Just Be: Exercises To Stop Worrying And Just Be Yourself

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

This is my 187th post, and just about everything I write involves some version of convincing us to stop judging ourselves (and each other), forgiving ourselves for our imperfections, and just allowing ourselves to be fully who we are.

187 ways of saying: Hey, you! Yes, YOU! Did you know that you are amazing and awesome and unique? Can you show us a little more of your own amazing awesome uniqueness? 

I’m amazed that I, myself, need to continue to hear this message, and that you seem to need to continue to receive it, too. Why is this so hard for us to just believe and move on already? Why can’t we just be?

I created a presentation a few years back called exactly that—Just Be, and when I first created it it was about how to engage with youth by “just being,” and then it expanded into how to engage with anyone by “just being,” and now I think it’s really just about how we live our life. I even had a t-shirt made with all the tips on it so I would never forget the importance of just being. I thought it was time I share them with you, so here they are: my tips for how to Just Be.

  • Number One: Be Present.    

How many of you have a habit of sneaking peaks at your smart phones while at your kid’s baseball practice or during that epic conference call? How many of you are half-thinking about your plans for this evening or about an argument from yesterday while in the middle of a meeting with your team? You can be physically present without actually being present at all. But people need us to be present with them, fully, and they can tell when we’re not.   

Challenge: Take a moment and close your eyes. Try to let the feeling of your breath bring you back to the present. Now open your eyes and really look around the room you’re in. Try and notice something that you haven’t noticed before. Try and keep this level of focused presence up for an entire day, and notice what you discover. Be present. 

  • Number Two:  Be Yourself.   

We can get caught up in the idea that we have to know certain things or act a certain way for people to connect with us—whether we’re educators trying to keep up with what’s trending with our youth, or whether we’re teens trying to keep up with our peers—but the truth is, it’s okay if you still don’t really understand why we need to care about the Kardashians or what the heck a Vine is. What people connect with is when you are genuinely and authentically you

Challenge: When you start to think about all the things you are “supposed” to know or be or do, take a look in the mirror and take a moment to remember that you are already more than enough, just as you are. Do you remember Stuart Smiley from Saturday Night Live? He would look in the mirror and say “I’m Good Enough! I’m Smart Enough! And Gosh Darnit, People Like Me!” It makes most of us laugh, but I think personal mantras are helpful, ESPECIALLY if they are slightly ridiculous. I have one that is completely absurd, but the days I remember to say it, I do actually feel better about myself.  Do you want to hear it? “I only hope my stunning beauty doesn’t blind them to my absolute genius.” See what I mean? That’s so silly! But I think the sillier, the more outlandish, the more spectacular the better. So, take a moment to come up with a few possible phrases for yourself that remind you that YOU ARE AWESOME, just as you are. Be Yourself.

  • Number Three: Be Passionate.    

Think of someone you’re drawn to. Chances are, at least one of the reasons why is because they are ignited by a passion for something, and that is irresistible.   So ask yourself: What are you passionate about? If you can let that passion fuel the day-to-day, it will literally light you up from the inside.  

Challenge: Get out a piece of paper and write down everything you can think of that makes you happy, that charges you up, that you love doing, that you wish you could do/have more of, that inspires you. Once you’ve exhausted all your thoughts, take a look back at what showed up on your list. Chances are, your passion is in there somewhere. Circle it, and then re-write it on a post-it (or ten) to keep somewhere visible. There is no passion too big or too small, and there is no “right” answer. When I make my lists, I pretty much always come to the conclusion that my passion is simply in igniting a feeling of joy in others—and that can take many different forms: whether it’s leading a dynamic professional development training for a team or bringing an awesome goody bag to my kid’s school party. Be Passionate.

  • Number Four: Be Curious.  

People want to know that we care about them, and one of the surest ways to show them that we care is to be genuinely curious about them. Are you asking questions of the people you’re with? Are you paying attention to the types of sports teams they like or music bands they listen to? Did you notice if suddenly they started talking less or smiling more? It’s amazing what you can discover through simply watching, listening, and asking… so practice curiosity!  

Challenge: Think of one question you’d like to know about the people you encounter today, and try to muster the courage to actually ask that question to as many people as you can today!  Be Curious. 

  • Number Five: Be Surprising.  

How many of you have a tattoo that most people don’t know about, or a hobby or talent that pretty much keep to yourself? We are all more than meets the eye. Did you spend a month backpacking in Europe? Did you study Mandarin?  Do you belong to a champion bowling league? Do you do awesome celebrity impressions? Share those things with those around you!  

Challenge: The next time you are with your co-workers, have everyone share one “surprising” fact about themselves. Or, tell your child about a fun adventure from your own youth. Or, go to the store and buy some temporary tattoos and wear one of them to your next social gathering. Let yourself Be Surprising. 

  • Number Six: Be Imperfect

Do you suffer from “mistake shame” like I do? Why do we feel the need to be perfect? To have all the answers, to always have it together? The thing is, I believe that if we try to always be perfect than we are teaching those around us that they need to always be perfect too. How often do you compare yourself against someone that seems to be “perfect”—and how does that make you feel?  So, when you are trying hard to be the perfect “whatever”, remember that our imperfections are what make us human and our humanity is what connects us.   

Challenge: Simply let yourself Be Imperfect. If you make a mistake, shout it out. If you don’t know something, ask questions. If you didn’t finish the things on your to-do list, shrug it off. If you start to hear that voice in your head judging you for your imperfections, refer back to tip number two and get to sweet-talking in the bathroom mirror.

  • Number Seven: Be Forgiving.  

I think people are evolutionarily designed to frustrate us. Young children push boundaries to understand the rules of the world. Teenagers push us away to gain their independence. Grown ups forget to listen, forget to learn, forget to ask. And tweens, well they are just molting (and that’s never easy). The people that drive us crazy may never say sorry for the small and big ways that they do. Forgive them anyway.  

Challenge: Remember this quote “You can’t reach for the skies if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” What wrongs are you still holding onto? How can you let them go today?  Be Forgiving

  • Number Eight: Be Flexible.   

How often do your plans go exactly the way you imagine? Probably usually when there are no other people or movement or external elements involved.  Flexibility is key for engaging and interacting with others because your energy is contagious, so when you are able to relax and go with the flow no matter what happens, the people you are with feel safe and able to relax too. But when you let yourself get stressed, your stress starts to seep into them.

Challenge: Practice this phrase: “That’s Okay! I’ll Just Practice My Awesome Flexibility Now!” The next time you see your perfectly planned “fill-in-the-blank” start to unravel, and you feel the stress building up in your chest and you want to start to tear your hair out, you just assume your best superhero pose and smile big and say that phrase. Be Flexible 

  • Number Nine (we’re almost there now!): Be Grateful.  

Here’s the thing: gratitude is free and yet we are sometimes stingy with it. But, when you actively practice gratitude, the entire world literally starts to change shape.  

Challenge: Thank you cards are pretty cheap, but gratitude doesn’t have to be a thank you card; it can be a phone call, an email, a tweet, a post, a sticky-note, a hug, a scribble on the mirror. Start to practice gratitude with the people in your life—including and especially the ones that are challenging you the most. Practice it with abundance and abandon, and see what comes back to you. Be Grateful 

  • And finally, number ten:  Be FOOLISH.    

No great things were ever accomplished without some risk, and in life we have to embrace the idea that looking foolish is fine… and that looking foolish can even be fun. Because if we are able to let go of our fear of looking foolish, there truly is no stopping us.

Challenge: How can you let yourself be foolish today? Is there something you’ve wanted to volunteer for, try, experiment with? Is there something you’ve been avoiding for fear you might look foolish? What’s the worst that could happen? What, really, is that terrible in the end about looking a little foolish because, yes, you might fail, but my, oh my, what might happen if instead you fly?

So, how can you Just Be today?

Take on the challenge and let me know how it goes! What feels good? What feels bad? What feels joyful and weird? Write about your experiences with the challenges in the comments below, or



Exciting News!



What was once a blog is now a movement. After four years of writing, three years of workshopping, and book on the way, I have an exciting announcement: I’ve created a six-part Wings and Whimsy webinar series. This personal development series asks, can’t we just be imperfect already?

The series is designed to help you step away from what you think you’re supposed to do or be and just re-discover YOU: the perfectly imperfect you that already exists.

Wings and Whimsy is about power.

It’s about choice.

It’s about joy.

Most importantly, it’s about finding the extraordinary disguised as the ordinary all around us. 

In this series you will have the opportunity to reflect, journal, and engage in activities designed to ignite your thinking and elevate your perceptions of yourself and your world. I’m only opening it up to a handful of people before the book launch. And the best part? It’s completely free! So if you want to be entered into the lottery to be one of the lucky few given access to this webinar series (which will open up in April), please sign up below. We will be drawing names on April 1st (no fooling!). Hope to “see” you there…


Buy Erika's Book Wings and Whimsy


Interested in having Erika’s blog come directly to your e-mail each Tuesday? Have comments to share?  E-mail her at erika@tlpnyc.com.   Find all her previous blog posts at www.tlpnyc.com/author/erika



"Just Be", The Leadership program, Inc. 2016



Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.