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Staying True to Yourself

By Performance Champion Lizzie Simmonds
In today’s rapidly changing world it can be hard to find purpose and direction and feel confident about our identity. After years competing as an elite athlete, I’ve recently had to re-define my identity as I take on new challenges in other areas of life, so I know how important it is to stay true to ourselves when the world around us is continually suggesting we try and be someone else. Here are my top tips on finding and accepting yourself in today’s fast-paced society.

Get Clear on Your Values

Many of us live in a metric-based world, working in roles that are judged on targets and statistics. This makes it incredibly hard to separate our working identity (our ability to perform the tasks we’re required to do each day), from our personal identity. As a result, many people are left feeling unduly stressed and anxious, because they are reliant on feedback and positive affirmation from others (colleagues/bosses/sales reports) in order to feel good about themselves. 

It’s really important to understand that your worth as a human being is completely separate from your performance and results at work. Remind yourself of your values—being kind to others, applying yourself to challenging goals, pushing yourself, being willing to learn, being a positive team member. None of these things relate to your results or performance. If you’re confident in your personal values, then you start to see how your results are just a reflection of your ability on one particular day, not a reflection of you. When you adopt this mindset, you become free to challenge yourself even further, without fear, because you’re comfortable with your personal identity regardless of the end result.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

With the emergence of social media over the past couple of decades, it can be easy to get lost in all the noise online. We’re surrounded, virtually, by influencers—bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers and Instagram superstars, and immersing yourself in the pseudo-perfect world of social media can lead to many people feeling inadequate about their own identity. For every achievement you have, it’s easy to find someone who has gone one better. It’s no surprise then, that social media is undergoing a huge amount of scrutiny at the moment, with questions being raised about its impact on mental health.

But social media can be used to your advantage. The key is to avoid comparing yourself to the people you see online—whether that’s a YouTuber with 10 million followers, or one of your neighbours. Every single person has challenges, and most people’s online posts aren’t a true reflection of their reality, so don’t feel automatically envious of their position. Use social media to help strengthen your identity—be true to yourself when you’re online, warts and all. You’ll find that, not only will you feel more comfortable if you’re not trying to be fake, but your followers and friends will also appreciate the refreshing authenticity of not having to look at another heavily filtered picture of flawless perfection.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Happiness

It’s easy to say, “One day I’ll do this, and then I’ll be happy” or, “One day, when I earn this amount, then I can start enjoying life”. Waiting for your future self to acquire some kind of pre-determined measure to allow yourself to be happy means continually postponing your happiness, resulting in you never being content with your current position or the current moment.

Recognise that right here, right now, whatever your current situation, you have all that you need to find joy and happiness. Yes, be ambitious and keep striving to improve, but also know that you are already enough. If you’re finding it difficult then download a mindfulness app and set aside some time to appreciate each day for just being alive in a world full of possibilities, rather than obsessing about all the ways in which you don’t quite match up to your expectations. You are in charge of your internal narrative—now is the time to start taking ownership of your happiness too.