How to be yourself (how many times have you heard that?)

It’s easy” She said. “Just be yourself” She said. My eyes began to roll…

Firmly engraved on the Holy Grail of cliché advice read the words “Just Be Yourself” This Swiss-army-knife, you-better-believe-it’s-not-butterMcDonald’s chicken-nugget of conventional wisdom seems to be the answer of all of life’s burning questions and apparently everyone but you, has figured it out. At least that’s how the story goes…

Sounds like learning how to be yourself is pretty darn easy.

If being yourself is the answer, and barring that you don’t harbor a severe case of schizophrenia (Which is cool if you do…no judgment here!) then in theory you should be able to wake up, fully express yourself and with just the right amount of fairy dust, all of your problems will be solved. Later on in the evening, your Fairy God Mother will turn a pumpkin into a horse carriage, escort you to the grand ball and I’ll meet you in the corner smiling, flask in hand.

Unfortunately my sensationalized fantasy of pumpkins, grand balls, and Fairy God Mothers isn’t reality. The facts are the facts: you woke up today as yourself, yet you still have trouble fully expressing yourself. It’s ok, you and I share the same curse… we’re human.

Learning how to be yourself is the perfect riddle: you already know the answer, but learning how to execute the answer is the real pearl of the problem.

This article was written with the intent to help you live authentically so you can drink from the Holy Grail of cliché advice because they don’t want you to drink from the Holy Grail of cliché advice. They don’t want you to be yourself.

Let’s go ahead and state the obvious:

I Don’t Know Who You Are.

How to be yourself - Liam Neeson

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.

Whoa, didn’t mean to go full Liam Neeson on you back there, post movie stress disorder acting up again. Sheesh.

Sincerely though, I don’t know you or the situation you’re in. I don’t know what motivates you, what inspires you, what makes you dream and what makes you weep. I want the best for you, but I’m not sitting on tailored advice I made specifically for you.

However I do know someone who does knows you best.


Define your values

The starting point of being yourself is to sit down and define your values. Values are something you learn in grade school and if you’re like me, you probably weren’t paying complete attention, it’s ok, guidance counselors are notoriously 7 years behind the times. I get it, no harm, no foul.

Values can be likened to the skeleton bones of your conscience, giving you a base and a structural frame to begin to answer the innocent, innocuous and in depth questions the pitcher named “Life” throws at you. Having well defined values gives you the tools to conquer life; they save you from engaging in situations that make your heart suffer. In easiest terms, values let you know exactly “where the fuck you get off” on day to day issues. They’re awesome, they’re worth your time and they save you from most heartaches. I dig them, you dig them, we dig them, ya dig?

I’ve come up with a general list of questions that I personally use that helped me on my journey. Maybe they can help you too.

  • What do you value in work?
  • What work do you find fulfilling?
  • What do you value in friends?
  • What qualities do you look for in people?
  • What do you value in relationships?
  • What do you admire most in people?
  • What do you dislike most in people?
  • How do you respond to criticism?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What do you consider to be a worthwhile life?
  • What do you value in yourself?
  • What do you stand for?
  • How do you like to be treated?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • What don’t you tolerate?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What makes you sad?
  • What do you believe?

Answer honestly and live with the results as the truth has nothing to hide from.

How to be yourself

Notice when you are not being yourself

Here’s a million dollar paradox for you: we all innately know we should be ourselves but we can’t define who we are….yet we know who we are…. because we are ourselves. WTF, the perfect crime, am I right?!

As with all good internal, soul-scarring, identity-conflicts there’s a silver lining to this particular paradox: Although we have a difficult time realizing when we are being ourselves we can easily identify when we aren’t being ourselves. This is the key to success baby!

Anytime you find yourself in a situation where you are acting in a manner that feels “Fake” (Not living you values) be sure to recognize it. It’s easy to tell when you’re not being yourself, because we’re all made with a great bullshit detector. We should probably use it. It’s only when we are able to identify situations when we aren’t being ourselves we can then begin to concisely decide to “Be ourselves” in those same situations.

Know yourself.

So it seems we have reached the final boss in this video game called life. I’m pleading with you: the hard work is done, you know your values and you have begun to notice moments when you are not truly being yourself. The next step is all about action.

The best way to be yourself is to change the moments that you catch yourself not truly being yourself. You want to live authentically; authenticity is what magic is made of.

Dare to truly be and express yourself. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll feel happier? You’ll have more self-respect? You’ll establish more meaningful connections? You can give people vague advice confidently? You’ll overuse the italicize button? C’mon!

All kidding aside, in the moments that you noticed you were behaving in an inauthentic manner, challenge yourself to behave authentically.

Yes, it will feel awkward at first. Yes, it will make you feel vulnerable. Yes, you will have to deal with people’s reactions. Yes, it becomes easier with time. Yes, this is a life long project. Yes, it will all be worth it. 

Being yourself isn’t something anyone has; it’s not a good, it’s not a product, it’s not something you can buy at the store or copy from someone’s Instagram profile. It truly means living and being your authentic self. That’s it. It’s beautifully simple as are all good things.

Experience life one moment at a time.

The real secret to truly expressing yourself sounds new-age, religious, eastern based, western based and you probably heard it before with deaf ears. You need to experience life one moment at a time; you need to be present. Life is happening as you are reading this sentence. Life is now, literally right-fucking-now.

Do not try to plan how to be yourself or look up to a person for inspiration. Rather be present in the moment. When you’re in the moment there isn’t anytime to think, only time for action. I can tell you from experience that this is hard. This is really fucking hard, and yes I’m aware that you are a busy person with busy person problems. Try to live in each moment as they come. Know that this process takes time and achieving 100 percent success, 100 percent of the time is a fantasy. A good way to stay present is focusing on your breath, and setting time for meditation. More than half the world mediates for this reason, they might be on to something.

When you’re are able to fully step into each moment life oozes chance, you will become enchanted and even repulsed by the possibility of infinite options.


I truly believe life was made to be simple but we have a fantastic way of overcomplicating matters. (The whole being human thing) It’s time to get back to the basics. Define what you stand for (Values), notice when you aren’t being yourself (Not living your values), be yourself in the moments when you aren’t being yourself and live in the present moment. You’ll be ok kid, I’ve got news for ya’you already are yourself. 😉 

If you have any advice how to express yourself share it! The world is better off with knowledge.

Photo credit: unsplash

Written by Anthony Winn

My name is Tony Winn. I favor curious minds, I laugh at honest humor and I'm motivated by spreading worthwhile ideas.

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