It’s the go to piece of advice that people tend to give in any situation; “Just Be Yourself!” It’s the advice given to any nervous person who is going on a first date, a job interview, or any other situation that is new and unchartered territory for them.  Relax!  Be Yourself!  If you do that, then the sky is the limit and there is nothing you can’t accomplish!

But what if you don’t know who the hell you are in the first place? What if being yourself is new and unchartered territory because you have spent your life being whatever you think people want you to be?  What if you have spent your life being a chameleon, changing who you are and what you are all about based on whatever situation you are in?

I know exactly how you feel. I am in my late 30’s and I still haven’t completely figured out what it means to “Be Myself”.  It sounds silly; you would think that by now I would know exactly who I was and what I stood for in life.  You would think that I would have a firm grasp on my likes and dislikes and be able to hold my head up high and distinguish myself from others; but you would be wrong.

I never got the chance to know who I was because I spent my life being whatever my mother wanted me to be. I was only allowed to like the things that Mom liked, eat the things that my mother liked to eat, and dress in whatever Mom thought would humiliate me the most that day.  If I tried to step outside of her rules and explore different things that interested me, Mom’s punishment would be swift and cruel.

I could never speak up, stand up for myself, or find out who I was or what I liked because in Mom’s house, it wasn’t allowed. There were times where I was forced to mold into whatever character Mom wanted me to play that day; if she was meeting a new boyfriend, I was her little sister.  If she needed to con someone out of money, I played the part of the ill child to elicit sympathy out of whomever Mom was trying to scam.  And when no one was around and it was just Mom and I; I was the compliant daughter who asked “how high?” when Mom told me to jump.

My home life made it that much more difficult to “be myself” when I would go to school or out in public. Because I had no idea who I was or what I liked or disliked, I tried (rather unsuccessfully), to fit into groups of people that I didn’t belong with in the first place.  I tried to mold myself into what I thought other people wanted me to be in order to feel accepted and belong somewhere, but I came of awkward and fake to everyone around me.

I didn’t know how to be myself because I had it rammed into my brain that “myself” was garbage and the only way I was going to make it in life was to be someone I wasn’t.

I spent the first ten years of my adult life continuing my habit of molding into whatever I thought people wanted me to be. I did it at work, I did it at college, and I did it throughout my first marriage. My lack of self-esteem and my confusion about who I was led me to pretend to be someone I wasn’t for a large portion of my life.

I didn’t start figuring out who I was or what I stood for until after I had my first child. Once I became a Mom, something inside of me changed and I began to think about myself differently.  I began to trust my gut instincts, allow myself to be silly and let go once in a while, and I began to figure myself out for the first time in my life.

Just being yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds; especially when you don’t know who you are in the first place. I still don’t’ have it all figured out and I catch myself agreeing to things I don’t like to do and molding into roles I think will make everyone happy; but I’m working on it.  I don’t think anyone really has it all figured out and that there are many people that are just as confused as I am when someone gives us that sage advice “Just Be Yourself!”.

Take your time – one day you will figure it out.