“Just be yourself”—These words can bring up all kinds of discomfort, whether making a presentation, speaking to a group or even casually to a friend or family member. You want to be able to act naturally and with authenticity, but something gets in the way. Perhaps in the past you experienced embarrassment or shame when you were reprimanded, criticized or belittled for an expression that was real and uninhibited. In that moment you found a way to avoid any future disapproval, like perhaps being quiet, keeping ideas, opinions and feelings to yourself. The behavior worked for your immediate needs and so you kept repeating it and looking to the outside world for definition and acceptance. After a time, your strategy became outdated and you wish you could be more at ease within yourself, but you have invested so strongly in limiting beliefs that they seem impossible to shift.
The good news is that you’ve recognized that you want to show up differently in the world, to be true to your personal values and feel free to express yourself with spontaneity and ease. A new experience is within your grasp, if you are willing to challenge your old thought patterns. Here is an exercise I have created which will help to begin unravelling your personal limitations and build a more solid and confident sense of self.
- Write down some limiting statements that you have invested in, in the past, for example ‘I’m too shy’, ‘I don’t know how’, ‘people won’t like me if they know who I am’, ‘everyone else is better than me’, ‘my feelings don’t count’, I’ll get it wrong’ etc. Meditate on this in a quiet space and find the statements that feel most accurate for you.
- Next, write down the opposite of your limiting statements even if they feel awkward or untrue, for example ‘I am bold’, ‘I am smart’, ‘I am likeable, I am capable, creative, equal, worthy etc.
- Think of a past experience when you did have a sense of these positive attributes whether it was big or small, a physical action or in a dream and write down your examples in a few short words.
- From your previous experiences of these positive qualities, develop some practical action steps you can take towards reexperiencing them. Set yourself up for success by making these SMART steps (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).
Like exercising to build strength in muscles, reinforcement of your new beliefs takes regular practice.
Let yourself shine.