Finding People Who See the Real You

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice, Who Supports Your Writing Dreams? by on March 24, 2015 • views: 2604

Best Friends B&W 2“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
~Carl G. Jung

Are you struggling to take a new path in your life? Is that little voice inside you urging you to try something new, but you have yet to take action?

Be careful—you may have all your efforts derailed by one person who fails to support you.

Just one person can take all your hard work and courage and throw it into the garbage, leaving you wondering why you ever thought you could do something different in the first place.

What Others Want from You

All of us need someone in our lives who truly sees us as we are. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy to find.

People often have their own agendas in relationships, and these usually have more to do with getting their own needs met than with supporting you.

Your boss wants you around to do a job and help him grow the business. Your children want you there to encourage and support them, and may rarely think about doing the same for you.  Some of your friends may appreciate that you listen to their problems, but be less likely to return the favor.

Even your husband, wife, or parents may be so involved in their own worlds much of the time that you feel invisible to them.

This can be a dangerous situation when it comes to gathering the strength you need for your own personal journey.

“[I]n today’s large, complex world of varying cultures and personalities and opportunities and options,” writes blogger Tim Urban, “losing touch with your Authentic Voice is dangerous….When it comes to the most personal questions, instead of digging deep into the foggy center of what you really believe in to find clarity, you’ll look to others for the answers. Who you are becomes some blend of the strongest opinions around you.”

Women, Especially, Lack True Mirrors

I read a book recently that spoke about how often women, especially, lack true mirrors in their lives, and end up spending most of their time tending to the needs of others, to the detriment of their own true selves.

“In many relationships,” writes Helene G. Brenner, Ph.D., “the inner self is not mirrored. Instead, what gets mirrored are the actions you take to satisfy other’s needs and expectations. If those who share your life don’t see you, you’re in danger of becoming invisible to yourself.” (I Know I’m in There Somewhere, 2004)

Many women know this feeling. If you’re not sure you’re one of them, ask yourself what you really want out of life.

What do you really want in the next five years, for example? What is your deepest desire?

If you have a hard time answering that question (many women do), most likely your real self is in hiding, overwhelmed by everyone else.

Connection or Authenticity?

What makes it more difficult for women is that we’re connectors. We want to form connections with people. We’re masters at creating and maintaining relationships. We often do so regardless of whether or not the relationship goes both ways.

“We long to be loved and accepted,” writes counselor Shelley Klammer,  “even if it means we have to betray and change ourselves in ways that are not natural. We will unconsciously ‘match’ others to gain love.”

This may work for awhile, but as we grow and learn, it can start to eat away at the true self.

“If they don’t hear you,” Brenner writes, “your desire to connect with others starts to battle with your desire to be true to yourself. If connection wins, you take from yourself the right to know what you know, feel what you feel, sense what you sense and want what you want.”

In other words, you get really good at saying, “Sure, whatever you want to do,” and “Of course, you’re right,” regardless of whether or not that’s how you actually feel.

The Struggle to Put on a Public Face

In addition to all these struggles, technology and social media seem to encourage putting on a “public face.” Living in today’s uber-connected world, we may often feel pressured to be who others want us to be.

“In today’s culture of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s,'” says writer Barbara Erochina, “it is no surprise that most of us find ourselves stuck in a never ending rat race of living up to what we think other people expect. Meanwhile, our true selves get left behind in the dust.”

Our fears may be justified. Do or say something wrong and you risk being ostracized online, like so many people have been. As our privacy becomes less and less assured, we naturally become more fearful of letting our real selves out, for fear of backlash.

Talk to most successful entrepreneurs, however, and they’ll tell you that hiding is a recipe for failure. True success means being yourself, and finding those who support that.

“Real success has always been about knowing ourselves and staying true to that core,” says talent strategist Meghan M. Biro. “People who know themselves enrich an organization’s culture, and add to the workplace community with their spontaneity and honesty.”

“The less time and energy you spend on image management,” adds entrepreneur Tom Murcko, “on making your life presentable to others, the more time you can spend on things that really matter.”

Determining When to Be Real

I know from my own experience the powerful pull of connection, and how much we want to maintain relationships with those we care about.

I also know the feeling of invisibility. A practiced people pleaser, it has taken me years to reconnect with myself and my own path in life, and to find the courage to follow it regardless of what anyone else thinks.

It’s a balancing act. Obviously we can’t be one-hundred-percent “real” all the time.

“Go out and be ‘real’ when you’re having a bad day, and people will quickly call you out for not reacting in the ‘right’ way,” says founder of, Brian Clark.

“Sometimes, we really can’t be ourselves,” writes bestselling author and professional speaker Chris Brogan. “If you are a nudist and a fry cook at McDonalds, you’ll probably find it hard to express that particular passion (besides – ouch!).”

But for many of us, expressing ourselves too much is not the problem—it’s hiding all that real stuff away.

If you’re feeling a little adrift, empty, or nebulous, like the real you has been lost in the ether somewhere, it may be time to get back in touch with your authentic self.

What Serves You?

The cool part is that as you find the courage to trust yourself and your inner voice, those who really care about you will come around to trusting you as well.

“The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not,” writes blogger Luminita D. Saviuc, “the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.”

Those who don’t? It’s up to you to determine if continuing to spend time with them benefits you.

“We cheat ourselves out of the fullness of real connection when we do not reveal our true selves,” writes scholar Kimberly Nash Alexander. “Somehow the fear of sharing who we really are gets in the way of allowing ourselves to have the full relationships we desire.”

7 Ways to Get Back in Touch with the Real You

If you think you may be doing too much acquiescing and too little living your own life, here are a few tips that may help.

1. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Often we hesitate to tell others what we really want, or to charge forward into our dreams despite what others think, because we’re afraid of the results. We’re afraid of losing connections or disappointing people. Try feeling all those feelings, and charging forward anyway.

“When you live your life unafraid of what others will think of you,” writes professional ghostwriter David Wright, “a funny thing happens. You’ll find that when you’re being the genuine you, you will attract genuine people into your world.”

2. Ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Sometimes it’s worth it to maintain relationships where we feel somewhat invisible. Blood relationships, for example, can’t be changed, so it’s best if we find a way to manage within them.

Other relationships, however, may not be worth it. If you’re spending time with friends who “don’t hear you,” as Brenner said, you may want to re-evaluate those relationships. Are they more draining than sustaining? Would you feel better finding new friends who were more interested in your true self?

3. Imagine your openness as being helpful to others.

You may feel like you’re the only one who fades into the woodwork, but there are a lot of people just like you. When you open up, you may give others courage to do the same.

“I’m recommending a general honesty about who you are,” says life coach, Mike Burns, “with a willingness to get specific where necessary and appropriate. In fact, not just a willingness to do so, but a desire to be appropriately open for the sake of your own health and that of the people you’re with. See, they are just like us…..they’re not sure if anyone else is like them. Your openness can be contagious. It might help other people be released from the trap of living someone else’s life.”

4. Realize it may improve your creative work.

You’ve probably heard that writers (and other creatives) go through periods early in their careers where they copy their heroes, and then gradually, if they keep writing, they find their own voices.

Being your authentic self more often in the real world can help you get closer to your own voice on the page.

“To be authentic you have to understand who you are, what you want to be, and how you want to fit in the world,” writes serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque. “When you write for yourself, it can propel you to explore your inner self — your journey, your struggles, your inspirations, and your purpose….When you regularly write from your heart, it not only enhances your communication skills, it allows you to connect with your audience on an emotional level.”

5. Tune into your body.

Our bodies are wonderful sensory machines. Pay more attention to how you feel around certain people. If you’re worried about being your true self, most likely you’re going to feel tight, withdrawn, and like you’re wearing a mask. You may also feel tired and even depressed after spending time with them.

On the other hand, those people with whom you feel most comfortable being your real self will bring out the opposite feelings—relaxation, looseness, comfort, freedom. You may feel energized after a visit, or more confident.

Often we just ignore these feelings, but tuning in gives you a ready radar you can use to evaluate your relationships. Then you can choose those that fuel you, rather than those that drain you.

6. Do something you enjoy.

We often get pulled one-hundred different directions by our jobs and by the important people in our lives. Doing something that may seem “selfish”—something you alone enjoy—can help you reconnect with who you are, and may also put you in touch with others more likely to see that authentic person.

“When life is falling down around you,” writes Susan Biali in Psychology Today, “or if it just feels blah, lifeless or even hopeless, the quickest way to add hope and life back in is to re-connect with the real you.”

7. Say “the hell with it!”

I have just started to get into this, and I love it.

I have a feeling that as women grow older, they gradually grow out of the need to please others.

At least, I’ve seen that in many senior women that I know.

They just no longer care whether others like what they have to say or not. And how freeing is that?

Of course, decades of training to “be nice” can’t be overcome overnight, and I’m not saying it necessarily should be.

But I do find it freeing every once in awhile to put on my best Clark Gable and say, “You know what? I just don’t give a d—!”

We see some of this reflected in the older characters that we love, such as those played by Betty White and Maggie Smith.

But maybe we don’t have to wait until our last few decades to enjoy that sort of freedom.

I dare you, as I’m daring myself—about once a week, find a way to say, “The hell with it!” and do or say whatever you want. See how it makes you feel.

Oh, and you may want to try this in your writing, too. I’ve found some of my best writing sessions were fueled with that “hell with it” emotion.

Who cares? Let it out. Be you and let the chips fall where they may.

It works for Grumpy Cat.

Happy and You Know ItDo you have suggestions for how to find people who see the real you? Please share them with our readers.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Thank you for this wonderful post!
    I especially enjoyed the notion that “Women…Lack True Mirrors.” I couldn’t agree with you more – though the notion is sadly true.
    Thanks, again!

    • Colleen says:

      That resonated with me too, Shelby. So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the feedback! 🙂

  2. Chere Hagopian says:

    I agree! It was great, especially number seven! I still need to work on not trying to please people, but I have grown out of trying to impress them. Pretending to be perfect just makes other people uncomfortable. It’s much more kind to be real and invite others to be real with you.

  3. Anita says:

    This is a fantastic post Colleen! So much truth in such a small space.
    I emailed this to myself so I can re-read and share it farther. Thank you for the great effort!