What It Really Means to “Just Be Yourself” and 3 Ways to Do It

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~Alan Watts

I’ve heard the statement “just be yourself” so much. It sounds like an amazing thing to do, and I have wished many times that I could just do that. What I’ve wondered, though, is what in the world does that mean?

What if someone is a jerk to other people? Is it okay for them to just be themselves and go on being a jerk to everyone? How about people who are fearful of being around others and live a hermit-like life, avoiding people?

In my quest for answers I've found that it is very much possible to just be yourself. The person who is a jerk to others and the person who is afraid of social situations are, in actuality, not being themselves. Their real self is just being covered up with conditioned, fear-based thinking.

Our true self is who we really are when we let go of all of the stories, labels, and judgments that we have placed upon ourselves. It is who we naturally are without the masks and pretentiousness.

It is who we really are when we let fall to the floor the cloak of other people’s stuff that we have taken on.

Everything else that we claim to be when we say, “This is who I am!” is only a story.

Below are some steps that have helped me in uncovering my real nature, which is that being outside of the accumulated thoughts and beliefs that I have collected over a lifetime.

1. Get in touch with your inner child.

If you ever watch small children, you will notice just how free they are and how little they care about what other people think of them. They are happy and in the moment.

They are their true natures. They have not yet been socialized to “fit in” to a society that squashes that. They don’t care if people think that they are silly while they dance in the front yard for all of the neighbors to see.

Children are just pure love and light. If you really want to get in touch with your inner child, become freer. Play, have fun, enjoy the moment, do cartwheels in the front yard.

My son has taught me this more than anything. He has helped me to see just how stiff and serious I can be. Thanks to him, I have tapped back into something that was forgotten.

We play roles to fit into society and we suppress our true nature out of fear of what others think. If you find yourself worrying about being judged, remember that is merely just the socialized you, not the real you.

2. Become more aware of your thoughts.

You may be shocked by the number of negative thoughts that run through your mind on any given day. After so long, our reality begins to take shape based on all of these conditioned thinking patterns.

Become more aware of the quality of your thinking. Allow yourself to sit quietly every morning before starting your day for just five to ten minutes.

Yes, thoughts will come and go, but just allow them to do that without getting attached to them. Just observe them. When you are finished, continue observing the mind throughout your day.

We have so many unconscious beliefs that we have taken on over the years that were probably handed down to us from somebody else, and that we believed to be who we are. Becoming more aware of the quality of your thoughts, letting go of the old beliefs, and becoming more present can help in revealing your true nature.

We are all so much more than those old negative thinking patterns would ever allow us to believe.

3. Follow your intuition.

This is probably one of the most important factors in being yourself. I ignored my intuition for the longest time because I felt so obligated to others. Their happiness was more important than my own.

I lived at home until I was twenty-five, ignored my urges to move to a new city, and stayed in unfulfilling jobs because I was so afraid of what other people would think of me, of failing, and of stepping out of my comfort zone. Because of this, I was incredibly unhappy.

I will tell you this, from my own personal experience: When you start following the little nudges and urges that you get, you will have hopped onto the magic carpet ride of awesomeness.

It doesn’t mean that you will never have bumps in the road again, but when you are in alignment with your soul, you will always be steered in the best possible direction.

For me, it started when I followed my intuition out of a job where I was miserable, which was way out of character for me. I had nothing lined up, but thanks to my intuition, I landed back on my feet within a few months in an awesome new job.

Now, before you go quit your job, you can begin with small things, such as following through when you feel the urge to make a phone call, send an email, or take a different route to work. When you get into the habit of doing this with small things, it will make it easier to say yes to the big things, and to trust.

How do any of these things help you to just be yourself? Because they help you to be in alignment with your true nature.

Your authentic self is the real you that is beyond all of those conditioned beliefs and thinking patterns that you have accumulated throughout your life.

I was once a shy, reclusive, depressed, angry person—but I wasn’t “being myself.” While it is important to love and accept ourselves for where we are at the moment, looking back now, I see that I suppressed my true nature in order to please others and to fit in.

I began going within and doing spiritual study and practice in my late twenties, and have since become more aware of how much I was identified with my victim story, how I would play roles depending on who I was with, and just how much I cared about other people’s perceptions of me.

I had lost touch with my natural self and stuffed it away in a box. Whenever I would notice myself getting attached to the stories and labels in my head or would catch myself playing roles with others, I would just breathe and relax into the moment without any labels or judgments.

It was a challenge because I cared so much about being accepted by others. So I would ask myself, “How would I act right now if I had no cares of what others thought of me?” I realized that who I naturally am without anything else added is perfectly okay.

When you let go of the old ways of thinking, follow your bliss, and do what you love, you begin to align with happiness and peace. These are all indicators that you are connected with your true nature. You are then allowing your real self to shine forth in all its glory.

About Victoria Ayres

Victoria Ayres is a Certified Life Coach and writer. For inspiration on living a life of presence, passion, and purpose, please visit Check out her newest blog that is all about empowerment after tragedy at Look her up on Facebook and Twitter, too.

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  • Franklin

    Girls Jumping on Trampolines!!!

  • Franklin

    girls Jumping on Trampolines!

  • It’s pretty amazing how much in common people have with computers. People, like computers, get all sorts of apps and data installed over time which condition them to be “programmed” to respond to certain situations with certain responses. I’ve been on a path myself for years to uninstall as many of these apps as I can to “clean my system” and behave like a pure and unmodified Greg. I can’t say I am 100% of the way there because as I continue on my life’s path, I still continue to add new apps and data all the time. However, I can say with pure honesty and truth today that I have many fewer apps and pre-programmed responses/mindsets to deal with (^_^)

  • Listening to the intuition is hard when there’s a bunch of conversations coming and going by the second on my head. How do I know it’s not my ego that tells me to quit or stay in my job?, or to do or don’t do stuff? How can I tell the difference? Can my ego/mind simulate “love”, and trick me unto following what it’s telling me?

  • Yes, some people call it “replaying the tape.” Just becoming aware of how much negativity we each direct at ourselves can be mind-blowing. Would we talk to a beloved friend or child like that? Okay, so why do we talk to ourselves so harshly?

  • iHowl

    In most cases, you should not quit your job if you have do not have another job lined up or have a back up plan. It is hard to tell the difference, but only you will know if staying or leaving the job is part of your search for bliss. When we are following our bliss, we often have to put in the work to achieve what really makes us happy. You need to find in yourself what you want, why you want it and then you can see if the current road is the best for you. It may help differentiate who is speaking in your head.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful and inspiring post!! Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom!! 🙂

  • Victoria Ayres

    Thank you! 🙂

  • Victoria Ayres

    That’s great. Thanks, Greg.

  • Victoria Ayres

    So true… thank you, Beverly.

  • DJ

    Great article. Gives clarity to this baffling question of ‘be yourself’ when you have no idea who exactly that self is. Thanks for sharing.

  • Victoria Ayres

    A still mind practice and being present has helped me in distinguishing between the 2 over the years. It can also be trial and error at times. It has helped me to practice throughout the day with small things and that later helped with bigger issues. As far as quitting my job, it was an overwhelming feeling that came over me. There was very little doubt in my mind about it. It’s hard to even explain. I wasn’t used to following my intuition either. This feeling just came over me and I knew that I would be okay.

  • Victoria Ayres

    Thanks for your response. Everyone’s path is different and quitting my job without another was not something that I was by far used to. Something came over me, though, to where I knew I would be okay. I just knew. Hard to explain. Not everyone has this feeling, though, but if someone is unhappy in their job, I would start taking inspired action to do something different.

  • Victoria Ayres

    Thank you, DJ. 🙂

  • Marci Kennedy

    Love this! <3

  • amon ace

    I have been going through a bad phase of my life. In this tough and troubled times your article has helped me a lot. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Jamie Bergeron

    Great perspective and story, Thanks for this article!

  • Ralph T

    Beautiful post. Love it. Thank you for inspiring me on a Sunday morning! 🙂

  • iHowl

    I definitely know what you mean, even though I had said that it was often the case to have a back-up job before quitting, I also had quit a job (tried everything to make it work) and everything turned out better than expected all because of a feeling I had for a couple of days. It is great that you wrote this article when you did too. I needed read this.

  • Victoria Ayres

    Oh that’s great! I understand people feeling apprehensive about just quitting and I’m not necessarily advocating that by any means, but sometimes it really does work out for the best. 🙂 Thank you for your nice words. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the article. Happy New Year!

  • iHowl

    Dingleberries of wisdom are always enjoyed. Happy New Year.

  • It’s kinda hard to only find the next available job, taking into consideration that you may not like the other job (or not be too convinced to move unto it! (I live in Honduras, and jobs are limited here!) It’s hard also, because you can’t just quit a job right after you are in, if you don’t like it.

    I do get your point (not taking the risk before having backup), since we basically need money forcibly at this point.

  • Ace Nightingale

    I realized this some time ago, but I continue to read about it because others might’ve gotten further than I have. Your writing is awesome, I love how concise it is. People with similar experiences can relate to it. The most important thing I learned from your article was that question: “How would I act right now if I had no cares of what others thought of me?”

    I felt that it would work so much better than telling myself to relax when I get nervous in social situations. Telling yourself to relax doesn’t really make you relaxed. At all.

  • Cube Demon

    Can I as an Autistic person be myself? I like to rock myself back and forth. I like to talk to myself in public. If I was my true self who found eye contact uncomfortable and spoke in monologues will I be able to obtain and/or keep employment? Why are Autistics not allowed to be ourselves? Why force us to be something we’re not? How can one be himself if one must follow a complex social veneer that is absolute and not open to question?

    Heads we lose!

    Tails we lose!

  • Josue

    This is so good. I’m 18 now and I had all this thoughts when i was like 16, since then I’ve been looking for who i really am and getting rid of who I thought i was. I grew up so much as a person in the past 2 years, I see everything so different now and I couldn’t be happier with who I am, of course I Iost a lot of friends in the way and there’s still somethings to improve but I don’t want to be with bad, toxic people just because of popularity or something.

  • Cijo

    Nice to read. This is grounding me. I am a fake man pretenting to be perfect. Never enjoy the moment and frustated with stress.

  • Miranda Linkous

    I quit my job in May one day when a new policy was forced that made me go against who I know I am. Suddenly I lost all fear because I have more self respect than to be a puppet, I went to my boss and quit that day. I had nothing lined up at all, but I felt like 80lbs had been lifted from me. I was just at peace, and 5 weeks later I was at orientation for a better, more meaningful job with nicer people, more pay, and benefits!

  • Caleb Cox

    great article.

  • Wen

    This article has given me some tips that I might apply towards the goal of self acceptance and realization. I have always cared what other people have thought about me, mainly due to the fear that they may reject me. I have always been an eccentric person with different hobbies and ideals, so I have always felt out of place. Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to the dangerous world of alcohol to compensate for my lack of self awareness and social anxiety as one may know, alcoholism releases all inhibitions. I hope some day I will get past that part of my life and discover my self worth and live in a life full of bliss with no stress and worry. Reading this article has helped me take those first baby steps toward this goal. Thank you.

  • Graham Kajilwa

    We live in a society where we are preceded by others-like our parents elder brothers & all this uniform system of living. Our standards on how to live our lives are actually set by them & this society system. This really compromises us in just being ourselves.

  • Ruth

    This article brought me to tears. I’ve been feeling very depressed for the past year, mostly due to my social anxieties and my insecurities constantly telling me, “You must show none of your flaws nor passions to others, you’ll be judged and abandoned by all”. I’ve always admired the people who seem to have no problem with sharing both the beauty and the ugliness of their world in their truly real self expression, and I hope to be among them one day.

  • This is not an easy thing to talk about – this being yourself – and whilst I enjoyed reading Victoria’s post, it still felt like not the whole story. Yes, I do think it’s vital to be aware of your thinking, absolutely, and is equally vital to learn to guide yourself by an often quiet ‘nothing on it’ inner wisdom (intuition). And living childlike also seems to be the way forward.

    I think what’s missing, though, is an understanding that WE DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW WHO WE ARE – we *are* actually a mystery, waiting to unfold, moment by moment, if we let it! Alas, we think because certain things have happened in the past that this defines us in the present moment, and thus in future moments, and so we limit ourselves, our self expression, and try and ‘contain’ who we are sometimes.

    Our bodies give us the feedback that something is up, via some kind of tenseness, etc, but – usually – we just blame it on the outside situation/person we think caused it, rather than realising that *we* caused it by not being ourself in that moment.

    I believe, and would argue, that being yourself is being curious about yourself, moment by moment, and allowing yourself to be and do what comes in that moment, unfiltered and come what may – trusting, and listening, to intuition as you go.

    Which means someone who is unselfish and kind (most of the time) could be selfish and unkind if that’s what the moment dictates. And someone who never speaks their mind might just decide to speak their mind in this moment. None of these new actions define that person, still. Because, no-one can be defined – not until the last moment, anyway, until death. And even then it’s a made up definition, that reveals more about the person that made the definition than the person being defined.

    Anyway, bit rambling, I’ll stop…

    Thank you, Victoria, for your wise words and for the many comments that have come since you shared them.


  • Dem Bitches

    I’ve been in a hole with depression, searching for months for this article to tell me to get in touch with my inner child. All the conditioning criticism in my mind told me that yourself is depression and not listen to your inner child because I’m 18. This is what I needed to hear 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you so much for writing this article. You’ve made my life a little easier and better. I’m trying to be myself and you’ve given me direction

  • What has helped me BE MYSELF is the experience of making a choice I believe in and seeing it connect me with more people and situations that are aligned with who I am and what I value.

  • Baby steps is the answer as you’ve noted in your comment. Do one thing each day, no matter how small, and it will keep leading you towards being yourself and being comfortable with yourself. It’s great you have unique hobbies, etc. Be proud of them. It helps to weed out the people who aren’t a positive force in your life. It helps you find your people!

  • Doug

    Funny, I am a 35 year old male, yet ever since I was a kid (like at age 5), I have been un-social, hated when we had visitors, used to hide away when aunt/uncles came to visit etc. I have basically grown up to be a hermit, yet everyday people say I must be myself. How can you be yourself when you don’t know what you are supposed to be. You state (and don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you are incorrect), that you must think back to the time when you were a kid, but as I am now, that is how I was when I was a kid. Yes, I am now working everyday, mostly late, cause that is what is expected from my boss, yet for some stupid reason, I feel that as long as others are happy, who cares about me. This freaks me out because I have always been single, and wouldn’t know where to start to try have a conversation with anyone. I get used everyday by people because I am always helping them, yet I am too afraid to ask for help when I need it. Life confuses me

  • Madeline Yen

    This thing is important to me, because I went through a lot lot trouble of being myself, and I am still learning how to be myself. The thing is, when I be myself. A part inside my body is scared. I have fear and anxiety inside of me. I’m still trying to overcome that. I was isolated by a whole class before. But, I’ll still try hard to be more myself each day.

  • alexafischer

    Hey Doug. I bet so many others feel the way you do. So, what fun thing do you wish you could do with your time that involves other people? Any class you could take? The key to connecting is to put yourself in new situations where you can start, even ever so slowly, to open up to others and taking a class is a great way to have a new beginning. As for asking for help, perhaps you can challenge yourself this week to ask for one tiny thing from a co-worker. It could be for a movie recommendation – anything – to give yourself the experience of ASKING. Everything changes when you take ACTION, so I encourage you to give it a try. You deserve to have friends and be supported. And my hunch is that you’re ready now more than ever. Good luck!!!

  • grvya parker

    Thanks for the advice 🙂

  • Dong Yob Lee

    This is a full of bull crap. How you feel and react to how people judge you is also part of being yourself. Your logic is flawed because you have assumed that everyone should be free of judgements. Let me ask you this, why should they be? And are they being themselves by doing so?

  • Maegan

    This is a classic, and will help people infinity and beyond.

  • Maegan

    Funny 2 years later I am asking myself the same question. We are all alike underneath the surface.

  • Chiemelie

    Not yet finished the article but the part about how ‘free’ children are regardless of situations put me off. I myself I was a very shy child. I looked at people’s faces to tell what they thought and even when I read approval I still found it difficult to do what I wanted. Maybe it’s about the situation I grew up in or maybe it’s really just that not all kids are free spirits jumping about not caring for people. A child diversity activist should get on this.

  • This is good article about the insight of what we often forget about our true self. I especially likedbthe point of listening about your intuition. Our intuition guides usbin the woods of daily life towards a path that is made just for us.

  • Ady

    Thank you so so much for this wonderful message. It has meant tones of volume of sense to me. I look forward to reconnecting with my inner child, follow my intuition and becoming more aware of my thoughts.
    Am at the beginning of my journey to being my self. I wish I could hug you now. Your writing has helped me olot and I hope it does for thousands more. Be blessed.

  • :)

    Doug, some people are naturally hermits & that is okay! Additionally, just because someone spends a lot, even most time, alone does not mean that they dislike people; someone can just prefer & enjoy a lot of “alone time”…it is all okay. If someone wants to start being more “social”, that is great, too (if the person truly desires this, not because they believe that others think that they “should” or that being “social” is “better” in some way). We must each be true to ourselves, and “being true” looks different for each person, because every human being is different. There is no better or worse, simply different. How do we know what is true for us? We can simply be quiet, go within our self & listen. Just listen. We can hear our true self. It is when we feel peace, joy & love. Your happiness counts very much, whatever “your happiness” looks like. It is okay to be a “hermit” if that makes you happy. And, you can be a “hermit” & still appreciate people. All is good. Ask for help if you wish. Say “no” when you wish to say no. You can start a conversation simply by saying “hello” (a smile is always nice, too) & speaking from your heart, even if it is a simple “Do you enjoy books?” “Have you ever been to Ireland?” “I wish you a wonderful day!” Life loves you & life wants you to be happy, too! You get to determine what makes you happy, no one else gets to decide your happiness. Best of everything to you!!! :):):)

  • :)

    Being yourself is a precious gift that only you can give the world. Be true to yourself & if someone does not appreciate how amazing you are, it is not your issue, it is simply their issue. Let it go & go on enjoying life, being your true self. A good way to calm your body is silently telling your body that you love it, you are safe & that all is well, because this is the truth. Repeat this over & over again, if necessary, & remember to breathe. Relax. Enjoy the moment, every moment. Love yourself, no matter what. :):):) You are certainly loved.

  • Nobody

    We need to talk… I would love to find out how you broke the shell…

  • Nathan P

    2. cancels out number 1.
    Also who’s to say our intuition is reliable or indicatively us?

  • A. E. H.

    I commend you for being loving towards. I, however, am ungodly and am not loving enough.

  • Gowtham

    I’m 25,from India. I like to live my life on my own but my parents never allow me to be that. I have been taught everything from my childhood and there is nothing which i did on my own. Even if I try to do some work or anything, my father never allows me to do in my manner and always want to lead me in every direction. I never had any of my own work. He always says things in a way that those are right for me. After completing my high school, I told my parents that i will go far away from them to study or simply i will stop studying. I was a merit student in my school. In all my childhood he made me do things every thing for his own. He pretends me to do everything for him. And my mom and sister were tuned by him in such a way that what ever he tells them they will believe him without any another thought and starts to follow him up. I tried to tell them but they never listen to me at all and they started to ignore me for what ever i said to them. i am tired of acting my whole life pretending to someone whom i am actually not. In my graduation period i went to another state and started to live my life very happily with lots of hope and after completing my graduation with an aggregate of 3.8 GPA he is not happy with me. I told them that i want to do master studies, they said no need and just come to home so that they can figure out what i have to do. All my classmates were happy by doing jobs and living on their own.I went home to convince them for my study but they regretted it.whatever i said my father started to ignore me and months passed on. One day i was so frustrated and shouted at them by just sitting in home.
    He never allows me to go outside and i never had a hangout with my friends. In my graduation period i used to live in hostel.i never had any thing other than bicycle and i even got a phone which my father had used.Let me tell you one more thing we are wealthy. He never allows me to let me drive his bike or car. I forgot to tell you he stopped me to get driving license so that i never drive any vehicle. My relatives and friends have motorbikes which i never had except i used to drive them very far from my home nearly 40 miles away. One time he caught me and scolded me like anything. At the age of 24, i only have a government id, academic certificates and birth certificate. last year only i got my driving license and my Passport, that by him only. After all this he scolds me for everything i ask for,as i felt sometimes worthless. One day i asked them i want to go out find a job on my own and i want to live my life alone. They straight away said me “no” and told me to do a job which my father finds for me . I FELT MYSELF TO DIE RATHER LISTENING TO THEM AND RUN FROM HOME ……So i waited for the moment packed my certificates, some clothes and got some money $30 and i ran away from them. At that time i live almost on streets and tried to get job. i got a small job with 250$ per month. I am so happy for leaving my luxurious and sophisticated life in home and start to live my life on my own. Now i feel like, i can achieve anything i want and slowly i will get what ever i want. In that moment only i got a nice job which pays me well as a Sales Manager
    .in reputed automobile company.

    i never had any talk with friends or anyone ….so i posting this on web, by hoping somebody could understand my pain.

  • eduardo soto

    It is so hard when you are just starting to realize you’ve been behaving like everybody else but yourself… The start will be hard but I will make it through this journey of me myself and I. I will take my time and like Greg says “uninstall as many ads as I can” in order to be me again.
    Thank you tiny Buddha!!!

  • Lucio Angel Valencia

    I understand you pain but also I understand your guilty feelings
    when you understand what is best for you and you take action,
    then you are being yourself, the key to advance and to experience your
    dream life is never feel bad or guilty about yourself.

  • Marlon

    Thanks…. Simply THANK YOU 🙂

  • Kim

    Hey thanks a lot for this post. I can absolutely identify with this. The hard part is trying to reprogram your thinking after being trained to live in a way to please others and be who THEY want you to be instead of just being yourself.

    Are there any similar or follow up articles on this one?

  • Unique

    one of the clearest articles about being yourself

  • Dinesh Bagwe

    Hiii, I am 17 yr old indian guy, who was rude, arrogant, angry person in very young age of 10-12 yrs. Sometime later I realised , I should be nice, the problems actually started now.Previously I used get banged up by bullies, due to my arrogance, but now I got bullied and harassed by the nerds and the dorky people too. These experience actually showed me that your behaviour cannot be binary, either good or bad. After that I stopped caring about other people’s thoughts and started to build myself, my skills and likes. So now I am confused, who is actual me, the one who was arrogant or one who was nice or the one that I am now

  • B

    What happens if your afraid of who you really are?

  • Richard Hayden

    Beautiful article… I am coming back to myself after being considered (by others) a “legend”(cringe) in my workplace… It’s difficult…your article helps

  • Angie

    I am freaking out right now. It seems like i’m reading something i’ve just written down myself. And the craziest part is that i don’t even know why i decided to google “just be yourself” out of the blue and read this page randombly.

    It just fits with everything i think and it speeks to me because i also think that sometimes i just lack the courage to take a new step and risk myself.
    Anyway, glad to see im not alone!

  • Alejandro

    It is incredible how much influenced I am about the sorroundings. What I studied back in colleged just to satisfy my parents and let them know I’m worthy; all the crappy effort in working like literally an animal (18hrs every single days for the past 16 yerars or so), being afraid of people that in the past bretayed me often, sticking to a society that only want sad people producing for the stronger ones and as important as these comments, Not Knowing If I Am Living Or Just Existing! This is hell scary! I’m 40 and still cannot get this preconception out my dna. Don’t know what to do about them. I keep pushing and diminishing myself everyday, asking for more and more out of me and never seeing results that make me feel Ok about what I am.