How to Be Your Truest Self
When, where, and with whom are you your truest self? That’s the question Claire asked herself on her recent birthday, and she gives you some tips on how to answer it and then live it. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who is curious if anxiety manifests differently across genders.
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Claire Bidwell-Smith 00:01
Are you sick of hearing all the mental health gurus out there talk about living more authentically? Me too.
Hi, I’m Claire Bidwell-Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on new day. Now in your feed three times a week? Doesn’t it seem like everywhere you turn; you hear people talking about authenticity? How to Be your authentic self? What does that even mean? In every self-help book I read or podcast, I listened to you, I hear these questions. Do you always say what you mean? Do you speak your absolute truth? Do you feel like the truest version of yourself everywhere you go, you know what? I don’t. But at the same time, while I’m annoyed by the constant pressure to be more authentic, there are parts to this concept that I think are important. I turned 44, the other week. And on each birthday, I tried to give myself something to think about for the year ahead. So this year, I’m thinking about how often I’m being true to myself. I wrote down a question on the morning of my birthday that I plan to think about and kind of work on over the next year, and I thought I’d share it with you. The question is, when, where and with whom? Am I my truest self? It’s a big question. And it’s big, because if I’m being honest, I’m not always being my true self. I know that I’m always trying to act with integrity. But when I really examine my life, I see a lot of areas in which I don’t always feel like I’m really being me. Either I’m concealing parts of myself out of like protection and insecurity, or I’m shaping other parts to fit in with what’s going on around me. I think your truest self is who you really are deep down the part of you that doesn’t care what others think. And I think that authenticity happens when our words, actions and behaviors consistently match our core identities.
But there are just so many varying situations and environments that we have to navigate in our lives. And all of these affect our ability to live with complete authenticity all the time. For instance, I turned 44, the same day that my stepdaughter graduated high school, which meant that I ended up spending my birthday in Georgia with my mother in law, and my husband’s ex-wife and her family. Like this whole slew of people around him. I don’t always feel like I can be the most me, and being with them on my birthday made the whole thing feel even more incongruent. So is it possible to still be your true self, even when you’re putting on a role, or simply protecting yourself during stressful interactions? I think it is, but only if the role you put on is conscious and not unconscious. I know that even though I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable to be myself on my birthday, I was showing up for my stepdaughters big life moment. And doing that fit into my core belief system around family and relationships. So in that sense, I was being true to myself. But I mean, this is lofty shit guys. Some of it feels downright hard to decipher. There are a few things I came up with to make it a little easier to work on. Try starting with a personal inventory. Ask yourself, which types of people activities or situations make you feel most alive? And then ask yourself, are there people or parts of your life that make you feel unhappy or angry or feel toxic? Next, start being really present to the moments of incongruence. Those moments when you’re feeling uncomfortable, instead of racing to distract yourself. Get to know those moments when you’re not feeling like you. And ask yourself if there’s still an aspect in there somewhere that is being true to who you are. I also know that choosing to be true to yourself sometimes means setting boundaries, it means getting good at saying no to the people and places and stuff that you know are actually hurtful or damaging to your sense of self. Not everyone around you will understand when you make this choice. But you’ll feel like you’re making the right choice for yourself. You’ll feel like you’re being true to yourself and not everyone else. When I do this boundary setting in my own life, sometimes it helps me to make a pro and con list even just in my head, like what will be the benefits of doing this thing that I don’t want to do. What will be the fallout. And then I make the same list for choosing not to do it and I weigh the different sides to determine my plan. I do think that choosing to be true to ourselves on a more regular basis can help us live more authentically and have more meaningful relationships. But it’s definitely a work in progress for most of us. And it’s something I’m going to keep trying to get better at, and maybe something you want to work on with me.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 04:34
Now for your questions. If you have something you want to ask me, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our form at bit.ly/newdayask. The link is in the show notes. You can sign your name or remain anonymous. It can be short, or you can give me all the details. asked me about mental health about relationships platonic or romantic about any struggles in your life. I’d love to help Here’s a question from Robin in Minneapolis who asks, does anxiety manifest differently across genders? This is such a good question Robin, the answer is definitely yes, anxiety does manifest differently across genders. In general, I know that studies show that women have a much higher rate of anxiety than men, I think it’s actually twice as high. I think some of this is cultural men are so forced into roles in which they’re not encouraged to be vulnerable or show fear. So they mask a lot more of their anxiety and we see it emerge instead often as anger, because that’s a more culturally appropriate response for men. Women typically respond to their anxiety with avoidant behaviors, which can lead to depression. And we’ll see that men typically respond anxiety with anger and substance abuse. But both of these responses can happen across genders. There are also studies that link anxiety to brain chemistry and hormonal fluctuations, and these impact men and women in different ways. But a lot of the studies I’ve read point to the ways in which women face life stressors by ruminating about them, overthinking them, letting them feel the accompanying emotions, while men often go into problem solving mode, and active modes in order to cope with stress. I’m really curious, though, like why you’re asking the question. It had me thinking that for me, I’ve often felt misunderstood in regards to my anxiety around the men in my life, like, my husband will often respond to my anxious thoughts by asking me, why would you even be thinking about something like that, and then I feel silly and kind of shamed. But I know that sometimes when my husband is angry or upset or in a bad mood, I can kind of probe into the things he might be feeling fearful or anxious about, and it helps him move past his initial anger and into a more feeling place where he can address his fears. The overall takeaway here though, is that it’s really important to just get support when you’re experiencing anxiety. There’s so many good books and podcasts and therapists who can help you. Anxiety is highly treatable. It just takes some like working on it. So start by acknowledging that you’re feeling anxious, talk about it with trusted family and friends. Seek support, get to know your anxiety itself, how it works, where it shows up, what it looks like, what your anxious thoughts are, what are your triggers, get to know it rather than being afraid of it. And then just learn some basic coping tools like calming breath, work, meditation and mindfulness. I know that those get tossed around a lot, but they really are helpful with anxiety. Look, we all get anxious here and there, no matter our gender. The world is a really stressful place these days. So be compassionate with yourself and with the people around you who are experiencing anxiety. Thank you so much for your question, Robin. The more that we can all help each other with anxiety and all the different ways it shows up. I think the more we can alleviate it.
Well, welcome to June, how have five months of 2022 already happened. I hope wherever you are that the weather is warming up and you’re able to spend more time outside. I may be biased but I think a great activity to pick up is taking walks outside and listening to podcasts. Maybe shorter walks on Mondays and Wednesdays when new day is about 10 to 15 minutes long. You’ll get those tips from me and hear me answer listener questions. And then you can take a longer walk on Friday while you listen to the interviews I have with fascinating guests. You will not want to miss this Friday’s episode. It’s with Courtney Wycoff. I thought it was gonna be a really straightforward chat about motherhood and body image. But holy shit, it went some places I never expected. I even shared a story I’ve never told publicly before, so make sure you tune in.
NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.