“Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance.” ~Tara Brach
Something kind of awesome has been happening to me lately. The older I get, the more comfortable I become as a person and with who I am.
Truly, these days, I don’t honestly care what other people think about who I am. Now, I don’t mean that I don’t care about how they feel or whether they are decent people – just that I don’t care if they don’t like me. Because these days, I like me, and I understand that it’s okay to be who I am.
What do I mean by that? Well, I wasn’t always okay with who I was. There was a time in my life when being “me” was a serious problem. The messages of who I was “supposed to be” were so loud that I could never really “hear” my own mind, if that makes sense.
I remember so many years of doubting myself, feeling “not good enough” and generally just feeling like I wasn’t really a “real” person in the sense that other people were. I was just going through the motions of life, and it kind of seemed like anything I loved wasn’t really “okay.”
This was because I allowed people other than myself to define me. But as I’ve grown older and more secure in myself, I have learned that not only am I “okay” as a person, but I’m actually kind of cool.
It wasn’t until I began to start seeing myself as a whole, real person (and not some failure who couldn’t meet the world’s expectations of me) that I really understood it all, but it comes down to one big thing.
You have to define yourself, and if you allow anyone else to do it for you, you will never be truly happy and fulfilled. So, to that end, today, we’re going to talk about what it takes to become your own person – even and especially when you’ve been in a toxic relationship that has caused you to have a skewed perception of who you’re supposed to be.
Really ‘DO’ You – How to Define Yourself
A lucky few of us are charismatic and comfortable in all social situations. However, most people suffer from some degree of self-consciousness at times and alter their behavior in an effort to appeal to others. This begins in childhood and becomes a habit we carry throughout our lives. The pressure to conform resides in most of us.
How much are you pretending? How much of yourself are you giving up in order to gain approval from others? Interestingly, the people we admire the most are those that make no effort to conform. We admire individuality.
Define Yourself: 7 Ways to Figure Out Who You Really Are
1. Pay attention to others. It’s much harder to feel self-conscious if your attention isn’t on yourself. The key to being self-conscious is to focus on your appearance, clothes, posture, and words. Eliminate this self-scanning behavior and you’ll feel much more comfortable.
Look around you and notice what’s happening. If someone is speaking to you, focus on their face and words. Your ability to focus outside yourself will grow with practice.
2. Give your self-esteem a boost. Pretending to be something you’re not suggests that you believe you’re not good enough in some way. However, you’ve done some amazing things in your life. Focus on your positive qualities. Remind yourself of your successes. Most importantly, leave your failures and regrets in the past.
3. Radically accept yourself. Remind yourself that no one is perfect. Even your best friend has numerous flaws that you could quickly list. You still love them anyway.
4. Stay cool. There are many tools to reduce your own anxiety, but it’s most effective to use them the minute you feel the first sign of stress. At the point where you’re already under pressure, it can be far more challenging to get your emotions back under control.
Tip: When you first notice yourself becoming uncomfortable, focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Redirect your focus to your breath and your environment. Your previous thoughts resulted in your anxiety, so change them.
5. Figure out what you’re meant to do and be, and then do that. It could be argued that you’re not bold enough to be yourself because the stakes aren’t high enough, yet. When you have enough motivation, anxiety rarely shows up. You might be too bashful to raise money for your new business, but it’s no problem if you’re raising money to save your child from cancer.
Do you know your purpose in life? When you can answer that question definitively, much of the social pressure in your life will disappear.
6. Imagine your parents are gone. Even people in their 50’s and 60’s are still worried about disappointing their parents. What would you do differently right now if your parents were gone? A parent’s influence is never gone completely, but most of us give them more power than is reasonable. As adults, parents only have the power we give to them.
7. Do one thing you’ve really wanted to do, but have been avoiding. It can be something small, but jump in the deep end and do something new. It might be getting a tattoo or singing Karaoke. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take ballet lessons.
8. Realize that your time is limited. It will all be over someday, so there’s little reason to worry. Anything you’re worried about now will be meaningless in the distant future. Have fun and enjoy your life.
The people that you admire the most have many detractors. Break free of the social pressure to conform. Share your thoughts and ideas. Enjoy your life. Discover how you can be your own person and still be loved – from the inside out.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.