Finding Your Identity: 5 Strategies to Discovering and Embracing Yourself

Happy Wednesday, The Smiling Sweetheart Squad!!

Here at The Smiling Sweetheart, we are all about throwing out the limitations others put on us because of our body types or any other things that might make us different or unlike the norm (if that even exists anymore). But, that ability doesn't happen over night. It takes time along with a lot of self talk and love.

That's where Taylor Toledo comes in. Taylor has cooked up 5 key tips that she recommends for getting you to a place where you can discover yourself and be proud of it.

Finding Your Identity: 5 Strategies to Discovering and Embracing Yourself

By Taylor Toledo

Growing up, I dealt with the word too a little too often. I was too bossy to my sisters. I was too ambitious for a 4th grader. I was too smart for a girl. I was too young to be taken seriously. Now I’m just too tired of being told what I’m too much of or not enough of.

It isn’t until I recently took a moment to reflect on what I’d built for myself, or the people that I’ve come to love and support along my journey that I realized I’m not too much of anything; I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and who I’m supposed to be, at this point in time.

Having this mini meta moment prompted another thought: How many women out there are also being told that they’re not enough, not quite there, not who they’re supposed to be? After some serious research, lots of coffee with fellow lady bosses, and a bit of guts, I came up with five strategies I’ve found to help me decide who I am, be proud of it, and continue to navigate my successes and failures without losing my inner ‘it’ girl.

#1 Be Vulnerable

For far too long I equated being a badass with just being an ass. I’d have this vision in my brain of what a strong, successful woman was: She stands tall, but not too high above everyone else, she rocks a great black sheath dress, but not too tight, she’s forward thinking but not outwardly excited, she’s self-assured but not openly braggy.

She’s a lot of things that contradicted themselves. And the more I thought about it, the more exhausted I became. The more exhausted I became, the less I put my guard up. And once that stopped blocking me from the rest of the world, I felt a little more peaceful. This woman that I pictured actually enjoyed sweat pants and dark chocolate candy from Trader Joe’s, but she can also rock a sheath dress and negotiate a deal. She’s balanced.

By allowing myself to be vulnerable I met new people who’ve inspired me and supported me. By letting someone else take the lead every once in awhile, I discovered a new strength or talent that I wanted to develop. By just hanging out, taking the second place trophy, or just watching from the sidelines, I’ve avoided falling-outs, stressful situations, and things that I ultimately just didn’t need to deal with.

So the first lesson is this: Chill the eff out.

#2 Own It

I met with a friend for coffee recently who didn’t know how old I was. My age has always been a huge source of insecurity for me the last few years because I embraced a career that people my age wouldn’t normally jump head first into. Anyway, this friend looked at me wide-eyed and for a moment I thought, “Great. There goes an opportunity to network like a grown-up. The gig’s up.” Instead, she looked me square in the eyes and told me, “Own it.”

Sure, I’d heard this before. But the way she commanded me to let myself be who I am and take control of it gave me goosebumps. I think this can be applied to a lot of what we as women view as shortcomings. So you’re super young, or a little older than your coworkers. Who cares, own it. You’re switching careers, going back to school, or just taking a break from it all. Perfect. Own it. In the end, your identity comes from how you view yourself, not what everyone else has to say or think. Just freaking own it.

#3 Remove Yourself

Riddle me this: Why does it when, we’ve removed ourselves from our job or the task at hand, that we realize we’re ready to embrace a new challenge or we have a lightbulb moment we’ve been waiting for? I’m sure there’s lots of science involved and a study or two to throw in here, but my gut tells me this: Taking a vacation from your brain lets your mind take a load off, clearing the pathway for inspired thoughts and new, exciting ideas.

So, when the going gets tough, you need to get going. If I’m at work and need to zone out, I take a short walk. If I’m at home I’ll head to the gym and throw my headphones on and do whatever I need to do to force my mind off of a problem. Whether your solace is found in walking, exercising, binge watching Netflix, your faith, a conversation with a friend, do it. And don’t apologize for it. Which leads me to my next point…

#4 Stop Apologizing

Can I get an amen? Women apologize more often than men. Here is where even more studies and research can be hyperlinked because it’s absolutely true. And it’s exhausting. We’re sorry for being too critical, for not being critical enough, for being too forward-thinking, for falling behind. Hell, we even apologize for apologizing. So how does this vicious cycle get stopped? Enlist a friend to hold you accountable.

Next time you hear yourself say ‘sorry’, give yourself a good pinch, or put a dollar in the Sorry Jar.

This is important to note for two reasons. First, apologizing dismisses your thoughts, actions, and ideas, and labels them as troublesome. When people apologize it’s generally because they’ve done something out of character or upsetting. Having an idea, trying a new concept, or volunteering your thoughts is not out of character or upsetting.

Secondly, you’re training yourself to be sorry for your contributions. Contributions made by women have shaped society in so many ways. If the women who fought for equal pay, reproductive rights, and religious tolerance said they were sorry, life would look a lot different. Right?

#5 Find Your People

I’ll be the first to say it: Making friends as an adult is hard. Everyone is at a different point in their life. Some of my friends are still in school, others are traveling, others have started a career, and others have started a family. Your 20’s and 30’s are weird times to be recruiting friends. Yet, I’ve met some of my favorite people while navigating my early adult life. Sometimes the people who are on a different journey than you have the best insight, and others who are on the exact same route as you can offer a helping hand.

Think about your passions (or struggles), find somewhere to plug in, like a networking group or organization, and be vulnerable. You’d be surprised at how many other women are in the exact same boat as you and are waiting for that one person to offer support, or a glass of wine.

In summation, let your guard down, it’ll make you stronger. Own everything about yourself, even the parts that you can’t fully accept yet. Remove yourself from stressful events or the people or things that make you tense. Stop apologizing for your successes, failures, ideas, beliefs, and contributions. And find your tribe, you’ll need all the support you can get.

Taylor is a Northern California media maven who loves design, lifestyle branding, long walks to the bakery, and binge-watching British crime shows on Netflix. When she isn’t writing articles, creating marketing material, or navigating the wild, wild world of social media, she’s probably walking her dog, Instagramming, or taking a nap bc life.

You can follow her #Girlboss journey on Instagram @taylortoledo.