How to stay true to yourself

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated January 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Core values, or inner beliefs, are traits or ideas that hold meaning and significance to you and connect with your moral code, goals, and personality. Many people gain values from their families or communities while growing up. Others might not solidify their core values until adulthood.  

Values and beliefs can change as individuals change and interact with the world. How you respond in the face of adversity can indicate how you stay true to yourself., and staying true to yourself can mean acting in harmony with what you believe, including in front of others. It can mean that your feelings and beliefs match your actions. Learning about core values and authenticity may be valuable if you're looking for ways to stay true to your moral code more often in your life. 

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How to identify your core values

Core values represent your priorities, profoundly held beliefs, and the forces driving you. To identify what you value, consider taking a list of common adjectives, activities, and personality traits and writing or checking off which you identify with. Friends or family members might notice values you have that you struggle to pick up on, so consider reaching out to them as well for their perspectives.  

Brainstorm about the values that you held tightly to during the most impactful events in your life. For example, you might remember what you connected to when someone you loved passed away, when you achieved a significant goal, or a time when you dared to go against the crowd. Think about times you felt guilty or led astray because you trusted others more than yourself. What thoughts and feelings did you experience? Your emotions can guide what might be essential for you to have in your life.  

Several examples of core values include the following: 

  • Dependability
  • Loyalty
  • Commitment
  • Open-mindedness
  • Consistency
  • Honesty
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Humor
  • Compassion
  • Adventure 
  • Optimism
  • Uniqueness 
  • Passion
  • Respect
  • Fitness
  • Courage
  • Intelligence 
  • Perseverance
  • Environmentalism
  • Mental health
  • Spirituality 
  • Friendship

Group your values into themes. For example, group terms like honesty, genuineness, and self-reflection together. Choose one word in each group that most closely represents what you believe in each group. Try to narrow down the choices to less than ten words. Once you have a list of your top ten values, you might write them on art paper or make them into a collage to keep in a place you often frequent, like your office, where they can motivate you daily to stay true to your priorities.  


How to know if you stay true to your values

It may be beneficial to test your core values when you have difficult decisions to make or feel uncomfortable about a situation. In addition, some people may go against their values to fit in with a social group. Ask yourself the following questions to know whether you stay true to yourself in these situations: 

  • Do I always accept when my friends ask me to go out with them, even if I don't want to? 
  • Have I ever stayed silent when I wanted to speak up? 
  • Is there any attribute I wish I showed more of to others in my life? 
  • Have I ever hidden a core identity out of fear of being rejected? 
  • What do I fear would happen if I were true to myself? 
  • Have my friendships and relationships been built on my values or theirs? 
  • Do I stay with people who don't share my values out of fear of being alone? 
  • Have I ever used self-deprecating jokes to fit in with others?  
  • Do I set boundaries when I need to? 
  • Do I participate in activities that make me feel pessimistic about myself? 
Some people might find that they stay in unhealthy friendships or relationships despite a difference in values out of the hope that someone will change, a fear of being alone, or a fear of standing up for their beliefs. Understanding your core values may offer valuable clues to approaching the situation. Sometimes, compromising with a person might not be possible, and choosing to live your life according to your values and authenticity instead of giving in to their ideas may be more effective and healthier.

Ways to stay true to yourself in daily life

You have a right to how you feel, think, and believe, as well as the relationships you decide to keep in your life. However, there are a few ways to live life in a way that is true to yourself even when it feels difficult.

  • Saying "no" when you don't want to participate in an activity or event
  • Ending friendships that feel unhealthy or toxic
  • Standing up for what you believe when someone speaks out against it 
  • Standing up for others when people mistreat them 
  • Participating in one activity per day that aligns with your values 
  • Leaving conversations that don't align with your values
  • Perform self-reflection exercises to understand when you might not be acting on your values as you want to 
  • Consider how your values align with your identity 
  • Find one new way to be authentic in your relationships, career, and education each month 

Note that true values are personal. Although you might value certain traits in others, values aren't a way to control, manipulate, or coerce someone else into acting in a specific way. In addition, values that hurt entire communities, groups of people, or minorities, may not be genuine, as they're focused on the actions and identities of others instead of the way you navigate the world and connect to yourself. 

How do you stay authentic to yourself when you aren’t able to act on your values?

You may encounter situations where acting on your values or staying true to yourself feels impossible or is not in the best interest of your relationships. The instances where you feel stuck between a core value and a pull in another direction can be challenging to cope with. 

For example, perhaps you disagree with your parents on equal rights for all. In these cases, you may choose to stay silent, stand up for yourself, or spend less time with your parents. If you feel being open about your values may further conflict, you might try keeping the peace with your parents but advocating for your beliefs when you're on your own, especially if you’re still living with your parents. Setting boundaries in conversations with your family might also help you keep your mental health intact. 

What are the benefits of owning your truth?

The importance of being true to yourself is apparent in how it benefits your mental and emotional health. There are a few benefits you might find from being true to yourself in all situations you show up in, including the following. 

Feeling genuine and happy

Knowing and following your core values may help you live a life that you feel is genuine. These values might offer you the freedom to follow a path that brings you joy and knowingness that you don't let the harm or opinions of others sway what matters to you. Following your core values can cause happiness because you may let go of inner conflict that might have once swayed you to act against your values. 

Healthier relationships 

Being true to yourself and clear about who you are can also change your interpersonal relationships. People around you may feel they can trust that your actions and words match your feelings and intentions. Relationships with genuine people can feel healthier and potentially easier to navigate than when you feel a rift between you and the other person due to values. 

Ease of making decisions 

You may find it easier to make significant decisions when you feel clear about your values and purpose in life. For example, you may get a job offer from two different companies. Corporations and companies often have a value statement of corporate values that you can consider to see how they match your personal values. You can then accept the position with the company that resonates with your values as you stay true to your means.

Ease in making decisions might also help you when choosing friends and potential life partners. You might notice yourself feeling closer to and naturally drawn toward people with similar values. The more you know your inner self, the easier these decisions may become. In addition, it may help you avoid people who are harmful to you. You are confident in the choices you make to live the life that aligns with your values.

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Professional support in being true to yourself

It can be challenging to nail down your core values or authentically follow them in order to stay true to yourself. You might benefit from therapy if you are unsure of your values, experiencing interpersonal conflict, or trying to live a more authentic life. In addition, if you're unsure whether you feel comfortable with in-person therapy or have barriers to receiving care, there are alternative options for support.

Online platforms like BetterHelp offer therapy with a licensed therapist from home. When you sign up for these types of services, you may have the option of selecting your goals for therapy to align with your values. In addition, you can choose whether you'd like to meet with an LGBTQ+ or BIPOC therapist if these identities are important to you. Therapy can be scheduled anytime, and sessions can occur anywhere with an internet connection and device. 

Four out of ten US adults have started using online therapy since 2021. In addition, studies have found it as effective as in-person therapy for common mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, stress, and social anxiety. Even if your concerns are unrelated to a diagnosis, online therapy can be an option. You don't have to have a mental illness to receive support, and therapists often offer guidance in decision-making, self-care, and self-image. 


Being true to your values can be difficult if you live in a community, family, or area where your values aren't respected or seen. In these cases, it might be beneficial to practice value mapping exercises or reach out to a licensed mental healthcare professional to find support in living an authentic life. You're not alone, and staying true to yourself can be possible with dedication and support.
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