“Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ~Brene’ BrownI’ve been a people pleaser my whole life, bending everything I say, do and feel to what I think makes everyone else happy.
For 37 years I’ve been this persona of a person. And I’ve always known it wasn’t me. It was something I made up so that I wouldn’t have to be the fearless, bold, real me I am at my core. Because I was afraid to ruffle feathers and share with the world who I really am.
I built a life around this persona.
One morning when I was 16 years old, I was feeling fearless and excited about choosing an outfit that felt like me. I pulled up my pants admiring the bold statement they were making with all the rips and how they were intentionally hard washed as if to say, ‘yah this is me, take it or leave it. I’m hard washed and proud of it.’
I laced up my boots thinking how cool they were with their bossy attitude. Then my shirt. It was tye dyed like it was nobody’s biz. I felt cool because I felt true to me.
I opened my bedroom door and walked down the 5 steps to the first level that met the dining room where my mom was sitting reading the newspaper. When I got the bottom of the stairs she looked at me and then her face turned into an almost disgusted, concerning face as she said, “you’re wearing that?”
Me as a kid, always wanting to self express in big, colorful patterns
My heart sunk and all the colors I was feeling suddenly went black. I ran upstairs, changed and went to school like nothing happened. But inside I felt small, insignificant and stupid. I didn’t know why being me and expressing something I like was so wrong. Was it that terrible?
It’s amazing how one person…one look…one comment…one opinion…could take all my power from me in one small moment. One small moment of bravery, courage and boldness to tap into who I really wanted to be and who I really was.
I’ll never forget that day and how this single moment was so pivotal to me that it became a crossroads to the direction I would go in my life. All by how I would choose to react in this moment.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, my choice to change my outfit was a choice built around pleasing my mom’s opinion of me and how the world would view me and was also a choice that sacrificed my true self. I chose making sure my mom was happy over making me happy.
I let someone else’s opinion dim my light. And truly in this moment I let the light shut off as soon as I changed clothes and decided I was too afraid to own my truest self regardless of the outcome of what anyone else thought.
Notice I didn’t say it was anyone else’s doing but my own. There will always be people expressing their opinion and that’s the key right there, to know that it’s theirs and has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
We have to live our lives for ourselves.
There’s been so many other moments like this in my life, where I turned myself around to align with someone else’s preferences or happiness and in turn, sacrificed my own authenticity and my own Self.
So many of us are walking around wearing this persona of pleasing everyone else but ourselves.
I know how hard it is to take this mask off and be who you really are. It’s scary, uncertain and you probably aren’t sure how to even do it.
I decided last year when I became really aware that I was living my life for everyone else but me, that it was time to take the mask off and be who I really am. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and wish I would have done the harder thing to be bold, fearless and let my true light shine. I needed to do it now.
And I realized the biggest reason I people please is because I don’t please myself. I look for affirmation and validation outside of myself because I don’t do it within myself. I knew this would be the biggest thing I needed to rewrite in my story. I would need to take care of myself, show up for me and validate my own feelings by taking responsibility for my own choices, feelings and self. So I started.
Here are the 4 mind shifts that gave me the tools I needed to stop being a people pleaser and start living my most rebellious, authentic life:
1. The Rebellion
“Choosing to become a rebel of my own self, of what other’s wanted me to be and what everyone else is doing–is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself. I’ve found freedom in speaking my truth, showing up naked and true and beating down the door of what’s possible for myself and my life. It’s not easy but you do it anyways because it’s worth it. Now my life is about creating what’s in my heart, following my gut and going the way of the most resistance. I look for the difficult because I know that that’s where we find our strength, resilience and heart. I am forever a rebel and will always do whats true in my fierce self.” ~Ashley Johns
There has to be a gentle rebellion you start within yourself to decide that you’ve had enough of being enslaved by the act of doing everything but what you really want. You’ll know it because you’ll feel it. It feels off. Tune into your feelings and start really listening to yourself in these moments where you stand at a crossroads deciding whether to please others or yourself.
Take up arms against this mask you’ve been wearing and pull it off so you can live free.
With anything I’ve ever done that was super hard at first,
I had to build a fire within myself and rebel against everything I knew so I could find what was true.
You’re walking down this new path of your own choosing. And it’s exciting! Try to let excitement take the place of fear. But have realistic expectations that it will be hard and that’s ok! Anything worthwhile has a hard edge you have to soften. Over time, it’ll get smoother, easier and will become second nature.
Think of it like flexing a new muscle. When you lift weights for the first time, it’s hard and taxing. It’s brand new so of course it’s going to be a shock to your body and mind. And once it’s over, you’ll feel it for a while. For days you may not even be able to not hurt when sitting down. But then eventually the pain goes away and you go back to lift again. Then you start looking for the resistance because you know growth only happens when you push past your comfort zone and go into the painful last 3 to 4 reps. That’s where growth happens. So make no mistake about it, it will be hard and it will also be so freakin worth it!
2. The choice to show up and be real.
One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be loved, accepted and wanted if I showed up as the person I really am. I built my life around avoiding being who I really am so I wouldn’t ruffle any feathers and mostly, because it felt scary to let her out and be her in the world. What would people think?
But every time I held back and stopped myself from being who I really am, even in the smallest of moments, I wasn’t living my life with integrity.
Integrity: the state of being whole and undivided.
You see, until we love ourselves fully, we’ll be divided with ourselves. And the way that plays out is through not honoring ourselves and sharing it with the world. We hold back, play small and dim our light. When we do this, the ripple effect is that we actually reinforce not being whole by not sharing our whole selves.
The most important thing we can do in any moment is show up and be real by being who we really are.
That means saying what we really feel. Doing what we really want to do. And living true to ourselves no matter what the consequence may be when it comes to what others think about it.
I believe we all have a little rebel girl living inside of us. We just have to breathe life back into her. We do that by resuscitating what’s lost. We go on a mission to give her life. This is the rebellion I talk about above.
Questions to ask yourself:
1. Why do I try to please others?
2. When did I start trying to please others?
3. Am I honoring myself by living this way?
3. The choice to be honest.
When we play a facade and put on a mask to please everyone else, we’re not being honest. Not being honest with yourself which then means not being honest with other people and the world.
When you don’t live true from your heart, you don’t live with integrity. Being dishonest is just as much of a choice as is it to be honest.
Honest comes from the latin word honestus which means honor.
When you choose to be honest, you choose to honor yourself. And as a result, you choose to honor others. This next truth really helped me see and understand the impact of being true to myself and what that means to me and everyone else.
When you do something just because you want someone else to be happy, it may seem like you’re honoring them, what’s actually happening is when you choose to please someone else over yourself, you dishonor yourself. It’s easier for us people pleasers to do that.
But in truth you’re not honoring anyone because before you can honor someone else, you have to first honor your Self. This is how I realized the impact honesty really has in our lives.
We have to be honest with ourselves first before we can be honest with anyone else.
The next time you’re standing there and it feels hard to be true to you, remember that being honest means honoring yourself and when you honor yourself, you honor everyone else involved. Always be honest.
Looking back at that moment on the stairs with my mom, what would have been honest is telling her how that makes me feel and then being honest with myself to do whats in me to do. I would have carried on and went to school rocking the outfit that was mine to rock.
We don’t always have the tools we need at the times we wished we had them. But that is what evolving, growing and transforming is all about. When we can see what we’ve missing in these moments, we can start giving these things to ourselves so our moments change in the direction of what’s true and honest for us.
4. The choice to let ourselves be seen.
We’ve all, at one point or another, put our true selves out there. When I first started doing it, it felt like I stripped all my clothes off, made my declaration and stood there, naked, cold and alone. What I experienced from doing so was an uncomfortable blow back to where instead of being celebrated for letting my true self and true feelings be seen, I felt dis-ease and anger from the other person.
This result didn’t make me want to continue my voyage into the land of being true, honest and real in the world. However, I had to choose to continue pushing on through the discomfort and eventually found my way through the weight of caring what other people think.
The word care originates from car, meaning to carry.
When we care about what others think, we carry them.
I’m not suggesting caring for others is not a good thing to do. I’m saying caring for others is different than caring what others think when we be who we really are and honor our true selves.
Imagine carrying a baby elephant on your back. Now add 10 more, then 20. Pretty soon you’re carrying so much it’s no wonder you can’t carry yourself forward.
Now imagine speaking your truth freely and openly with people you care about. You no longer carry their concern about you because what you carry is your truth instead. You trust and know that if you are honest, real and true with yourself and you share that with others, then the people who value and love you will honor you for being you. The ones who don’t you no longer carry.
Most importantly, your love of yourself grows every time you honor yourself.
There’s nothing more to do, than to be true.
Accept your whole self. Be you. Be true. Live your life with integrity. Love yourself fiercely and your light shines into the world reaching the ones who see, love and appreciate you. But never forget that this isn’t about anyone else but you.
Carry your heart and walk forward in your truth. Life is a gift that we forget we receive every single day we wake up alive. We forget that this one life of ours is ours to create.
You are the author of your story. You can rewrite it in any moment you choose. You can even turn the page and start a new chapter. All it takes is some courage. And that, we have alot of. You just have to open your heart, create a rebellion around your true self and walk forward, fiercely.
“Everything’s hard at first, messy in the middle and beautiful at the end.”
It will be hard to rewrite your people pleasing habits and even messy when you start doing it but keep going with it and it will be a beautiful freedom you created for yourself and your life.
I’m Ashley Johns! I started moving forward in my life in 2009 by deciding what I wanted my life to look like, setting goals and then doing what it took to get there. Choosing to live with intention instead of being a victim to what wasn’t working in my life, I literally woke up. Today, I help others believe in possibility through healing, growth and transformation! I write every morning and share it with the world and create intention jewelry at Fierce Forward Jewelry as a tool for people to look down and remember daily why you’re moving forward. Anything is possible when you’ve got fierce belief behind it. You can subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter below to continue your self growth journey!
Fierce Forward! Ash
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