“I’ve heard about you,” someone said as they introduced themselves. Oh, boy, that could go so many ways.

I’ve heard about you . . . you’re cool, fun, a mess, you go with the flow, try too hard, go too deep, etc.

Whatever they heard, I get it. Some days I give off a vibe.

Neighbors may see me as the odd girl who drove her daughter’s pink, Barbie Cadillac four-wheeler around the block with her little one strapped in. Because you have to live a little.

Friends may think I need to tame down the let’s go deep every talk vibe I put off some days.

People may see the Super Bowl parties with a score-guessing poster and prizes as a bit much. But how the heck else are we gonna care about NFL teams we never watch?

Still, while I’ve always been perhaps overly comfortable with being authentic, getting tagged made me feel like I should reel in who I was. 

It made me feel like I should second guess which of my cards I showed to whom, which was a very new thought to me.

I’m guessing you’ve been there. Hey, we were all there in middle school when snide comments and side-eyes from the in-crowd made us speak softer and walk slower. 

But being tagged as a grown adult is a whole different story. 

Twenty-seven percent of Americans rarely or never feel like there are people who understand them. 

That is one out of four, folks. One out of four people doesn’t feel comfortable being his or her true self. 

And while I’m definitely not saying you should burp the alphabet upon first meeting, what if we teach our kids to be confident in who they are by the way we live our lives?

Here’s how and why I’m learning to own who I am with fervor.

1. Know who you are.

The first part of owning who you are is knowing who you are.

And, let me be clear here. An Enneagram test is not your Magic 8-Ball to figure this out. I’ve taken the strengths finder, love languages, and temperament tests and, while they help to understand how you’re wired and gifted, no test can show your personality, your quirks.

I’ve found one of the best ways to find this is by asking a couple of questions.

First, how were you raised?

Living in Philadelphia until I was nine and then doing middle and high school in Tennessee, I’ve always known I pack a little keep-it-real with a Southern flair flavor.  

My family lives authentically, and thus, I have an actual aversion to artificial people and conversations. When I had dinner with my husband’s parents for the first time, they made beer-butt chicken. As they cracked on each other playing cards after dinner I thought, “This may actually work.”

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My family is also gritty. I’ve watched them set up at a flea market every week to make finances work and remodel the house using YouTube videos. I thus enjoy being with people who don’t make every setback into a THING and who flow with the chaos. People who, when my baby is running around in her swim diaper wetting herself, grab another one and laugh rather than scurrying their children home.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand how much I really am a byproduct of my two parentsquirks, eccentricities, and all. I think we all are to some degree.

The second question to ask yourself is who are your people?

What type of people do you naturally connect with? What traits and interests do they have? If you meet someone and know fairly quickly you’re going to get along, they likely share some of the qualities that make you you.

Recently, my 8-year-old came home with a list of her desired attributes of a friend that really fine-tuned this point. Her “Friends Wanted” list included someone who likes to play soccer and bake, a friend who likes unicorns and rainbows, who eats donuts, waffles, and warm milk for breakfast, and wants to be a fairy when she grows up.

While her list was all kinds of cute, what struck me was how the type of friend she wants is spot-on with the type of girl she is.

What’s on your “Friends Wanted” list? 

I want a friend who isn’t scared of my eclectic. Who doesn’t judge the messy house or days I try too hard in a text, who doesn’t back away when I overshare or have a boring day, who likes watching college football and fellowshipping on the back porch, and isn’t put off by my sweatpants or afraid to share her mess with me, too.

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Maybe if we all were honest about our “Friends Wanted” list, we could get a better grasp of who we are.

2. Own who you are.

One of the best ways to own who you are is acting like everyone already knows.

I decided to own who I was with the person I met that day. I decided not to pull back, but to show up. To invite them over, let them see my kids be a wreck, my house unorganized, and dinner be Hamburger Helper a time or two.

A great friendship has blossomed because I wasn’t afraid to own who I am.

And I almost think I was able to own who I am because they tagged me that way going in.

What if we all went into new relationships assuming people already knew who we were, as if none of our mannerisms or quirks would come as a surprise?

How many, “Oh, they would judge me for that,” or, “I can’t let them see that side of me,” could we lay down if we lived that way?

Your people will stay.

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Still, even for the most secure people, owning who you are doesn’t come without some risk.

When I am who I am, I know I come on way too strong sometimes.

When I embrace my authenticity, I’m probably way too comfortable with the haven’t-showered look when I’m invited to get-togethers.

But, do you know what? That’s the type of friend I am. 

I’m the friend who usually doesn’t care what people think but sometimes cares way too much.

The friend who overshares but also wants to hear the details of your mess so I can love you better.

The friend who doesn’t shy away from hard conversations but refuses to back away in the aftermath.

And if being that type of friend scares you, then we’re probably not meant to be because, without a doubt, I’ve got tons of other awkward up my sleeve.

Don’t we all, really?

I visited my grandparents recently and absolutely admire how much they don’t put a thought into what other people think. I pray one day I stop second-guessing myself and completely own the woman I’m made to be.

Some of the coolest people I’ve ever met are comfortable with who they are.

Find and own who you are. Authenticity looks good on you.

Ashley Stevens

Ashley Stevens is a speaker, writer, wife, and mother of three. While serving as a campus missionary shortly after getting engaged, she was T-boned by a Mack truck and nearly lost her life. They got married on the one-year anniversary of the accident to redeem the day and she writes to encourage those whose life isn't going according to plan at www.mountainsunmoved.com.