Being Your True, Authentic, Amazing Self
The term ‘true self’ (also referred to as the authentic self, real self, original self and vulnerable self) is a psychological concept which was introduced in the 1960s (Winnicott, 1965).
Being authentic means:
- Being self-aware
- Knowing and trusting one’s own motives and emotions
- Being honest in evaluating one’s own strengths and weaknesses and acting in ways that are in line with one’s own values and needs (The MS Society).
Examples of authenticity include:
- Being able to listen to others
- Seeing and acknowledging your own faults
- Valuing both positive and negative experiences
- Expressing yourself
Many people find it difficult to communicate how they are feeling. This can be due to numerous reasons, for example:
- Fear of judgement
- Worrying about misunderstandings
- Fear of being viewed as different
- Previous poor experience(s) when talking about emotions
- Inability to clearly express emotions. This, in some cases, might be due to poor mental health and/or disabilities
Despite these difficulties, there are ways in which we can learn how to become more authentic. Being able to talk about feelings can contribute to being more authentic, in control and true to oneself.
Here are our top tips
- Never be afraid to say ‘no’. It is vital that we always respect each other’s boundaries. As you move up to secondary school or college, you might feel as though you have to say ‘yes’ to things you don’t really want to do to please people or to avoid judgement from new peers. This can have a detrimental impact on our mental health and sense of self. By saying ‘no’ sometimes, our self-worth can be increased. This also reinforces that young people are formidable individuals that respect their own boundaries.
- Stay in contact with positive friends and family: Having the support of a positive network of family and friends and being there to support each other has been shown to have a positive impact in mental health. Having regular check-ins with people in your support network shows you genuinely care helps to maintain relationships. A useful thing to do is to make a list of 5 people who you can talk to if you have a problem or a worry. Distance yourself from people who do not support your mental health. If this is not possible, write down ways that you can overcome this challenge. For example, asking the teacher to move seats to somewhere more suitable.
- Make a list of things that you value: Examples might include music, the environment, art, relationships, religious beliefs. Think about which if these you would like to focus on more in your life. Start by choosing one thing that you would like to do to act on those values.
- Think about your talents and gifts: Examples could include musical talent, being good at a sport or being a good listener. Think of a way to put that talent to use. Doing more of what you love can make you much happier.
- Make a list of the things that you have always wanted to try but never have: This could include a new hobby, trying new foods or a new style of clothing and then start ticking them off one by one.
- Make a list of aspects of yourself that you would like to work on: Examples might include overcoming shyness, communicating more effectively or being less judgemental. Make sure not to be overly critical of yourself and only focus on areas of change that would really help to improve your wellbeing. Find opportunities to practice the aspect you want to focus on and surround yourself with people who will support you.
- Be yourself and do your best: Pressure from peers, parents/carers and even ourselves can lead to us chasing the idea of being ‘perfect’. Being human means that we all make mistakes. Use these mistakes as positive life and learning experiences for the future. Do not constantly worry about how others view you. When you feel like you’ve made a mistake, you could write your reflections down in a journal or diary which can help you with your development in the future and move on positively.
- Forgive Yourself: Saying positive things about yourself is a sign that you have forgiven yourself, for example if you have been judgemental or taken wrong steps. Focus on the positive rather than the negative and remember that behaviour can always be changed in future.
- Be confident in who you are: Try to avoid doubting yourself or comparing yourself to others as we are all unique and amazing in our own ways. Try writing down a list of traits you like about yourself to contradict negative feelings. You could even try saying positive affirmations in the mirror as you get ready for the day; this can help set you up in a positive frame of mind to tackle your day.
- Take part in extra-curricular activities: Taking part in extra-curricular activities offers the chance to socialise, unwind, relax and reduce stress. This can result in increased productivity within school or college. Taking part in new activities keeps the mind active and helps young people to figure themselves out as individuals. Keep a look out for activities happening locally, for example, at school, college, local community groups, sports clubs or other activity groups.
- Give your mind a rest and look after your personal wellbeing: Spending long periods of time on schoolwork without taking proper breaks can take its toll on mental health. It might event result in burnout. Making a list of priorities can be useful to prevent pressure from schoolwork. Looking after personal wellbeing includes taking some time each day to focus on relaxing activities. Examples include, going for a walk, taking a bath or catching up with friends. Ensuring that you get enough sleep, eat and drink well and take some time for reflection also helps the mind to relax.
- Know where to go for help: It is helpful to know where you can go to for help. This might be family members, close friends or a helpline, such as The Diana Award Crisis Messenger Service (details below). A good idea is to make a list of helpline numbers to attach onto the back of toilet doors in school or college, so everyone knows what support is available. You might also want to keep key contacts saved in your mobile phone.
Being your authentic, true self involves acting in ways that reflect your own values, being honest with yourself and knowing yourself well. Everyone can learn how to become more authentic. It can be achieved by making small, positive actions, so that we feel more confident, proactive and happier with just being ourselves. Good luck!
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger - Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in need of support, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think through the next step towards feeling better.