Don’t talk about being true to myself
until you are sure
to what voice you are being true.
What does it mean to be true to yourself?
Being true to yourself begins with knowing who you are.
If you grew up in a family where your needs and wants were discounted or ignored you will naturally be unsure of who you are—because no one mirrored you to yourself.
Or, if you’ve recently experienced a significant loss or a life transition you may feel lost, disoriented, and uncertain about who you are in the middle of a tidal wave of change.
Knowing you is easier than you think.
In any given moment, who you are is made up of what you’re experiencing with your five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch), what you’re thinking, your emotions, and the actions or posture of your body. That’s it!
Of course, there is more that can be said about you—that you’re a mother, an employee, a spouse, a sister, a business owner—but these are labels and roles. None of them describe who you truly are.
To be true to yourself means that you honor who you are in any given moment.
For example, if you’re experiencing a sensation of discomfort from the temperature in the room or the chair you’re sitting in, you honor yourself by paying attention to the discomfort and taking action to make yourself more comfortable.
If you’re experiencing thoughts or perceptions that are causing stress or confusion, you honor yourself by investigating or inquiring about them so that you can get clarity.
If you’re having painful emotions, you honor yourself by identifying what they are and exploring what needs to happen so that you can experience a better feeling emotion.
Being true to you is a moment-by-moment experience, and it can only happen from the inside-out.
That means that when another person attempts to tell you—either directly or indirectly—what you should feel, think, or do, if it is not in alignment with what you feel, think, or want to do, then it is not authentic for you.
Being true to voices other than your own can include the voice of popular culture, the voice of your religion, the media, your family of origin, your spouse, or friends.
There are so many voices to which you may try to be true. But it never works—at least in the long-term.
We deeply want to belong, to be approved of, to be loved and accepted. And most of us have tried being true to almost every other voice but our own.
If you self-betray in this way long enough you discover that the price to you of doing so is high.
You discover that while you were trying to meet everyone else’s wants, needs, or demands, you became disappointed, discouraged, or resentful.
Some of us find that we have poured ourselves into relationships or other people only to discover that the better investment would have been in ourselves.
This is one of the many reasons why we must Return to the authentic truth of who we are, and Stand for ourselves as our fiercest ally. To Return and to Stand are two of the seven Invitations of the Return+Reclaim+Receive path.
You may be wondering, “How do I identify my authentic voice?” “How can I find the voice to which I must be true, among all of the other voices inside my head?”
Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself that will help you find your authentic voice—the one to which you must be true:
1. “How does this thought feel in my body?”
This is the most important question because your body is a more objective source of information than your mind.
When you have a thought of any importance, the thought creates a certain sensation in your body.
If the thought aligns with your authentic truth you will feel a positive sensation that may feel like expansiveness, animation (a sense of aliveness), or enthusiasm.
If the thought feels heavy, pressured, exhausting, or dark, it is not your true voice.
2. Is there a “should” or “shouldn’t” in the voice?
Thoughts like, “I should go to my cousin’s wedding,” or “I shouldn’t feel that way about her. She’s a nice person,” are ‘should’ thoughts.
It is wise to treat should thoughts as huge, waving red flags.
Should thoughts are sometimes described as manipulations—meaning they are ways that other people (or we) attempt to make us behave in ways that are advantageous to others, but not necessarily to ourselves.
Should thoughts are about performing and conforming. They are never authentic.
To be fair, there are some things we choose to do out of a need to be respectful, relational, or kind, but these choices are different than should choices.
When you choose to do something based on an internal need you want to fulfill, you are making a conscious decision based on your values, rather than on external pressure or people-pleasing.
3. Does this voice feel expansive or confining/constrictive?
You will often know whether a thought feels expansive or confining when you tune into your body (Question #1), but if you didn’t get any useful information from Question #1, this one will likely give you the answer.
When faced with these two options, you will know whether or not the voice expands you or contracts you.
If the thought feels expansive to you, then it is your authentic voice and you can trust that’s it’s true for you.
If you are filled with self-doubt or you struggle with perfectionism, you may feel challenged around standing for what is true for you or finding your authentic voice, even with these tools.
But the reality is that direction and guidance are most often received as you are in motion, and not in contemplation, research, or waiting for the “right” answer.
When you use a GPS system, if you are sitting in your parked car it will not tell you the next turn or move to make. It is waiting for you to get into motion.
Your inner GPS—tuning into you—is honed by continually moving in the direction of expansiveness, aliveness, and enthusiasm, and trusting that you can course correct when your inner GPS speaks.
Invitations for reflection, exploration, and action:
- How do you know when you are hearing your authentic voice?
- What are the most dominant voices inside you that you know are not your authentic voice?
- How would you like to respond to the inauthentic voices when they speak?
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer (2022)
Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul (©1998)
By Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick
(Reprinted with permission)
*This post is from the Coming Home to You Series. Visit this page for the backstory of the CHTY Series.