3 unusual ways to practice being yourself

I’ve lived most of my life with walls 100 ft. high around the person I actually am. I never liked to show the things I cared about or was excited by or that made me laugh, because I was scared of being rejected for them. I waited til I knew people really cared about me, then another 5 years on top of that before actually showing them who I was.

That made it hard to make and keep friends, and it felt like I could never be my full self in relationships. Fear of being hurt, rejected, or found wanting kept me safe but detached from people. It took a lot of practice in low-key situations to learn how to let my guard down, and to become comfortable with being myself in situations with new people.

Here are some of my favourite places to practice being myself.

1. On dating apps

Traditional wisdom (or sometimes just our own fears) usually keeps us playing small on dating apps. We present the profiles we think people want to see, write bios that are palatable to everyone, and run through the same list of safe conversations with every new match.

It can feel daunting to present a truer version of yourself.

What if you get rejected for who you are, how you think, or the things you care about?

I’m here to tell you that even though it might feel scary at first, dating apps are one of the BEST places to practice being yourself.

For starters, it’s good to filter people out! You don’t want to match with everyone under the sun. You want to find the people who appreciate your sense of humour, how you see the world, and the things that make you different from everybody else.

So make the jokes you think are perfect, even though you’re not sure the other person will understand. Write the profile prompt that’s niche but makes you laugh. Send the opening line that shows a bit of who you are.

The goal isn’t to always get it right — there will be many times when people don’t get your sense of humour, and you don’t get theirs. Or you find you see the world in completely different ways.

The point is to practice being yourself. To become comfortable with sharing who you are, regardless of the outcome.

The sheer number of people you can talk to on dating apps, and how fleeting the connections often are makes it a low-pressure situation. If it doesn’t go well, you’ll likely never talk to that person again, and there are thousands more out there. Once you try it a couple of times, it’ll become so much easier and more fun to just be yourself with the new people you meet!

🙋🏼‍♀️ I put this into practice by sending silly opening messages to everyone on Hinge whose prompt or photos sparked something for me. Rather than wondering how it would be received, if they’d get what I meant, if it was too much, etc. I just asked myself — does sending this message make me feel happy and like myself?

It was really scary at first! But once I ripped off the bandaid, I found that each following message became easier to send. I wouldn’t always hear back from people, but that quickly stopped being the point. It made me feel good to feel like I could just be myself, for myself.

2. With concierges, baristas, cashiers, and servers

We have so many one-off interactions each day. Like when we buy our groceries, get our coffee, or pick up packages that have arrived for us. It’s the perfect place to practice showing some character!

People in service positions often have thankless and transactional jobs, where conversations feel impersonal and routine. When I worked as a server for 5 years, I’d always love it when customers took the time to chat with me on a more personal level. They might joke around with me, make a comment about something going on in the restaurant, or just ask how my day has been and be genuinely interested.

Picking up your coffee or paying for your groceries are perfect places to practice being yourself and engaging with someone on a more real level. The exchanges are short, it brightens the other person’s day, and it doesn’t take much from you!

Try sharing something about yourself — maybe that you just moved into the neighbourhood, that you wanted to stop by on your walk to the park, or that this cafe has your favourite drip coffee. They’re all easy ways to show people that they make a meaningful part of your day.

You can also try commenting on something about the other person — that you appreciate how quickly they got your order ready, that you like the pair of earrings they’re wearing, or even just wishing them an easy rest of the day.

The goal is just to share something that’s on your mind with another person. It’s an easy habit that you can build just through your normal daily interactions!

🙋🏼‍♀️ I used to hate talking to service staff. I found it stressful and intimidating when all I wanted was to get my coffee and get out, or to shop in peace. It was only when I saw how easily a good friend of mine engaged with the sales people at every store that I began to practice doing the same. It made me feel much more comfortable in every store I went into, and made me excited to feel like I could show a bit of my personality in (what eventually became) such a low-pressure situation.

3. When you’re on a panel, podcast, or doing a presentation

Being our true selves in our professional lives can be one of the hardest things we do. We want to be seen as capable, professional, and respectable, and we often translate that to mean devoid of any personality quirks.

But when you have the opportunity to be on a panel, featured on a podcast, or even do a presentation — that can be your moment to shine!

Injecting your personality into the material you’re presenting makes it more memorable and engaging for the people listening. It makes you seem more comfortable with what you’re talking about, and lets people relate to you as well.

Because you’re featured in a position of authority or knowledge, it also gives you more freedom to set the tone and work within your own rules! It’s a great way to show your personality through off-the-cuff comments, how you handle questions, and how you present information.

It’s your arena and your playground! Make the most of it.

🙋🏼‍♀️ My goal with presentations used to be perfection. Everything memorized, perfectly laid out slides and points, and flawless preparation for every question that might come up. While being prepared is important, I’ve also found my favourite presenters are the ones who show their personality in their work. Who leave room for ad-libbing, imperfections, and who lean into their points of view rather than just presenting facts.

When I was writing our pitch for Techstars, I added a lot of lines that weren’t just about the product or our company, but specific things about how we saw the world. It made it feel like we weren’t just talking about the numbers and facts of our company, but what we as people cared about!

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