How To Stay True To Yourself
Staying true to yourself is a matter of personal integrity and self-respect. It involves standing up for your own values and not caving into the demands or expectations of others.
Being true to yourself can lead to independence, confidence, happiness, and an ability to navigate through life more effectively, leading to a sense of fulfillment that you?ve given your best self to the world.
It can be tough to navigate life with personal integrity and a sense of self?especially when you?re young?but being true to yourself can make you more fulfilled as a person.
How to stay true to yourself
Speak honestly, no matter who you?re talking to. Part of being true to yourself is saying what you actually mean. It can be very tempting to give in to peer pressure or social expectation and merely repeat the opinions of others. However, people who are true to themselves resist this impulse, and let their honest thoughts and feelings be known (without being rude about it, of course).
- For example, if some of your friends are singing the praise of a film that you didn?t enjoy, you can say something like, ?I?m glad you guys like the movie, but it didn?t do much for me.?
Don?t put others down to make yourself look better. In social settings, it can be tempting to pick on people for the sake of making yourself look witty, clever, or cool. Avoid this impulse. For example, if your friend group is teasing a less-popular person, don?t join in the teasing for the sake of making your friends laugh. Instead, say something like, ?I think we should stop the teasing, guys.?
- This will show your friends that you have personal morals and won?t change your behavior simply because it gets a laugh.
Surround yourself with friends with integrity. The people we hang out with have a big influence on who we are as people, and it?s hard to stay true to yourself when everyone around you is influencing or pressuring you to be something or someone other than yourself. Supportive friends can let you know if you?re acting out, and can support when you?re going through tough times. 
- Choose your friends wisely. Be close with genuinely kind and nice people, not cruel or detracting ones. Make sure that your friends support and admire you for being yourself; if they don?t, question their motives and the reasons for your friendships.
- Make sure you have friends or close family members that can serve as your integrity accountability mentors. This person should help you when you need to consult someone about making decisions in line with your values.
Don?t hide your character or preferences. As a general rule, there?s very little to be gained by deceiving others about who you are or what you value. People who are true to themselves are comfortable with letting their true beliefs and personality be known. If you feel like you need to conceal parts of your character (including religious or political beliefs), it?s possible that you?re not being true to yourself.
- For example, if your friends all love watching rugby games, but you?re not into sports, don?t go along with them just to feel like you fit in. Instead, say something like, ?How about we do something different for once? Let?s go bowling.?
Examine your own values. Your values will guide your personal interests and behaviors, so it’s worth taking some time to figure out what they are. To help you identify your core values, make a list of those characteristics you find important, such as freedom, power, helpfulness, and integrity. Try to prioritize the list. This will help you come up with your core personal values.
- Your values may change over time. Your list won’t remain static, and that’s fine. The point is to check in with yourself and clarify your values. You can do this exercise any time to help you with that process.
- If you are struggling to come up with a list on your own, you can look for one online to help get you started.
Determine what some of your own interests are. This is an important part of getting to know yourself and staying true to who you are. Interests can include things like interpersonal skills, professional skills, and hobbies. Once you have a few of your own strengths in mind, you?ll have a better idea of yourself and a better handle on what it means to be true to yourself.
- For example, maybe one of your siblings is an incredible athlete. But, you lack their athletic talent. That?s fine! Figure out what you are good at: maybe that?s art or business, for example.
- Or, if you hang around with people who constantly play video games but realize you?re not interested in that lifestyle, find a way to spend less time around video games and more time doing something you truly enjoy.
Brush off mistakes that you make. Everyone can and will make mistakes. Over time, it’s important to learn from the mistakes you’ve made and move forward, rather than dwelling on them. Otherwise, you?ll continue to mentally beat yourself up for something that?s in the past and unchangeable.
- For example, if you fail a test in high school or college, don?t be too hard on yourself. Instead, figure out what you did wrong that made you fail, and work to correct that error on your next test.
Set SMART goals and work towards them. You?ll have more personal drive and integrity if you have personal and professional goals to work towards. SMART is an acronym which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART goals can help you be realistic about the types of goals you can achieve, and will help keep you on track to meet the goals.
- For example, say you want to be a musician. First, be specific: decide what type of music you?d like to play, and at what professional level. Then, decide if you can attain these goals. (If you want to be the conductor of a local high-school band, that?s very achievable. If you want to be the next Jimi Hendrix, that may be less attainable.)
- Make sure your goal of being a musician is relevant to your personal interests (even after 1, 3, or 5 years have passed), and give yourself a specific time limit in which to meet your goals.
Don?t pay attention to others? detracting opinions of you. If friends or acquaintances have unjustified criticisms to make, pay them no attention. The people who really mean the most are those who stick by your side and respect and love you for who you are. For example, if a friend decides to make fun of you behind your back for wearing clothes that the friend doesn?t like, ignore their rude opinion.
- However, this isn?t to say that you can?t learn from positive and constructive feedback about improving yourself from friends and family. Those you trust will sometimes be excellent sources of suggestions for ways to improve yourself that will help bring out your true talents and abilities
- For example, if a friend says, ?I think that you need to work on your temper; you?ve been angry lately and it?s starting to drive your friends away,? their advice would be worth listening to.
Write down some qualities that you think are personal strengths. This can help you develop a positive image of yourself. It?s hard to be true to yourself if you have a low opinion of yourself in general, or if you lack self-esteem. Pull out a sheet of paper, and write down 5?10 character strengths that you think you have. For example, you could write:
- Good at the guitar.
- Ambitious when it comes to following my passions.
- Good listener.
Think about how you can live out your strengths. This will help you be true to yourself in a way that is authentic, and that you can maintain over time. For example, if you think you?re sympathetic, you may decide that you want to show greater sympathy to your friends and family members. Or, if you have a great sense of humor, try to find ways in which you can make others feel better through some jokes.
- This activity will help you develop a positive self-image. A positive self-image will encourage you to stay true to yourself and your beliefs, since you will feel less pressure to be someone you?re not or to act in a way you find inauthentic.
Learn to embrace your flaws. They are a part of you, and that won?t change. Balance these by acknowledging and making the most of your good features and putting your best self forward as much as possible. Being true to yourself doesn?t mean forcing yourself to be perfect. Rather, it involves knowing your interests and behaviors as a person, and fully embracing yourself.
- For example, maybe you?re impatient, or maybe you realize you have a bit of a temper. It?s okay to work on improving these aspects of your personality, without devolving to self-hatred or denial.
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