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How important is it to be yourself?
Quick answer: Very, very important.
Being who you truly are and living authentically is one of the best ways to achieve happiness in life.
Self-awareness, or the ability to discern your own strengths and weaknesses, your personal beliefs, and your motivations, is the key to truly knowing precisely who you are.
However, when faced with uncomfortable situations, many of us would put on a mask in order to blend in, to not call attention to ourselves. This often costs us potential relationships, employment opportunities, or new friendships.
Somehow, people can sense when we are inauthentic and steer clear of being in our presence.
How can we be ourselves, especially in awkward situations?
In today’s article, we will give you 12 ideas on how to be yourself. Specifically, we will cover three situations that often cause us to feel uncomfortable — during a job interview, on a first date, and in social situations.
Hopefully these strategies will help you make a lasting, positive impact with everyone you meet.
What You Will Learn
- How To Be Yourself In a Job Interview
- Just Being You On a First Date
- Expressing Your Authentic Self In Social Situations
How To Be Yourself In a Job Interview
1. Avoid preparing too much for the interview.
Of course you want to spend some time researching the company and the specific tasks involved in the position for which you are interviewing. However, being over-prepared for an interview usually stifles your spontaneity and your answers tend to sound robotic.
Often, job candidates treat an interview like a test. They try to predict the questions that will be asked and prepare their answers ahead of time. Some may even write some answers down and memorize them in order to be able to respond to questions quickly.
However, when a question comes up that you didn't prepare for or expect, how uncomfortable are you going to seem as you're hesitating to come up with an answer?
The best thing you can do to prepare for an interview is to know your strengths, go over some significant experiences or highlights that you have had so far in your career, and consider how your knowledge, skills, and abilities line up with the job at hand. When you can truly align yourself with the job that you are interviewing for, you will naturally feel comfortable.
2. Chat with the people you encounter on the way to the interview.
Making small talk with the receptionist or the interviewer prior to the interview can help you feel more comfortable. Small talk is an inevitable part of every job interview–whether that means simply exchanging pleasantries about the recent holiday for a few minutes before getting into the tough questions or you need to fill the silence while you're walking to the conference room, you have to be prepared to make a bit of small talk.
While this conversation may be seemingly insignificant, you can use it to your advantage to make a good impression on your interviewer and make yourself feel more comfortable.
If possible, try to find a common interest with the person you are with. As you are preparing for your interview, research the people who work at the company that you may come into contact with. This includes the receptionist and any managers that may be a part of your interview process.
Try to look at social media accounts to find a common interest. For example, is your interviewer an avid marathon runner? If you also enjoy running, this is a great topic to mention since runners often feel a strong sense of community.
Alternatively, maybe you will see on someone's LinkedIn profile that they volunteer for an organization that you have been involved with as well. That's a great connection to make.
You can bring these commonalities up in a natural way as you are making small talk with the people you meet during your interview. For example, when they ask how you are and they can relate when you tell them that you started your day off with a great run so you're have a good day so far, you will instantly be engaged in a conversation surrounding a shared passion.
3. Dress for the occasion, without sacrificing your personal comfort.
Start by researching the company's dress code so you can walk in looking like you already work there. You want to use your best judgment regarding what to wear without overthinking it. Pick an outfit that makes you feel comfortable and confident, and avoid wearing something that will require you to constantly re-adjust while you're sitting.
Choose an outfit that makes you feel professional, but also allows you to feel like yourself. However, regardless of your personal style, your clothes must be neat and fit you properly.
You want to avoid wearing revealing clothing or anything that has stains, holes, pet hair, or rips. Make sure your clothes are clean and neat a few days prior to your interview.
The night before your interview, pull out your outfit so you will be prepared to get dressed and ready in the morning. Because you’ve already looked into the company culture, you should have a good idea of the work environment and how formally the employees dress.
For a more casual workplace, aim for professional-looking, yet casual, interview attire such as dark pants and a button-down, collared shirt. For a work environment that is business casual, you’ll want to be a bit more formal.
This could mean a black pencil skirt and a cardigan for women or navy dress pants with a button down shirt, belt, and tie for men. If you are interviewing at a formal workplace, wear a dark-colored suit, regardless if you are a man or a woman. Dressing for the part will automatically make you feel comfortable.
4. Never pretend to be someone you’re not.
The five most basic (or broad) personality traits that are studied in psychology are: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion/introversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Everyone possesses these traits on a spectrum and the traits can increase or decrease throughout your lifetime. This means that you do have some level of control over how intensely each of these personality traits presents itself.
However, it is not as simple as it sounds. Everyone has their natural or most comfortable resting state within each of these personality traits. If you try to force yourself outside of one of those zones during a job interview, interviewers will be able to sense that you are uncomfortable and possibly making up the answers you’re giving to try to tell them what you think they want to hear. You'll come of as a people pleaser.
For example, let's say you are an extreme introvert and you want to try to act extroverted because you think you will be able to “click” with the interviewers better.
If this does not come naturally to you, it may come across as being awkward. What's more, if you move forward in the job interviewing process, it will eventually show that you are not as extroverted as you tried to act like you were.
Instead, focus on the questions that are asked and give honest, relevant answers. This way, if you get the job, you will know that your true self is right for the position and the company.
In the video below, Caroline McHugh, author of Never Not A Lovely Moon, delivers a passionate talk about being our authentic selves. This 26-minute video provides an inspiring message on the importance of being truly ourselves and acting out our life’s purpose.
Just Being You On a First Date
5. Keep in mind that a date is supposed to be fun.
It is normal to be nervous of anxious on a first date. You might not know what to talk about, how to fill an awkward silence, or even how to avoid an awkward silence.
Once you add in your probable concerns about the other person liking you, avoiding rejection, and a fear of having a disastrous time, going on a first date may feel like a dreaded task that you would rather avoid. So how can you focus on being your authentic self rather than getting caught up in the distraction of the what ifs?
Relax and be present. Being your authentic self means you are acting with genuine intentions, owning who you are, and representing yourself in an honest way. Going back to the personality traits that people have, it may seem like your date will find you to be more likeable if you are agreeable.
You may think that the more your date believes you have in common, the better the date will go. However, this is not necessarily true if you are falsely going along with whatever your date says without honoring your truth.
This only results in lying to yourself and misrepresenting who you are to your date. This starts your relationship off based on lies or exaggerations which creates an obstruction to developing a genuine connection.
Acting as your true self requires you to calm your nerves and be comfortable in your own skin. Before you go on your date, empower yourself with a pep talk, take a few slow, deep breaths, and remember that your date will only be as fun as you make it.
6. Be open and honest.
Many people lie on dates. However, being honest and open is not about revealing your whole life story on a first date–although it is also not withholding anything on purpose. Give sincere answers when your date asks you a question.
Of course we all want to seem attractive to our date. We want our date to find us interesting, unique in some way, and even fascinating. But what happens if your first date turns into a second and third date and before you know it, you have to tell your partner that you don't actually own a yacht in the Caribbean?
If you get stuck on an answer to a question your date asks, remember that honesty is always your best option. Think about how you would feel if you knew that your date was telling you lies about themselves or their past, so don’t do it yourself.
Be open and honest and you won't go wrong. It will make you feel comfortable because you won't have to keep up with the lies you have told or struggle to find an answer if your date asks you a specific question about your degree from Yale.
You want your date to learn about the real you, because sooner or later the truth always comes out and it will leave you feeling foolish and embarrassed. Plus, it’s refreshing to meet someone who owns who they are.
7. Go on a fun, activity-focused date.
Making conversation during a first date can be very stressful. By doing some fun activities, you can let your guard down and let your authentic self shine through. People can create a deeper connection by experiencing an activity together.
The event itself will give the two of you an opportunity to interact in a way that wouldn't happen while sitting across the table from each other sipping on lattes. When you are doing an activity, you are communicating on a deeper level, working together, compromising, collaborating, and typically working to achieve a common goal.
Some of the professionals that manage the Tough Mudder races conducted a survey on what people truly enjoy doing on first dates. They found that nearly 40% of survey respondents would rather do an extreme fitness or outdoor recreational activity instead of going out to dinner with their date.
Even seeing pictures of a potential date before meeting them engaging in an activity can help improve your dating game. Tough Mudder’s survey also found that 32% of people reported that they would be more likely to show interest in someone on a dating app if they saw a picture of the person doing some sort of activity. Finally, 60% of the people surveyed reported that they would be more attracted to someone who took them on a non-traditional first date.
The truth is, doing activities can make you more comfortable because they are a natural ice breaker. People typically open up more when they’re actually doing something because they’re not focused on the pressure of the date. When you are engaged in an activity, you're not so self-conscious about talking to someone and there will be natural conversations built into the date.
8. Express appreciation.
Whether there will be a second date or not, tell your date how much you appreciate the time you spent together. Especially if the other person took the time to plan what you two were doing together and paid for the experience, you need to tell them how much you appreciate their desire to spend their time with you.
When you express your gratitude, you make other people happy. As your date feels your appreciation, he or she will know that their efforts were worthwhile. This will strengthen your bond, whether that ends up being simply a friendship or a full-blown relationship.
Expressing appreciation is more than an inner compassionate feeling, which brings a sense of comfort to anyone. It is more than saying “thank you” and simply being polite.
When you express gratitude, it marks the beginning of being courteous and showing your concern for the actions of others. When you truly feel and express appreciation, it’s an essential way to positively influence the attitude of both yourself and other people.
9. Let go of expectations.
Avoid trying to impress your date or being completely focused on showing your date your best qualities. Relax in the knowledge that nobody really gets to know everything about someone on a first date.
When you create expectations before getting to know your date, you’re setting yourself up to be let down. Whether your date doesn't live up to your expectations or it's the other way around, developing expectations too early will likely lead to unnecessary disappointment. Plus, how uncomfortable will you feel for the rest of your date when you're let down because your mental images of this person don’t match up with reality?
When you date without having any expectations, you can relax and be yourself because you don't have a reason to fear any type of rejection. When you have high expectations early on, you may try too hard to impress the other person, which will likely backfire.
Also, when you date without expectations, your only goal is to get to know the other person and have a good time. This helps to ensure that you don't fall in love with the idea of someone or force yourself to like someone who you truly don't. Without having expectations, you can date with the ability to realize when the right person comes along and when someone you are with isn't worth pursuing.
Expressing Your Authentic Self In Social Situations
10. Forget what people might say about you.
Have you ever noticed that often, your happiness is dependent upon the opinions of other people? If you hear just one insult, it can send you into a whirlwind of misery and self-hatred.
Not caring about other people’s opinions of you makes life better and liberates you to be your most authentic self. It allows you to be comfortable in your own skin and proud of who you are. People are also more likely to trust you if you're true to yourself because it likely means that you are truer and more honest with other people.
When you worry about other people's opinions, you tend to forget your own. Once you can truly let go of what other people think, you will see the world in a different light. If you can stop catering to other people, you will learn who you are, allowing yourself to have the freedom to be your true self.
The 6-minute video below from Success Insider enumerates the 5 common habits of authentic people. These include showing respect for others and being humble, not trying to be someone else, owning up to their mistakes, walking their talk, and tuning in with their intuition when making decisions.
Share your positivity with others. If others don’t reciprocate, don’t worry about it and move on to the next person. Be good to yourself and don't absorb the negativity from other people.
When you do smile at other people, even if they don't smile back, it can make a lasting impression on them. It may take a few minutes, but you will be spreading your sense of joy to them which will hopefully brighten up their day.
Studies have actually shown that we have the ability to choose positive emotions and mindsets. In fact, your emotions impact your body on a cellular level.
Many of your life experiences are impacted by how you interpret and respond to your surroundings. Instead of repressing or trying to eliminate negative feelings, you can decide to interpret them in a positive light, which will help you feel comfortable in any situation.
12. Give yourself a wonderful time.
We all know that it feels good to have another person look at us with a sense of awe, especially if it is someone you respect or look up to. While this experience is fantastic when earned naturally, trying to manufacture the situation is much less amazing.
For example, if you are constantly adapting your behavior or words to garner this reaction from other people, you are trying too hard. Especially if you are trying hard to impress other people.
Trying to impress someone else in any situation is a quick way to be perceived as inauthentic. Instead, focus more on keeping yourself entertained for your own benefit.
Try to surround yourself with people that enjoy your company without anything extra. People that think you’re amazing without you having to tell them so. People that see and love the real you.
The infographic below shows some pointers you can implement to bring out your most authentic self. Included in the tips is excelling at self-care. Check out this post for over 200 awesome ideas for practicing self-care to cope with life.
The world today needs more authentic people.
Being in tune with who you truly are is a guaranteed way of finding happiness and fulfillment in life. By being yourself, people will be inspired to find their true selves as well.
We hope that the 12 ideas featured in today’s article on how to be yourself can guide you in expressing your truest and best qualities.
If you’re interested in knowing yourself more, check out this post that lists over 30 self-awareness activities you can try today. For some creative inspiration, check out our favorite songs about loving yourself for who you are.