fHere are some words that have increased in use over the last decade: self-confidence, authenticity, speak your truth, badass. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Way back in the days when I was growing up, these were not words that were shared around dinner table conversations in most homes. Sure, my parents promoted positive self-esteem for me and my brother, but not in the way you see it plastered across social media today. In fairness, there was no such thing as social media when I was a kid (or adolescent, or young adult—that’s how old I am!), so things weren’t so “in your face” good or bad.
Anyway, the idea that someone, especially a woman, should express herself with confidence and authenticity was not as promoted as it is these days. Expectations around what was proper and acceptable prevented a lot of people from stepping into their true selves to express their authenticity. Fear of judgment or ridicule held some back because the thought of being embarrassed was far too hurtful than sharing the truth.
We’ve all been there in some way, shape, or form. These feelings still exist for a lot of us. And that’s because we weren’t encouraged or taught how to proceed with them in a way that didn’t feel arrogant or self-serving.
It’s no easy feat to walk into a room or to present yourself as confident and authentic. But it’s not impossible or all that difficult if you remember these three things: be relatable, vulnerable, and fearless.
1. Be Relatable
I’ve gotta say, one thing that’s really been eye-opening for me since I started my professional coaching practice is that when you present yourself in a way that is relatable and honest, you create more meaningful connections and relationships. Being able to relate to another person increases trust in your relationship, and it’s something you can do with everyone in your life.
During the spring, my son was having a difficult time with virtual learning for school amidst the pandemic. He would argue and have tantrums because he was upset and didn’t really know how to express it. One day he was sitting on the couch crying because he missed his friends, his teachers, his school.
My typically joyful and playful boy was hurting and I needed to help him. Instead of telling him he had no choice and to suck it up and “go to school,” I sat on the couch with him and cried and told him that I felt the same way he did. I wanted him to see his friends, his teachers, and to go to school. In fact, I missed my friends and all of the great things we got to do before we went into quarantine.
When I showed him that I could relate to how he was feeling, we were able to talk it out peacefully and logically. We were able to connect in a way that we hadn’t before. After that, he was able to understand why sharing your feelings is so important and how expressing yourself can help you in certain situations. Win-win!
2. Be Vulnerable
Vulnerability is another popular buzzword you hear popping up into conversations a lot lately. Gone are the days of “fake it till you make it.” We’ve learned that by sharing our own personal stories, we will be more authentic and confident with the people in our lives.
Opening up and sharing intimate parts of your life can sometimes be difficult. Similar to relatability, it often requires having to get over a fear of judgment. But when you decide to completely expose your truth, there is power and relief that often accompany it.
Being vulnerable and opening up can be helpful to others. It can also bring a wave of support and understanding from your support circle of friends and family. It’s harder to keep things bottled up, no matter what the situation is.
Several years ago I was going through a really difficult time at work. The environment was extremely toxic, and it was taking a toll not only on my professional life but my personal life as well. For as hard as I tried to keep them separate, it was impossible to build a complete wall.
In my professional life, I was drowning in anxiety, anger, and depression. I didn’t want to go to work because of the stress I would physically feel in my body. My productivity declined when I was in the office because I was constantly on alert to the things that were going on around (and to) me. I could never relax and feel like I could let my guard down.
It was an awful experience, and yet because I had an image in my head of what my life was “supposed” to look like, I said nothing to my family or friends at home. I was too nervous about sharing my vulnerability with the people who could’ve—instead of being in the dark—supported me.
My actions backfired bigtime. I eventually burnt out from the stress of trying to manage it all alone.
Having my husband find me in a heap of tears on the floor of our bedroom essentially having a breakdown from the stress and anxiety was the beginning of me sharing my true story. It took being vulnerable and expressing myself to help me heal and make the necessary changes in my life I needed to get healthy and clear.
Because of it, I was able to face my fear and ultimately make decisions that would re-route my life in a direction that I could never have dreamed of for myself. By being vulnerable and sharing my story, I have been able to build a business helping others overcome their own fears and challenges.
3. Be Fearless
Confidence isn’t something we are born with—it’s learned. For some of us, it takes a really long time to find true confidence For others, it comes easy.
Confidence is a product of your surroundings, your support system, and your belief in yourself. You create your own confidence, the same way you create your own happiness by surrounding yourself with positivity and optimism through education and making choices that feel good.
Some people call confidence fearlessness. Not being afraid to be different, to speak your mind, or to share your vulnerabilities with others and face your challenges head-on—that’s being fearless.
I have a friend who has been bullied his whole life. Even to this day, as a middle-aged adult, he experiences forms of bullying. He reached out to me to talk about it because while he’s grown into an extremely self-assured, confident man, he now wants to understand the reason why people bully others, especially as adults.
I told him during our conversation that he was being fearless in his pursuit to educate himself rather than retaliate—that his confidence was helping him to express himself in a way that would ultimately help not only himself but also others who have been in similar situations.
My friend has spent years educating himself and working on his fearlessness. He’s grown from the doubtful boy into the self-assured man his friends and family know and love. He’s overcome so many obstacles around self-worth, disbelief in himself, and anxiety that he is now a shining example of how to thrive.
We hear the word “haters” a lot on social media—people who express negativity in a bullying sort of way. When you have the capacity to step into your power and shine regardless of what others think about you, you are fearless. Expressing yourself becomes easier because you can fully embrace who you are and when you do that, you will attract the people you need in your life.
Being able to express yourself authentically doesn’t come naturally for a lot of us. It takes work to get to a place where you can be comfortable with yourself, especially if you’ve been through difficult times. But if you allow yourself to open up and share your true self, your authenticity and confidence will shine right through.
Being able to be yourself can bring a sense of relief and calm. You might (probably will) go through some challenges along the way. But in the end, you will know a feeling that you have never known before, and that will make it all worth the journey.
More Tips on How to Express Yourself
Featured photo credit: Timur Romanov via unsplash.com