By Sienna Tarniella
“Be yourself.” It’s almost a cliché. How many of us have found ourselves in a new situation—a new relationship, a new job—and some well-intentioned person in our life says, “Just be yourself.” And how many of us have thought, “What does that even mean?”
Children are naturally honest and authentic, telling everyone they know (and everyone they don’t) in no uncertain terms, what they think and feel. As adults, we learn to subjugate our authentic selves in an effort to conform and belong—to our families, friends, and other groups. We learn to be “politically correct.” We learn to be polite. We learn to put on a mask. Some of this socialization is necessary to be functioning, likable members of society…but here’s the thing: When we wear a mask long enough, it can be hard to take off. One day, we run our fingers around our face and can no longer feel the edges.
Learning how to be yourself is about learning how to shed the mask. The act of being yourself, being real, being authentically YOU requires more than just a popular saying and a “go get ‘em” pat on the back. Authenticity has two prerequisites: self-knowledge and self-acceptance. In other words, you have to first know who you are and be comfortable with who you are before you will spontaneously “be” who you are! Another vital and often-dismissed element of being yourself is understanding and consciously exercising the inherent power to create yourself. So who are you, anyway? Let’s find out.
The first step towards figuring out who you are is realizing that it is a lifelong undertaking. There is no end date! Some facets of your personality are innate and unchangeable while others are learned and mutable. Part of the process is differentiating between the two. Another part is analyzing your belief system.
Through coaching, I have found that our beliefs are often not grounded in reality, but are imposed upon us by the people we love and value the most. Other times, beliefs are ingrained by societal dictates. Our belief system becomes internalized and unconscious over time, manifesting as the little voice inside our heads that tells us what we can’t have, what we can’t do, what we don’t deserve, and who we can’t be. Sound familiar? We can retain or discard these ideas about ourselves, but most of us never even question them. Challenging our beliefs gives us the chance to make conscious decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.
Once you recognize a limiting belief, or what I call a “weed,” you can choose to water and grow it, or pull the whole thing out by the roots.
Let’s start with an honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. Are you lazy or hardworking? Are you caring or unsympathetic? These are generalities, of course, but you get the idea. One of my flaws is a tendency to procrastinate. A former co-worker once called me a “pressure-person” and she was right! I thrive on deadlines. So, when I have something important to do that doesn’t present an immediate time crunch, I create one. I talk about it and add it to my various calendars so that I feel the pressure. The pressure then spurs me to action. I continuously assess and reassess myself as a means of defining who I am. That mental game I play? That’s an example of working with who I am. This leads us right to the next step: self-acceptance.
Acceptance can be a difficult concept to grasp. Accepting something doesn’t necessarily mean liking or agreeing with it. Acceptance allows for the existence of something without attempting to fight, remove, change, or negate it. Self-acceptance is about allowing you to be you—flaws and all. I don’t like that I procrastinate but, hey, it’s a fact. I could beat myself up about it, but what purpose would that serve? Instead, a little strategy and self-cooperation is infinitely more productive.
When we learn to accept and work with our flaws, they can turn into our biggest attributes. The task of looking inside and accepting what we find is often uncomfortable yet incredibly empowering.
The day you truly accept yourself is the day you acquire super powers! Or, at least that’s what it feels like.
Every second of every minute, and every hour of every day, we create ourselves. Free will and the ability to choose means that human beings are always in the process of creation, whether we are aware of it or not. As living organisms, we continually renew our physical selves at the cellular level. The same should apply to our inner selves.
Use your choices and decisions to unleash your personal power. Create the person you want to be. There is no law against making yourself up as you go along. Feel free to try out new identities! Change careers, even after 20 years. You don’t have to be who others expect you to be. Refuse to consign yourself to life in a box. Give yourself permission to stretch and grow.
Look, you can’t change your DNA, how you grew up, what society you were born into, or events that happened in your life. What you can do is modify your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths. What you can do is rewrite your personal narrative as the hero rather than the villain, the victor instead of the victim – and then make new choices accordingly. Find your individual dynamism and tap into it. Explore! Even as there are parts of you that will always remain the same, your actions, decisions, and responses need not be.
As my mother has always said,
“You are the star in your own movie. You write the script.”
Living your life as a knowing, accepting, creative force is the essence of authenticity. So take stock. Challenge assumptions. Accept. Reject. Evolve. Imagine. Surprise. Be.
Sienna Tarniella, CPC is a motivational coach, life-long learner, writer, and former-teen-pregnancy-success story. Sienna has the uncanny ability to help clients assume control over their own lives by challenging limiting beliefs, inspiring change and developing creative problem-solving skills. Sienna is a Certified Professional Coach who began her practice Coach STAR (Support Towards Amazing Results) with a specific focus on empowering women and teen girls. Sienna is also an entrepreneur who founded Write Me Up Administrative Services. She is a member of the National Association for Professional Women and MainStreet Chamber Houston. For more information, visit www.lifecoachstar.com and www.WriteMeUpNow.com.
This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at Amazon.com, BN.com, www.Transformation-Publishing.com and all ebook formats.