Staying authentic in a world that wants you to be mainstream

12 Aug 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Starting university is a chance to find out who you are; but it’s not always as easy as you think it is. From peer pressure to family expectations, being your authentic self can take a backseat. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen…

Do you struggle to tell when someone is being ‘authentic’? Often, we can be left with a bad taste in our mouth when we meet someone who isn’t being real or is trying too hard.

But in a world where being different isn’t always celebrated, sometimes it’s just that little bit easier to change ourselves if we want to fit in.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. In fact, the more genuine and real you are, the happier you’ll be – and it can even be your superpower. People like people who are genuine; being happy in your own skin is infectious and it makes it easier to forge connections.

So, how can you strive to be more authentic in your everyday life?

Self-reflect

The key to being authentic is being happy with who you are in the first place. Are you worrying about doing something because someone else is doing it? Or, perhaps, wearing certain things to fit in with a social norm? Let it go.

Looking outside of yourself for approval can hamper your authenticity. If you’re relying on being like someone else or getting enough likes on an Instagram post to be happy, you’re more likely to experience anxiety.

Self-reflect and decide what it is that makes you happy. You have nothing to hide by being yourself and you’ll be more confident for it.

Be open-minded

There’s a difference between accepting people for who they are and pretending to accept people for who they are.

If you’re secretly (or even outwardly) judging someone based on their lack of conformity to the normal crowd, it’s likely because you’re being close-minded and struggling with your own identity.

However, by being open-minded, you’ll naturally become less judgemental towards others and open to new things. You’ll be less fickle in your assessments about new people, and, while you don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinion, you’ll be more respectful of differing views to your own.

By sticking to your principles and not being swayed by superficial expectations, others will be more likely to trust your judgement, too.

Be true to yourself

So, you’ve done your self-reflection, but what happens next? Well, now you know who you are, you need to be true to that.

If hanging out with certain kinds of people stresses you out or creates a toxic atmosphere, move on. Make decisions for yourself and have the courage to take responsibility for your own life and wellbeing.

It’s also important here to note that, if someone does better than you in an exam or gets a good job, it doesn’t reflect on your self-worth. Be genuinely happy for and motivate them, while being secure in the knowledge that you’re already working hard towards your own goals.

Choose life over things

When you start putting the value of life experiences over material possessions, you become more open to possibilities, less entrapped by money and more likely to create meaningful bonds with the people around you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to live without the things you want; you can still save up for a car or buy yourself a new birthday dress. It just means not hinging your happiness on material things, thereby allowing yourself to see the real beauty in experiences and relationships with those around you.

Above all, though, be kind, show respect and love generously without expecting anything in return; it doesn’t get more authentic than that.

Looking for more tips on health and wellbeing? Head to the Common Room right here.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.