How To Be Happy Being Yourself

Sometimes It Feels Safer To Fit In Than To Be Yourself… Here’s Why It Is Important To Be Nobody But Yourself

Consider this: more than half of us have faked a photo posted online to make it look like we’re doing something more luxurious than we can actually afford; about 20% of us have picked a vacation destination to look good online; and one-third to one-half of us have gone into debt to go on a good-looking trip [1]. Plus, about an equal number of people (53%) have fully faked at least one online profile for a social media or dating platform [2].

Given those statistics, there’s a lot of argument going on right now about what online profiles and social platforms are doing to us, with mixed reviews about whether we’re getting dangerously narcissistic or just learning a new way to self-market [3]. If there’s one thing social media and online dating are definitely doing for us, though, it’s exposing why it is important to be yourself (and be happy with that)!

What Is Self-Concept & Why Does It Matter?

Your self-concept answers the question “who am I?” and is made up of your collective beliefs about your own personality, identity, and experiences. This can include, for example, beliefs like “I am a good person,” which are based on our own understanding of our personality traits, our impact on and perception by others, and our association/affiliation with different groups [4].

When it comes to becoming aware of and managing your self-concept, it’s important to learn how to be happy to be yourself, even if that takes a very intentional effort to do. That’s because, as the rates of social media use (and manipulation) increase, our self-reported levels of self-confidence, the strength of our relationships, and our feelings of happiness have been gradually decreasing [5]. That’s almost certainly because we’re feeling more insecure about our self-concept, and are widening the gap between how we perceive vs. how we present ourselves.

Where Does Your Sense Of Self Come From?

The origins of self-concept aren’t super clear. Sociologists and psychologists agree that society — including family units, local communities, and the culture at large — plays a significant role in shaping self-concept [6]. That’s because a lot of how we define ourselves involves comparing, contrasting, and otherwise positioning ourselves against other people’s performance, expectations, and standards. What’s more, a huge source of self-concept (and self-confidence) for many people comes from whether and to what degree we’re able to see ourselves as a valuable part of the best group, as well as our perception of the group’s success/superiority over other groups in general [7].

So where opinions about the origins of self-concept differ is in their understanding of just how much influence or control each person holds over getting to be yourself; in these respects, your sense of self is often unsettlingly dependent on other people’s perceptions of you [8].

What Happens When You Over-Compromise Your Self Concept To Keep Other People Happy?

When people talk about “over-compromising” your self-concept, they mean you alter how you perceive or present yourself based on external input; a family member’s expectations, what you think your friends want in a friend, what you think will get the most likes online. Addressing this kind of compromising behavior is one of the first big steps to learning how to be happy. Being proud of your self-concept (or having a positive self-concept) and feeling comfortable authentically representing who you are — so you can be yourself around others — are critical tools to be happy in the long run [9].

Signs Of Over-Compromise:

Though everybody’s experiences with and motivations for compromising their self-concept are unique, the outcomes are often more or less the same. Namely, when you can’t or don’t know how to be yourself, you may suffer from a loss of or seeming lack of having an identity [10]. What’s more, when you feel like you can’t be yourself around others, you’ll struggle to make and maintain meaningful relationships that make you feel supported. The biggest signs of compromise include:

  1. You don’t feel like yourself around others (or even sometimes alone).
  2. You second-guess what you want, like, and value.
  3. You feel constantly dissatisfied or disappointed.
  4. You don’t do things you love or talk about things that interest you.
  5. You feel lonely or like you have to lie to preserve your friendships.
  6. You feel a sense of having wasted time, energy, or effort.
  7. You feel resentment towards the people you’ve changed yourself for.

Finding Where You Belong vs. Fitting In By Being Someone Else

It may seem intimidating at first, yet there is a way to come back from having over-compromised your self-concept. This road to recovery will see you learn to be yourself (and dare to be yourself around others) in time, though it begins with drawing a distinction between fitting in and belonging.

That is because “fitting in,” according to experts, is really just a process of distorting your self-image — how you present yourself — to the point where you believe others will not notice (or will be able to overlook) things you think they will find off-putting about you [11]. This is a problematic process, as it is founded on embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy that, over time, fully undermine any positive self-concept you may have started with. Belonging, by contrast, is about finding where you fit as you are, so you can be yourself without feeling insecure [12].

Stop Searching For Something That Can’t Be “Found”; You Have To Create Yourself

It’s important to recognize that the best way to be yourself involves some hard — and sometimes uncomfortable — work. That’s because your positive self-concept isn’t something that is waiting for you, fully formed and ready to be found. Taking time to intentionally sort your identity traits into what defines you vs. the byproducts of your upbringing, culture, and other outside influences is the shortest path to self-concept clarity [13]. But it’s still a long process!

That’s because creating a positive self-concept so you feel empowered to be yourself involves a lot of introspection and experimentation. To learn to be yourself, you need to challenge your opinions, experiment with new and different hobbies, find your passions, and establish goals for your future. You also need to forgive yourself for making compromises and mistakes so you have room to grow into yourself [14]. For many people, these are elements of the self that have gone unexplored because they became invested in pursuing the passions, goals, and interests that were (or felt) assigned to them, instead [15].

The First Big Step Towards Getting To Be Yourself Is Choosing To Be Happy

If the first step to learning how to be happy is to choose  to move your life in that direction, then the second step is to recognize when you want, need, or could benefit from getting a little extra help! If you want to be happy and learn to be yourself, but aren’t sure exactly how to get started, contact us today for expert getting-started advice!

Sources:

  1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-disturbing-number-of-people-under-35-fake-this-gross-thing-on-facebook-2018-01-03
  2. https://freebackgroundchecks.com/learn/catfishing-online-statistics-and-how-to-avoid-it/
  3. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JCM-03-2016-1752/full/html
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-concept-2795865
  5. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/social-medias-impact-on-self-esteem_b_58ade038e4b0d818c4f0a4e4
  6. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781315129723/chapters/10.4324/9781315129723-19
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B0080430767017289
  8. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130415055244-1213-shape-your-identity-or-it-will-shape-you/
  9. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/letting-go-of-self-image-and-focusing-on-self-concept-for-lasting-happiness_b_8793760
  10. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/not-please-others-true-you.html
  11. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201310/stop-trying-fit-in-aim-belong-instead
  12. https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-stop-trying-to-fit-in-and-finally-belong/
  13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0749597817301279
  14. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-ways-always-yourself-and-live-happily.html
  15. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201810/how-be-yourself-in-five-simple-steps

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