In a world proliferated with inspirational quotes and lots of encouragement to be ourselves, lots of us don’t know what this means. It’s why one of my most frequently asked questions is, What the hell does being yourself mean and look like?

Being yourself means letting you be the person you are when you’re not following all the rules (shoulds, musts, always, and nevers). When you’re being yourself, you’re being authentic, so being it’s the version of you that says no when you need, want to, or even should and also says yes authentically. You feel your feelings and allow you to experience connection, intimacy, and love, care, trust, and respect.

The real you is the version of yourself you briefly contemplate being or even go to be right before the committee inside your head —inner critic — shuts you down with chatter and fear. Maybe there are aspects of you that you shut down because you think they’re too much, too little, or weird – silencing these stops you from being yourself.

Being yourself is what you be and do when your existence isn’t about trying to gain approval, attention, affection, love or validation from someone or avoiding criticism, conflict, rejection, loss, disappointment or even abandonment. Your outside matches your insides, so you’re not projecting a people-pleasing version of yourself while hurting, silencing or fuming inside.

Who would you be without the restrictions, criticisms, stories, and judgements? What role(s) do you play in your relationships, and who would you be if you stopped? Who might you get to be if your emotional baggage isn’t running the show? Those answers are clues about what it means for you to be yourself.

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