How to be yourself (in a world that totally allows you to be)?

How to be yourself (in a world that totally allows you to be)?

I could have started this article with another title, one that is used more often perhaps. For example: “How to be yourself in a world that wants you to be someone else?”

The truth is that the second title is simply not true. This article is an invitation and a wake-up call to really start being yourself. Start acknowledging what you want now and take action accordingly.

Do you ever feel that you’re making decisions that contradict what you actually want?

Do you often find yourself showing up for colleagues or family whilst deep down in your heart you’d really rather be somewhere else?

Do you decide not to take days off because everyone around you is working so hard, even if you really feel you need and want that break?

Do you decide not to go on a trip alone because you’re too afraid to hurt your partner’s feelings? Even though you really need to be by yourself for a moment?

Does any of the above sound familiar?

We often act in a certain way to subtly manipulate “people’s thoughts” about us. We tend to please those surrounding us by betraying ourselves. We become a people-pleaser. Because what would happen if we just did what we wanted? “They” might think we’re lazy, crazy, uninvolved or uncaring. We might lose a connection or get rejected.

So, we’d rather show up at our aunt’s best friend’s wedding (whom we don't even know) to please our parents than go on that date with that really nice girl/guy. 

The blame game

So, why are we so loyal to the people around us that we give up our loyalty to ourselves? Don’t get me wrong, kindness is a great virtue. And even though going against our own wants and needs and doing something for another person may often seem kind, it just as often is not.

All too frequently, when we are not doing what we want, we get silently angry and then start blaming “the world”, “my family”, “my partner”, “my boss” or at least “circumstances” for it.

Sometimes, not doing what we want, rather than being a form of kindness, is more similar to violence, because we can then point our finger and blame: “Because of YOU I cannot be myself!”, “Because of YOU I cannot do what I want!”

We avoid our feelings of guilt, shame, and fear

From the previously given examples, we can see that shame, guilt and fear are the feelings that we avoid the most. When we do what others want, then at least they are happy.

If we did what we wanted, we might feel guilty because, well, we’re not doing what they want us to do. We might feel ashamed because we cannot be happy and fulfilled when others are not feeling that way. We might feel afraid because if we do what we want, others might not love us or even worse, they may abandon us.

When we constantly abandon our own desires in order to please others, life just doesn't feel right anymore. Something starts to itch. Anger surfaces. We end up distancing ourselves from our surroundings and pulling back. We start to secretly hate or avoid the people we’ve been pleasing so much.

Facing uncomfortable feelings and choosing to be you

See if, instead of going for the old habit of abandoning yourself by doing what you think others want, you can open up to the feelings inside of you. These feelings may be unpleasant, but they are always bearable. If being yourself and doing what you want means you might have to face shame, guilt or fear for a while, then that is simply what it means.

Of course, as an expat, living abroad with family far away, these feelings tend to pop up from time to time. When you do actually start being loyal to yourself, you will feel happier and more fulfilled. After a while, there will be more room inside your heart to go and meet the people you’ve been avoiding or feeling resentment towards. You’ll naturally feel like being kind to them. That’s when the real giving starts. That is love.

Are you truly yourself? Let us know in the comments!



Tessa Nagtegaal

I am a Dutch and English speaking psychologist, relaxation specialist and meditation facilitator. I've lived the expat-life many years ago in New Delhi, India and since my return to Amsterdam...

Read more



Leave a comment