Let’s face it: pretending to be someone you’re not is one of the most disturbing experiences in the world.
And realizing that you’ve pretended to be someone else is arguably even more distressing.
But what do we do once we realize we’re not being honest with ourselves?
All too often people make a big drama about expressing “authenticity,” when in reality, being true to yourself is quite simple. But it isn’t for the fainthearted. In order to be true to yourself, you need courage. However, thankfully courage is a source of energy we all have access to no matter how insecure we feel.
If you feel like you’re living a lie, forgive yourself. It’s OK! So many of us feel the same way. In fact, learning how to be true to yourself is all a part of the human growth experience. When we come into this life we are practically destined to live inauthentic lives at some point. Often, we need to first discover who we’re not being authentic in order to uncover who we truly are deep inside. So don’t worry. There’s nothing “wrong” with you. You aren’t at fault. But now that you have woken up out of the dream, it’s time to do some serious inner work.
29 Signs You’re Living a Complete Lie
Almost every person in existence, at some point, has stopped and stared blankly at their lives. Sometimes this feeling of inner emptiness is accompanied by feelings such as surreal dissociation or the sense that “this isn’t my life.”
Others of us feel smothered by the weight of our social masks and responsibilities, resulting in states of chronic anxiety and insomnia. And sometimes, we feel a heavy numbness inside that swallows up our lives in depression.
Realizing that we’re not walking the right path can come gradually, like day fading into night, or all of a sudden, like an avalanche consuming everything around us. What did that realization feel like to you?
For me, the realization that I was living a complete lie dawned on me slowly, across the span of a year. I felt increasingly confused, disoriented, anxious, depressed, and my mind spiraled into a very dark place. Thankfully I managed to get out of that place (and I’ll share how I did that near the end of this article). Ultimately, my decision to be true to myself resulted in burning bridges with my entire fundamentalist Christian family– but the leap into the unknown was completely and utterly worth it. I have never felt happier, more whole or more fulfilled!
Think you might be living a lie? Here are some red flags to look out for:
- You feel trapped
- You feel unheard, unseen, and undervalued
- You feel alone
- Your smiles hide terrible pain
- You’ve tried to make your life “socially acceptable”
- You’re obsessed with pleasing others (i.e. flaunting empty praise, overextending yourself, gaining approval, etc.)
- You’re tired of putting on fake personalities
- You base your self-worth on how others perceive you
- You have sacrificed all of your desires and dreams
- You rarely feel true happiness anymore
- You constantly carry a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach
- You have forgotten what makes you feel joyful and fulfilled
- You escape your reality through addictions
- Life feels bleak and dreary
- You’re constantly exhausted
- You feel bored with life
- You have a feeling that you’re living in autopilot mode
- You feel like you’re about to “snap”
- You carry a heart full of regrets
- You keep daydreaming about what “could be”
- Your mind is obsessed with the past
- You have trouble expressing your true self
- You’re surrounded by judgmental and unsupportive people
- You look at your life and feel like it’s “not yours” anymore
- You hide many secrets from others
- You’re scared to express your feelings and thoughts openly
- You keep self-sabotaging
- You struggle with self-loathing
- You feel like you don’t know who you are anymore
Stop and reflect on these signs. How many resonated with you? The more signs you said an internal “yes” to, the more likely you’re living an inauthentic life.
10 Ways to Be True to Yourself
It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are. – E. E. Cummings
Each and every one of us has a destiny, a true life path, a deeply significant soul mission. When we innocently listen to others and try to conform our lives to their expectations, we come out of alignment with our ultimate life purpose. It’s not that we choose to deliberately walk the wrong path, instead, our fractured lives are the result of unconsciously conditioned autopilot living.
We are taught since childhood to listen to our “elders” and be obedient to society. But although fitting in helped us to learn the lesson we needed as children, pleasing others becomes an outdated pattern of living in adulthood. As adults, we need to learn how to stand on our feet and make decisions that come from our heart and soul, rather than from what others (our parents, friends, lovers or culture) tell us – this is true adulthood.
If you are craving to connect with your soul and be true to yourself, here are some good pieces of advice (and don’t worry, you can do these things even if you feel terrified):
1. Take responsibility for your happiness
Seriously sit down and think about this: are other people responsible for making you happy, or are you responsible for your happiness? When we aren’t being true to ourselves we tend to let others (or fate) take hold of our lives. This passive approach breeds nothing but unhappiness and disappointment. Don’t be a passive bystander: take your life by the balls and reclaim the reigns! No one is responsible for your life but you. No one is responsible for making you feel fulfilled but you! The moment you step up to the challenge is the moment you start to feel empowered again.
2. Get out of your mind and into your heart
We need both the mind and heart to work in unison with each other, yet we are taught to worship the mind and trivialize the heart. If your mind is constantly racing and full of thoughts, take a step back. Find some way to relax your mind so that you can listen to your heart again. Remember that your heart is the doorway to your soul. Whatever your soul wants to communicate will be felt in your heart. Some great ways to relax the mind include breathing techniques (like pranayama), meditation, qigong, yoga, guided visualizations, and mindfulness.
3. Deliberately remove unsupportive and toxic people
It’s important that we show compassion to negative and judgmental people, but we don’t have to keep them around. Think about people who you would prefer not to be around, and experiment with distancing yourself from them. If you discover that you life is much lighter with certain people gone, make the decision to cut them out of your life, with kindness. Be thankful for the role they played, but move on and find new friends or family members.
4. Stop avoiding yourself
Rediscover who you are. Sit down and explore your thoughts in a journal or find a way of expressing your feelings through art, movement or some form of creativity. You don’t need to be a perfectionist: just allow yourself to reconnect with your inner self. Make sure you set a clear amount of time every day to do this or you might find ways of procrastinating or conveniently “forgetting.” Try to set aside at least ten minutes, but aim to increase these self-discovery sessions to half an hour or more.
5. Accept yourself and stop trying to be “likable”
If you feel that being hated or disliked is one of the worst things that could happen to you, you’re likely a people-pleaser. People-pleasers have a very frail sense of self as everything they do is centered around gaining approval and recognition from others (look into the topic of enmeshment for more background information). In order to move past people-pleasing, you need to learn how to find self-worth within yourself, rather than from others. When you love and accept yourself, you have no need to please others and pretend to be someone you’re not. In order to love yourself, you need to show kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and genuine care towards yourself. Remember that you, just as much as anyone in the universe, deserve your love and affection.
6. Learn how to say “no” and walk away
When we base our self-worth on the opinions of others, we tend to struggle with being assertive and drawing boundaries. Saying “yes” to people and commitments when we want to say “no” is one of the most depleting and disempowering choices we can make. There is nothing noble about self-sacrifice, especially when it’s fuelled by fear. The more we sacrifice our needs in place of others desires, the more we become bitter. Don’t let this anger build up. Learn how to say a respectful and firm “no” in the kindest way possible. Negotiate if you must, but don’t allow people to walk over you. If assertiveness is a big issue for you, read a book like “Where to Draw the Line” by Anne Katherine or attend a workshop to help you build this invaluable skill.
7. Connect with your feelings more
Do you have a habit of repressing your emotions? If you feel a sense of inner numbness or disconnection from yourself/others, pay attention. The more you bury your emotions, the more they fester within your unconscious mind and manifest as illnesses, nervous breakdowns, explosion of rage, and even mental illnesses. In order to be true to yourself, you need to connect with your heart. If you believe in the chakra energy system, you might like to explore heart chakra healing. Otherwise, try some form of catharsis to cut through the wall of emotional numbness. Try screaming, shouting, crying, laughing or anything that actively works with your body (one great technique is called dynamic meditation). When your emotions start to come out, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed at first, realizing that emotional expression is healthy and vital to your well-being.
8. Forgive yourself
Does a part of you feel like you’re unworthy of living a completely full and happy life? Forgive this self-loathing part of you. If you find it hard to forgive, forgive your lack of forgiveness. Letting go of any anger that you hold towards yourself will help you to find the freedom to make real change and live a life that feels authentic. Don’t blame yourself for the predicament you find yourself in: you were simply doing the best you could with the knowledge and level of awareness you had. Mistakes are a normal part of life. And really … are there any mistakes? Or are there just opportunities to learn and grow? Now that you’ve woken up you are blessed with the ability to make conscious decisions. What a relief!
9. Be honest with yourself
Tell the truth: are you really happy? Is this how you pictured your life? Learning how to be true to yourself is all about honesty and transparency. You might be able to deceive yourself for a little while, but eventually the truth will come out, so you might as well be honest. Even though truth can be hard, it is like an elixir for your soul. As the proverb goes, “the truth shall set you free.”
(Bonus) 10. Dare to dream
Throw all social respectability out the window! Beyond what every intrusive voice in your life has ever told you to do … what do YOU really want to do with your life? What is calling your heart? What do you feel passionate about? What secret dream have you had since childhood? Even if you can’t answer any of these questions, experiment a little! Give yourself the permission to be unconventional and try new things. Don’t let other people’s opinions tie you down – only you can ultimately discover what your ultimate life path is. Only you can listen to the call of your soul. So dare to dream a little. Spread your wings and take the plunge. Yes, you will probably make “mistakes.” But each mistake you make helps you to learn and mature. Nothing in your life is pointless if you see the soul lesson within it. Connect with your true Self and trust your strength. Enjoy the feeling of flying free!
This above all: to thine ownself be true … – Shakespeare
Coming out of the closet, revealing your true colors, and listening to the call of your soul can all feel terrifying at first. But in the end, the longest relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You are with yourself 24/7, so learning how to be true to yourself is vital if you’re to live a vibrant and fulfilling life.
Finally, don’t forget to laugh. Be playful. Laughter is good medicine. When you stop taking yourself so seriously, you can enjoy the dance of life just as it is, without all the drama. So don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
If you have any more suggestions on how to be true to yourself – or life-changing stories – please share in the comments!
Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. – Richard Bach