it boils down to: don’t trade your authenticity for approval. Please accept this statement with your whole being: It’s good to be YOU.
Here are a few suggestions for building the “It’s Good to be YOU” habit.
- Express your uniqueness daily — do or say something that expresses you, without regard for its popularity.
- Stop the busyness and be with yourself — pause and ground yourself throughout the day.
- Reconnect with a childhood passion — this gives clues to your true self.
- Strengthen your values — pick three values you cherish and mindfully express them daily.
- Reinforce your boundaries — if it’s hard to say no, prepare a go-to phrase like, “Let me think about it.”
- Support self-expression in others — When you see someone standing out rather than fitting in, encourage and support, avoid judgment, criticism or ridicule.
- Create more, consume less — creating comes from within you, consuming is watching/reading/using something external.
There is danger in hiding Parts of ourselves; it makes us feel lost, lacking, dissatisfied, and fragmented. The consequences can be catastrophic — self-loathing, confusion, depersonalization, depression, anxiety to name a few.
To reach our full potential, we must Step Forward. The first step of Stepping Forward is getting to know you. Not the YOU you have developed in reaction to your environment and societal pressures but the real you. The unapologetic you, the real and authentic you.
Are YOU ready to Step Forward? I’m on a mission to help women embrace this truth: It’s GOOD to be YOU! That’s why I’m preparing my Stepping Forward Program. Catch a glimpse of it, by downloading The Introduction today.