Learning to unapologetically be myself

Embrace authenticity, your core values, & become unapologetically yourself

Alishba Imran
6 min readJul 17, 2023

The other day I grabbed my journal, a pen, and headed to SF. I spent my entire afternoon cafe hopping and journalling (highly recommend). I reflected on many things including what it means to unapologetically be yourself and how you can embrace your true self.

The Interval — one of my fav cafe spots in sf!

In many conventional environments like college, I’ve noticed how easy it is to conform to values of the mass due to the fear of being “disliked” or to fit in. So what do most peope do? Well, most people hide themselves. They push themselves to fit into a mold of what makes others comfortable rather than breaking the mold and standing for who they are.

What does it even mean to be unapologetically yourself?

To me becoming unapologetic does not mean becoming someone different; it doesn’t mean you don’t apologize when you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re rude or treat others poorly. Instead, it’s about no longer feeling the need to hide or be who you think other people want you to be. It’s about no longer holding yourself back from fully expressing yourself due to the fear of being judged.

It’s evolutionary. It’s important to realize that it’s our innate human desire to want to be accepted, seen, and to feel like we belong. In the early days it was vital to our survival to belong and be a part of the tribe. If you were left outside of your tribe you were vulnerable to external threats like the risk of starving to death from the lack of food, freezing to death due to lack of shelter, or being eaten up by a predator.

This is why still today we feel this gut-wrenching feeling if we don’t get accepted by other people. I see this a lot in college amongst other environments. Most people are so caught up in being the version of themselves who they think they should be according to everyone else, constantly trying to fit it and seeking outside validation and acceptance, so much so that they oftentimes can get lost.

Identifying your core values and traits

I think the first step to unapologetically being yourself is reflecting on your core values. These are parts of yourself that are essential to who you are. There’s a few questions I thought about which helped me identify these:

  • Consider your life’s most memorable moments. What gave them significance in your eyes? Who were you with? What were you doing? You can define “meaningful” however you like, but typically it includes times when you felt at peace and filled with purpose.
  • Consider the times when you were the least satisfied. Why did you find them unfulfilling? What were you doing? What were other people’s attitudes towards you like?
  • When do you have the most energy? What drains your energy the fastest?

After identifying these core experiences and values, being unapologetically myself came in the form of accepting my core values and traits.

For example, I’ve realized some important traits of mine. I value making people feel comfortable, being kind/helpful, and accepting of different views than mine. I am also very ambitious. I do care a lot about what I do and if I’m doing meaningful work in the world. I’m also confident and believe in myself a lot. Sometimes this means you come on as “too strong” or “intimidating”. But rather than changing who I am, I remember that my core traits are what make me who I am.

You attract the right people

It’s important to differentiate areas of growth from other peoples problems. For example, people who bring you down for being yourself are often not the people you want to surround yourself around anyways. I’ve also seen many times in these scenarios people project their insecurities or fears on to you. Being emphatic and viewing situations from a third eye perspective can be really helpful.

I think having a strong sense of self, can be a great self-filter for the people you deeply connect with. I’ve felt this strong connection with a few of the closest people to me this past year and it acts as a great reminder for why you should always be yourself. I’ve been able to attract the few people who share my values, ambitions, and can push me to become a better person in other ways. I find that these interactions also feel much more natural. They don’t feel “forced”. You don’t have to hide a part of yourself due to the fear of being judged or change who you fundamentally are. This can be really freeing.

You get better at taking risks and facing failure/rejection

Living an unapologetic life helps you get better at taking risks and dealing with rejection.

The more risks you take and the more you face rejection, the easier it is to face it again. I think rejection or fear of failure loses its power over you every time you take risks. You increase your appetite for risk taking because you realize it doesn’t kill you. At the core, rejection and embarrassment are just physiological responses. Then, the feeling goes away. The important part is to not let moments of failure define who you are and what you do in the future. But rather, learn and grow from these experiences.

You feel more confident

I’m a strong believer that it’s not getting what you want that matters, it’s what you do to get what you want that matters. Many people are held back from achieving their goals because they are scared to start, feel they are not good enough or fear failure.

I like the way Ayodeji Awosika describes this in one of his articles:

“Slaying the dragon isn’t about the dragon, it’s about becoming a warrior with the courage to face it”

You want to be bold and go after what you want. This process isn’t about getting what you want but it’s about being the type of person with the grit and tenacity to get it. You will have to face social pressures along the way and feel the need to conform. I think many people don’t fully develop the skill of facing this pressure. You need a certain amount of resistance and conflict in your life to become resilient. These experiences allow you to grow, practice and develop resilience.

There’s a few exercises that come to mind which I think can help you practice these ideas and become more comfortable being yourself:

  • If you’re someone who is always around people, you may want to start spending more time alone. Start doing activities you enjoy by yourself.
  • Stop worrying about what other people think of you. Turns out people are thinking less about your life than you imagine. When we base our feelings and thoughts on other people’s opinions, we are allowing them to control our lives. It helps to become aware of this and get back control over your feelings and thoughts.
  • Learn to say “no” to more things when your answer isn’t a clear “yes.” There’s been many times I’ve said yes to doing things out of courtesy to not make someone feel bad. I’m learning to get better at saying “no” to things I don’t want. It’s also important to not feel any obligation to explain why you’re declining.
  • Don’t wait for anyone else to give you permission for anything. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t done yet, now is a good time to do it. This could be taking or quitting a job, traveling, taking time off, or literally anything else in your life.
  • Enjoy your activities regardless of what other people think or say about them. People might have opinions on how you should live your life, what job you should take, where you should go for college, etc. Although it’s important to consider advice from people you trust, it’s even more important to trust your decision making framework + optimize for things you enjoy doing.

When was the last time you checked in with yourself to ensure you are being true to who are and doing things for the right reasons? This is something I find extremely helpful to reflect on frequently. So, in moments where you are unsure about yourself, my advice is to be unapologetically you :)

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to share any thoughts on this piece!

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Alishba Imran

Machine learning and hardware developer working on accelerating problems in robotics and renewable energy!