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How to Be Yourself – And Not What the World Expects You to Be

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Who hasn’t heard people say, ‘Be your authentic self,’ and wondered, what the heck does that mean? The first time I heard it, I thought, ‘What do you mean I am me!’ Since then, much has changed for me and the way I understand it.

‘Who am I?’ is a question I used to ask a lot in my adult life. My sense is, that no matter the individual stories of our lives, most of us grew up with the projections of our parents, members of our extended family, teachers, family friends — you get the picture — of who we are and how we are supposed to be.

No matter how we dealt with these expectations, they had a major impact in forming who we are today as individuals, how we see ourselves, and what our lives are like.

In our adult lives – society, churches, or groups we belong to – continue to tell us how we are supposed to be. The ways are much subtler, yet these projections and expectations are still all around us and impact us. With this, you may begin to wonder, whose life am I living? How the world around you expects you to be or who you truly are.

Being yourself is not about succeeding in being the person you have decided you are or doing anything better than another person. Being yourself is about being congruent with the essence of you and how you interact with the world.

How can you transition from a place of ‘what the world expects you to be’ to a place of truly being yourself? Here are 5 tools that will assist you on that journey:

Light and Heavy

In order to be yourself, you have to find out what is true for you. This starts with asking a question. Is it true for me that ______ (fill in the blank)? For example, is it true for me that I’d like to have children? When you are really present with yourself, you will notice that there is an ‘energy’ that comes up even before thoughts kick in.

For some people, this sense can be described as either being light or heavy. Other people might describe it as more expansive or contractive. You can use this sensation to get clear on what is true for you. Anything that is light or expansive is true for you. Anything that is heavy or contractive is not true for you. Since we all are different, what is true for you is not an absolute. It only applies to you.

What do YOU like?

Do you have an idea of what it is you like? Not what you are supposed to like so you fit into the circle of your friends and co-workers. Would you be willing to take some time to find out? With this exercise, be specific without going into details (e.g. I would like a car that is comfortable for my body or a car that can take me 4wheeling; not I would like a red BMW with…).

Imagine that money is not an issue. Where would you like to live? What kind of house would you like to live in? What kind of work would you like to do? Who would your co-workers be, or would you like to work alone? Would the type of your work change continuously? Would you travel? Would you gift money to people? Who would these people be? Would you do it in person or anonymously? What would you like to change in the world? Would you have helpers in that? Who would these people be? This is to get you started. You get the idea, play with it.

What do you admire in others?

Make a list of traits and qualities you admire in other people. What is the effect of these on the people around them?

The fact that you can notice these qualities in others means that you have them too. There is the saying: It takes one to know one. Would you be willing to be present with yourself and notice when you show a quality like that and acknowledge that you have it too?

Gratitude for you.

Do you have gratitude for you; for who you are as a person; for what you are creating in the world and contributing to it?

Yes, you could make a quick list and be done with it. Or you could spend a few minutes each day for the next 21 days and write down something you are grateful for in you; something you do, say or just be as a person. No repeating. Instead find something new each day!

Stop protecting yourself from judgment!

If you really look at it, isn’t being who the world expects us to be a way to protect ourselves from the judgment of others? How often have we heard that we need to protect ourselves from being hurt? What if that is actually not true? What if what others say has actually nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person? What if their judgment is just their opinion, nothing more?

Those walls we build to protect ourselves work in more ways than just as protection. They also do not allow us to truly receive the gifts other people have for us. Nor do they allow us to fully give others the gifts we have for them.

Being yourself requires a level of vulnerability and, strangely, there is safety in that vulnerability. If someone “attacks” you and you are vulnerable, the resistance they expect is not there and, therefore, the “attacker” stumbles or stops dead in their tracks, confused about how to react to the situation.

If you choose to be you, you are not being at the effect of the world around you. You might wake up each morning grateful to be experiencing the wonders of another day, being at peace, feeling good about yourself or not needing to prove anything to anybody.

You being you is a gift, both to yourself as well as to the people around you.

Corinna Stoeffl was born and raised in Germany and working as a Middle School mathematics and physics teacher, before moving to the US in 1980 with her family. Since then, Corinna has explored different careers, accumulating decades of invaluable experience, including; earning a master’s degree in Counseling, working as a life coach for many years, pursuing photography and writing two books. As a Being You facilitator and mother of two, Corinna’s career path has equipped her with a unique skill set, incredible sense of self-awareness and wisdom, which she in turn shares with her clients. Corinna’s own journey to self-acceptance led her to help others to find themselves, appreciate their unique qualities, and to use them to their advantage in their life and career. Corinna recently contributed a chapter to the collaborative book Voices of the 21st Century, released this October and a #1 bestseller. Follow Corinna. Learn more at and


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