William Shakespeare wrote, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” This prolific piece of advice from Hamlet is sage wisdom in a world full of distractions. Being true to yourself is a good way to build self-esteem, self-respect, and overall healthy well-being. While it may seem like easy advice to follow, listening to your authentic self can be a big challenge that takes care, time, and practice.
What Does It Mean to Be True to Yourself?
Being true to yourself means thinking and acting in ways that align with your own values and feelings—rather than the values of others. If you’re living true to yourself, you feel confident in your identity, and you are pursuing goals that you know will lead to your own happiness.
Many people think that being true to yourself means being selfish or refusing to change, but that does not reflect the spirit of the advice.
Being true to yourself means that you take advantage of your best traits to find true happiness rather than fleeting gratification, you continually check in with yourself to realign your goals, and you allow yourself to make mistakes on your journey toward becoming a better person.
4 Ways to Find Your True Self
Whether you’re still looking for your true self or you’re looking for ways to stand up for it, here are some tips for how to be true to yourself:
1. Listen to yourself.
If you’re still struggling to find the real you—whether you’re a young person in high school or you’ve spent your life following others’ expectations—the first step is to listen to yourself. Throughout our daily lives, there are so many distractions (work, social media, neighbors) that make it difficult to prioritize self-reflection.
2. Take control of your happiness.
Once you get a better sense of who you are, you’ll better understand your goals and what makes you happy. Many people are unfulfilled in life because they’re waiting for other people to make them happy, but a key part of being true to yourself is understanding that you’re in charge of your life, including your own happiness and fulfillment. When you take responsibility for your happiness, you’re immediately more aligned with your true self.
3. Prioritize your own needs.
People-pleasing—prioritizing the happiness of others in front of your own—is the ultimate way to live inauthentically, and can lead to unhappiness. In order to start living according to your true self, you need to stop being a people-pleaser and pursue your own happiness first.
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean practicing selfish behaviors, it means pursuing your own goals and interests rather than pursuing the goals and interests that family members and loved ones want you to pursue.
4. Learn to let go.
Every so often, take inventory of the things in your life that do not work for you anymore—like negative thinking, harping on personal flaws, and problematic relationships—and let these things go. Leaving things that hurt you in the past will help you grow and progress on your journey of personal growth.