We are social creatures who yearn to be respected, connected, liked, and loved. It is great to aspire to have these things, but the shadow side is that we sometimes compromise our own values and interests in order to gain approval. In some cases, we don’t even know our own values and interests because we have been so focused on being liked and accepted that we just map onto others. But what humans really want, at their core, is to be accepted and loved for who they really are. So if you don’t know who you really are, or you’re so concerned with being accepted that you hide who you really are, the acceptance and love that comes your way will never feel complete. If you think you’re one of those people who doesn’t truly know themselves, you can change that over time. Instead of following others’ senses of right and wrong, try brainstorming your own morals and uncovering what’s really important to you. This may take some serious thought and time. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to live by your own set of values.
Another part of knowing yourself is becoming closely in touch with what you enjoy and what feels authentic to you. If you’re out of touch with yourself, you probably look to others to see what should bring you joy, but in reality, this is very specific to each person. A good way to start is by allowing yourself to do that one thing you’ve always wanted to do but never allowed yourself to–maybe it’s dying your hair that fun color or joining a beginner’s dance class. Starting with a small thing that some part of you has always wanted to do will get you back in touch with that genuine feeling of joy, and then it’ll be easier to tell what other things bring you joy and what things do not. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like, but we can get better at saying “no” when it’s not necessary to say “yes.” If you feel like you know yourself but are scared to show your true self, it can be helpful to find an outside community, or perhaps just one trusted friend, that is more accepting of what you are scared to show to the world. There are all sorts of online communities on platforms like Facebook or Reddit that you can begin to dip your toes in. Once you feel more supported by some people, it will become easier to show your true colors to all the important people in your life. There will always be people who don’t want you to be who you truly are, but accepting this just frees up space for different people to come into your life who will love who you are. Once you’ve become more authentic in the way you show up in the world, you will feel more on track with your life and more accepted and loved, at least by the right people. Even if fully embracing yourself results in you being a bit different from others, many people admire others who are fully and unapologetically their unique selves even if they are different. And most importantly of all, it will be easier for you to admire and love yourself.