THE BLOG

4 Steps to Being Yourself

spirituality Mar 14, 2022
Happy woman dancing in rain with yellow umbrella and boots

Freedom is everything.

Anyone who has not been free in any sort of way understands the truth in that statement. We are often held in bondage by people, situations, beliefs, and experiences. Bad relationships steal our freedom. Toxic work environments hold us hostage. Our self-limiting beliefs shackle us. Past traumas continue to capture us.

But once we are free, we experience a new sense of joy and happiness that transforms our lives. It’s kind of like that first Spring Day after a long, cold winter. Or maybe like the joy of the first day of summer break or vacation. Or even being able to step outside, take off that N95 mask, and take a deep breath of fresh air. Yeah, freedom is good.

Well, this blog post is the first in a series on freedom. Through this series, I will explore a few different areas where we should be free, but often aren’t. This particular look at freedom is focused on finding freedom in being yourself.

That’s right. Free to be you.

You might be thinking that you are being you. And that’s great. But are you really? Fully? 100 percent? Are there areas, places, situations, or with certain people where you do not show up? When you hold back? Act different? Even diminish yourself?

I believe finding true freedom to be yourself is a process. It’s a journey that allows you to self-discover, grow, and become stronger.

I have a four-step process I’d like to share with you to start you on your own freedom journey. That process includes: a foundation, uncovering, leaning in, and letting go.

Let’s explore this process and learn how we can be free.

Foundation

First things first. This process must start with a firm foundation. I like to watch home renovation shows like Married to Real Estate and Property Brothers. When they begin the demolition process, they always make sure there’s a strong foundation.

Cracks in the foundation must be fixed. Otherwise, the house isn’t deemed safe enough to stand. Ceilings must have a strong foundational support, otherwise walls can’t be removed. Strong foundations are necessary for a house that’s safe and has integrity.

And that’s why we must have a firm foundation ourselves. It’s needed so that we can live out loud as our true selves. Without that firm foundation we’re vulnerable to believing our true selves aren’t good enough. When our foundation isn’t strong, the integrity we hold towards ourselves becomes weak (read that again).

The great news is that you don’t have to create your own foundation. There’s one available to you that’s strong enough for you to build on safely.

Here it is:
2 Timothy 2:19 (AMP) —

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God [which He has laid] stands [sure and unshaken despite attacks], bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His”.

As long as you stand on God’s solid foundation, you can be assured that you will be safe, protected, and empowered to live as your true self. This foundation is important for a few reasons:

  1. Going through this process of self-discovery can lead to fear, anxiety, and other intense emotions. You need God’s foundation to support you during this shaky process.
  2. You can trust that when others resist you living free, God’s foundation will enable you to stand against their resistance or attacks. If you are attacked with lies, jealousy, or sabotage, this foundation will support and hold you.
  3. God knows you! Who better to stand on, lean on, rely on while going through this process? The one who knows you completely and authentically. He will be able to help you discover you because He already knows you.

To make sure you are starting this process standing on God’s firm foundation, do this:

  • Spend some time mentally and spiritually preparing to start this process. Write out your intention and put it in a private place dedicated to God.
  • If you don’t have a daily study and prayer practice, start one. You don’t need to quadruple the amount of time you spend with God all at once. But intentionally increase your time to ensure you have a regular and meaningful practice.
  • Begin some type of journal (written or electronic) to keep track of what you are learning and what God reveals to you. Make journaling work for you and your personality (it doesn’t have to be the traditional journal).

 

Uncovering

It is upon God’s firm foundation that we start the second part of the freedom process. It is called uncovering. Uncovering is simply the process of removing the many layers that cover up who we are.

Let’s take a quick look at those layers. Simply put, our true selves get covered up by the layers of our experiences, other people, and expectations. Because of those layers, we become muted versions of who we are. Sometimes the real person pops out but doesn’t stay too long. We’ve learned to keep ourselves covered to varying degrees.

Our experiences will cover up our real selves. We learned to not be assertive after we were put in place by a vindictive boss. The way we dress changed after others misinterpreted the intention of our outfits. We learned to blend into our environments after others criticized our bold personalities. We’ve dimmed our lights because we felt the pain of others’ jealousy.

We also hear the voices of those who told us what we were not. We were told we’re not smart enough, not creative enough, or don’t have the right personality. And we learned to become the person others told us we were. Sometimes it gets easier to walk in agreement with those voices than to disprove them.

The expectations of family and cultural norms begin to stifle the free expression of our true selves. Those expectations and norms tell us what we should be. We’re expected to be quiet, not loud. Family norms tell us to be conservative, not bold. Our cultures tell us to be fighters and not peacemakers. We’re expected to be traditionalists, not risk-takers. Social media tells us to be perfect, not growing.

These norms tell us we should hold back the best parts of ourselves to fit the expectations of those around us. In other words, we’re expected to fit in, not rock the boat, not be too different, and uphold centuries long traditions. (I’m feeling reminiscent of The Matrix!)

Well, it’s time to push back the layers, deal with our experiences, shut up the voices, and bump the expectations! It’s time to uncover.

So how do we uncover the many layers piled on top of us? To begin uncovering:

  1. Look for those instances in which you are not being freely you. Start by looking at situations when you’ve questioned your own actions or words. You know, when you’ve had the thought in your mind “why am I doing/saying this?” even while you’re doing/saying it. Ask yourself why do you do or say those things? Be honest. What comes to mind?
  2. Examine how you feel/act when it’s time to be in certain situations. Do you find yourself putting on a certain mask or face? Does your anxiety rise as you think about attending a certain event? Do you have to prepare yourself for days in order to be around certain people? Find out what’s behind that. Are you being a (slightly) different person in those situations?
  3. Reflect on your life. Look for voices that were strong and shaped you. What was their message? Think about the expectations that have been placed on you since childhood, or at your work environments, or because of your culture. What have these expectations allowed or disallowed you to do?

Note that these experiences, voices, and expectations can have an effect on us. One, they can help us to become more of who we really are. In those cases, you know that you want to retain them as truths. In other instances, they keep us from being who we really are. Those are the ones we want to let go.

 

Letting Go

Now that we’ve begun uncovering what has been covering us up, it’s time for the third part of the work to be done. This is called letting go.

The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us.

C. S. Lewis

It’s virtually impossible to let God take us over when we hold on to the layers that cover up our real selves. But, as C. S. Lewis so wisely stated, the more we let go of them and let God take their place, the more truly ourselves we will become.

Letting go is very important. But it can also be very difficult. Some things that cover us run deep! Through my own work with my spiritual director, Dr. Jacqueline Bland, I have learned how true this is. But committing to this work of letting go is necessary. It is the only way we will be able to experience true freedom.

Letting go requires releasing the experiences, voices, and expectations that are not true to who we are. It means we release the lies and those issues that have shaped us to be who God has not made us to be.

Releasing them requires courage because it will ultimately put us in a vulnerable place. This vulnerability is not to be run from. Embracing it will actually make us stronger. How can we know this is true? Because:

Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

By allowing ourselves to be in a place of vulnerability, we are allowing more of Christ’s power to work through us, in us, and on us. And through Christ’s power, we’re able to be free in ourselves.

This is how we can let go:

  1. Commit to yielding to God and letting Him take you over.
  2. Affirm within yourself who you really are. Think about when you have felt the most free, confident, or at peace (at different ages). Which parts of your personality seemed to shine?
  3. Decide which of the experiences, voices, and expectations support the truth of who you are. Nurture them and use them to help you grow.
  4. Intentionally work to let go of those voices, expectations, and experiences that are counter to the truth of who you are. This is an ongoing process that may require healing, forgiveness, and facing some realities.

I encourage you to work with a therapist who can help you with the process of letting go. A simple Google search, call to your insurance company, or a therapist matching service can get you started.

 

Leaning In

So, you’re standing on an unmovable foundation. The real you has been uncovered. And you’ve let go of what doesn’t serve you. Now it’s time to lean in – the last step to be free to be you.

Leaning in can be fun, scary, and challenging all at once. To do this step of the process means that you are committing to learning you, loving you, and allowing you to show up in this world.

It is basically embracing your authentic self and allowing your authentic self to be present wherever you are. Just writing that brought little chills of excitement, anticipation, and trepidation down my arms.

The fun of leaning in is created when we learn (or re-learn) who we are. Our sense of humors. Our intelligence. Our quirkiness. Our confidence. Everything that makes up our personalities. The person we’ve become while living life.

We’re challenged to be ourselves because society works to create a norm. But what you have to answer for yourself is, “Am I willing to push against the status quo to be me?” It’s challenging to push against the status quo. It can even be risky. But the difference that can be made in this world and in our lives can easily outweigh that risk.

Finally, the fear. Fear arises when we think about letting our authentic selves be seen. We may fear the looks we’ll get. We fear what other people will think about us. We fear that we won’t fit in. But a dear friend frequently says that fear is False-Evidence-Appearing-Real.

The false evidence is that our real selves won’t be liked, loved, seen, or accepted. That’s not true. The false evidence says our real selves aren’t worthy or aren’t enough. Also, not true.

The reality is that leaning into authenticity creates freedom. And that freedom destroys all the fear.

Here are some ways you can lean in:

  1. Ask God to reveal to you your essence – the real person He created and shaped.
  2. Discover or re-discover your natural traits and talents. What makes you laugh, cry, joyful, or get angry? What brings you energy? Takes away your energy? Create a list of your natural talents. Don’t just think about your talents right now. Go back into your childhood. What are those things you do almost effortlessly? What do people most often admire about you?
  3. Visualize your best day. What are you doing? Wearing? Feeling? How do you express yourself? Go and do, wear, and express that! What result does that have on you?
  4. Start letting elements of your authentic self show up in various situations. Reflect on that experience. What was the experience like? How did people react? How did you feel? Work on doing it more often.

 

Conclusion

Being yourself is the best gift you can give to you and the world. While the work it takes to be that person can be difficult, it is worth it! Hopefully this four-step process (foundation, uncovering, letting go, and leaning in) will give you an easy way to get started.

Although I have it listed as a step-by-step process, the reality is that this is really a continuous cycle. And it doesn’t always happen in order! Be OK with the twists and turns of this process. Because whatever your process looks like, it will lead you to a new freedom!

I’d love to learn from you! Leave a comment and let me know what has helped you be your real self.

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