One Breath Away

A mindful life with kindness and perspective

Why is it so hard to show others the real me?

A short, possible theory/answer: Perhaps you haven’t truly shown yourself the real you first, by practising softness and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Everything else builds on that.


Why do I dim my light as soon as I leave my safe shell? Why do I make myself small when I am with other people, regardless of whether they know me or not at all? Why do I not trust myself enough that it is good for me to be myself, with all my strengths and weaknesses, lovely as well as peculiar sides?

Here are a few thoughts on “silencing ourselves” and the possible reasons why we may do this, thereby maintaining an old habitual defence mechanism that might have worked in the past but needs to be replaced in the present.

Long story short: This is for you when you have the feeling that “It’s time to show the world what I’m made of. Who I really am. And who I really want to be.”, but you’re not quite there yet.

Do you know this situation?

Allow me to first explain what led me to reflect on this topic. Because “being ourselves” is very broad and we could take many possible paths. I had a conversation with someone that made me feel disheartened and quite sad and thoughtful, because I didn’t show my real me. Let’s focus on that scenario:

You are talking to a person who is close to your heart or with whom you have a common past. Pick your partner, a (good) friend or perhaps a family member or relative – it doesn’t matter as long as they have one thing in common: You’ve known each other for a while and may have even both hurt each other in the past. Simply put, you have some kind of connection to each other.

Why do we focus on this? Because unlike people we hardly know or see only occasionally, people who are closer to us (at least in theory) sometimes give us a more honest assessment that we need to start the process of being ourselves more and more often.

Let’s get back to the scenario. So even though you are having a more or less fluent conversation, with all its more or less unspectacular topics, for whatever reason you realise that something is missing and everything falls a bit, well, flat?

Shallow talks and mindless presence

So in my case, it completely frustrated and saddened me. I automatically flushed stories about my recent ventures or work-related things out of my system just so I could play my part later and pretend to be interested in the other person’s stories. All the while somehow I started to realise that I put the call on speaker. To check my emails on a random Tuesday evening and finally decide to check the calendar app on my phone because .. well yeah, because why? Because there was something to find there, as opposed to the conversation I was having?

Well, it happens to all of us, you might argue. But again, this is not about shallow conversations with people you don’t know or work-related meetings that push you to do something other than actively listen and participate in a meaningful way.

This is about me or you having a conversation with someone that somehow creates tension, unrest and nervousness all over the place – again and again. Conversations that make you feel so many things that have little to do with the actual talking points.

In my case, I shook my head in disbelief but couldn’t figure out why it felt so weird. I felt the distance between us and the fact that there was something that blocked me from truly opening up and urged me to be very careful to not let that person into my life. And suddenly sadness crept into the natural pauses for breath of this mechanical and impersonal exchange of information. This distance I felt bothered me, as I was not showing the other person the real me, as I was not talking about my real feelings and worries – although I actually wanted to.

What happens when you do not show the real you

All I gave the other person was the illusion of someone I don’t particularly like. A person who hides behind empty words and phrases, even though he wants to be more expressive and talkative, as he has already shown with other people. More and more thoughts emerged – the kind of thoughts that start slowly like a gentle summer rain, but very quickly end in a dark and stormy thunderstorm. Which ultimately leaves you alone and soaking wet in the midst of overwhelming emotions.

Thoughts like: Why am I hiding from this person? Why am I not able to express my true feelings and thoughts and thereby show myself here and now, in this moment? Why is it so difficult for me to deal with this person and how is it possible that from the moment the conversation started, I suddenly changed into someone I hardly know?

So what blocked me from showing up?

Perhaps I’ve once again rediscovered a defence mechanism – something that was useful and capable of keeping me safe in the past. A certain kind of behaviour, a set of beliefs about myself and others that allowed me to fit into a certain system seamlessly to not stand out but stay undetectable and, once again, safe. And in my example, I slipped back into it out of habit, but alienated myself in the process.

So what is the alternative, you may ask? Because you may already feel the realisation rising within you that without these old patterns and habits you feel naked and vulnerable.

Do your old habits and defence mechanisms help or burden you?

Let’s think of these mechanisms as armour that we might want to take off: The ingrained virtue and attitude of silencing yourself when you’re with others, the helmet that limits your perspective and perception of things, the weight of worry and grief that mutes your body language.

What about the fact that wearing all that wears you down? Makes you believe that you have to allow tension in your body? That you hold back your own opinions? That for lack of clear vision and focus, you only wait for one or more signals to finally allow yourself to tense your body even more, so much so that once again you mutter or stutter, maybe even start to sweat?

Only to realise that everything you are standing for right now is actually not you at all and all you want to do is escape from such a situation. Only to realise a little later how stupid – let me rephrase for both of us, how draining and counterproductive – it all was.

All that because you automatically put it on again, this well-worn and antiquated armour.

Maybe it’s time to drop this defence mechanism for good

And learn to deal without it. And of course this makes us suddenly feel naked and vulnerable, but also more ourselves.

Maybe we need to build a relationship with ourselves first and start spending more time in this environment? To learn about what we actually need and want, to cultivate a comfortable space within and around us in a way that serves and empowers us?

Just imagine being with someone who you feel comfortable with. Someone who knows you, is clearly not a threat or intimidating presence but who you know from experience you can be yourself without being judged (too much) or laughed at (at least not too harshly, if you know what I mean). Having that comfort zone where you can freely express and talk about your feelings, thoughts and perspectives about certain things and then just let it go.

Now imagine that this person is you

As soothing people close to you can be to your own mental health and stability – and they truly are essential for that – it is probably even more important to have the same level of comfort, stability and friendliness towards yourself. This is very important to hear, especially if – right now – you don’t have a circle of people around you that you feel comfortable with.

So why is it so hard to show others the real me?

Perhaps I’m simply inexperienced in being myself? Please don’t recoil when you hear this and it hits you, because there may be some truth behind it for you as well. That inexperience might lead to insecurity, anxiety, self-doubt and other thoughts and feelings that – trust me – have no productive means other than distract your focus from your true goal – to feel comfortable in your own skin – and instead only make you doubt yourself.

It’s time to show yourself what you’re made of

Who you really are. And what you actually feel, think and experience and what all that has actually to do with you as a person – little to nothing. (Because you’re neither your feelings nor your thoughts.) Similar to dropping your defence mechanisms, this developmental journey is about peeling away the layers that you find (un)comfortable or that you need to overcome. It is work and a journey, and you can and will actively decide what to add, keep or remove, and in the end experience what remains: What you can like, love, value about yourself.

Because there are a whole lot of things about you that are lovable and worth appreciating. Maybe you haven’t put them in perspective yet, or maybe you just need another reminder that all these things are there, waiting to be held by you.

Have we now answered the initial question?

Or have we not now, at this moment, rather reached a fork in the road? As long as you are neither ready nor willing to spend time with yourself and to see yourself in a warm and friendly light – sorry if I am being harsh and direct now – then you are not ready to show others the real you. To be compassionate. To be vulnerable. To build meaningful connections and relationships.

Because the key is showing yourself the real you first – over and over again. To feel comfortable with it – although it’s not always comfortable. And yes, sometimes just (grumpily) accepting how you are, but on other times being even confident or happy about it. And then? You let things take care of themselves.

What might help you to walk this path and get there?

Our focus has shifted from other people and the outside world to our relationship with ourselves. So maybe your next step is to be with yourself, thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive environment where you can practise, share and reflect on all that.

Where you meet the real you by practising softness and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Where you learn how to be comfortable with yourself before you can replace habits and patterns. Because in order to do that, we need to actively observe them first and feel what they do with us and identify them as helpful or unhelpful.

A possible way to do this is by joining our next online meditation

There you can find out for yourself if this is an appropriate way to rediscover yourself. Find out more about the guided meditations and the next meetings by clicking here and joining us!

Here’s a meditation for you right now

Head over to my YouTube channel and see if you find a meditation that feels right for this moment!

In the meantime, this might also help you learn more about yourself in this regard

Perhaps you can transform the question of “Why is it so hard to show others the real me?” into the following ones. Don’t try to answer them all or straight away, but let them sink in and see for yourself if and what comes up naturally. That can be a good indicator of where and how to continue your journey from here.

  • No matter how much time I think I (don’t) have: How can I find more time in my daily life to be with myself more often? To observe what’s actually going on inside of me?
  • How can I learn to be more observant of “my” thoughts and feelings? What might help me to get there?
  • Instead of looking exclusively on shortcomings and thereby adding pressure: What are the things I am actually proud of, confident about and grateful for having?
  • What does my body actually signal when I’m stressed? How can I deal with feelings of tiredness, bad sleep or other body signals?
  • How can I practise softness and allow myself to be vulnerable? What do these words mean to me?
  • Why is it so hard to accept, like and even love myself for who I am?
  • When is it easier to be myself? And how could I potentially increase these times of “comfortable being me” in the next 3 days?