By Rebekah Bell
In an age where “authenticity” has become a buzzword, what does it truly mean to love yourself and be confident in all aspects of your life? Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as posting a makeup-free photo to Instagram (though claps for you if you do!) or hashtagging your hot take with #sorrynotsorry.
Showing up as your authentic self takes serious work to actually put into practice. It’s part real self-care and part genuine bravery. The following four tips are all great places to get started showing up as the real you in every situation. So read on to discover just how to be yourself, no matter how hard it may seem.
1. Recognize Your Imperfections Make You Perfect
According to researcher and author Brené Brown, who studies vulnerability and shame, “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.” In other words, if we don’t truly know who we are, we can’t really feel at home with ourselves or in the world. So the key to showing up as our authentic selves starts with knowing who we are — likes, dislikes, blemishes and all.
Sounds simple enough, right? The reality is that learning how to love yourself and be confident in a world that’s constantly trying to force you to fit into a mold and look a certain way can be really difficult. But we can start by visualizing who we are (and who we want to be) at the core, affirming our strengths and getting out of our comfort zones. To build self-confidence, start with small goals that you want to accomplish, remind yourself that you are worthy and capable just the way you are and surround yourself with supportive people.
So what if no one else loves to belt out their favorite show tunes or talk for hours about their favorite unsolved mysteries? There is strength and power in knowing who you are and owning it. And by being comfortable in your own skin, you’ll encourage others to be more comfortable in theirs too.
2. Honor Your Feelings
In the age of social media, it can be tempting to overshare every aspect of our lives in pursuit of authenticity. The reality, however, is that not everyone needs to know all of our dirty laundry (seriously). It’s easy to think that we’re honoring our feelings if we’re being super open and up-front about all of our issues — but real authenticity should happen more when we are face-to-face with trusted confidants rather than when we are hiding behind a screen. So learn to acknowledge and respect those feelings without overexposing yourself. Set healthy boundaries by sharing your deepest secrets and most personal details only with those who have earned the right to hear them.
Perhaps the most difficult feeling to honor of all? Saying no. That can be a scary thing to do—especially if you’re a people pleaser! But you’ll feel much better mentally and emotionally—and be a much healthier and authentic version of yourself—if you do. And, as billionaire Warren Buffet is often quoted, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
3. Speak Your Truth
Though honoring your feelings can look like protecting them by not airing every single thought on social media, it doesn’t mean you should stay silent. Instead, honor your authentic self by speaking up in ways both big and small. It can be as simple as telling your friends what you’d actually like to do instead of just going with the flow or voicing your opinion instead of staying silent at your next big work meeting. And it can be as monumental as having an honest conversation with a loved one about what is and isn’t working in your relationship. Practice voicing your opinion when it matters most instead of staying silent, and know that your true friends will always support and accept you for it.
Once you start to speak your truth, you’ll see that confidence start to spill over into all aspects of your life. So, have the courage to get out of your comfort zone, date outside your type, try on that edgy new outfit and say yes to things that scare you. You never know where those bold choices might take you!
4. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Another way to practice authenticity is to shop your values. Far too often, overworked, underpaid employees in developing countries produce the fast-fashion trend that is popular today. If you prize equality and authenticity, it’s important to support businesses who are treating their employees fairly and protecting the earth’s resources rather than creating items that will only last for a few months.
So shop consciously by buying from brands like Common Assembly that incorporate kindness into fashion. Gone are the days when buying from fair-wage factories meant you had to pay outrageous prices or pick from a limited number of options. Shopping ethically is easier than ever before as a growing number of brands are producing socially conscious clothes in eco-friendly packaging at accessible price points. Sometimes, learning to be more authentic can be as simple as buying a new pair of jeans.
Rebekah Bell is a writer who lives in Los Angeles.