One of the most ceaseless pieces of advice to ever exist is to “just be yourself”. Your mother will tell this to you on your first day of school. Your father on your first date. The sales assistant when purchasing a padded bra, and finally, your current insta fitness idol with always follow her monday motivation quote up with a mandatory #beyourself.
But there’s a small problem with that advice, isn’t there. How exactly do you do that? How do you simply “just be yourself” particularly when you’ve been trying to be Cher from Clueless since 2002, sans plaid.
For those of us that never learnt just how to be yourself in our younger years, because media and shiny things to look up to, being yourself actually means years of work undoing trying to be someone else. Probably why most of us either drop out of college or change majors three times in a semester.
To be honest, there are so many other people I’d rather be than myself. I’ve spent years trying to be more impressionable and less anti-authoritarian.
Why? Because being yourself is f&cking hard. It’s the whole reason we have role models, so we don’t have to do all the leg work. It’s like an IKEA set that’s already been put together, only just for your personality, and the only warning label is ‘don’t choose Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan’.
I always thought the journey of life was about trying to figure yourself out, find out who you ‘really’ are and other enlightening things probably said by the Dalai Lama or Ellen Degeneres. It was about making mistakes, doing dumb dumb things, kissing the wrong boys and telling everyone about it. Then hopefully you’d come out the other end with this beautiful sense of self-awareness. But, now we’re meant to start being ourselves from the get go? We’re expected to be this wonderful, original human right from the start.
Considering we’re all a product of our own environment, I don’t really understand what the whole be yourself thing means or how you get there. I get the basics; be true to yourself, listen to your heart, be honest, don’t shoplift cigarettes etc etc. But, that’s not very applicable information, is it? Instead, it puts a rather large amount of pressure on us.
So, since this advice ceases to roll over and die, I think it’s time we take a look into what ‘being yourself’ could potentially mean, for all of us.
Duh, stop being other people
Pretty simple. Everyone wants to be someone; someone special, someone beautiful, someone intelligent, but sometimes that can be confused with wanting to be someone else. For instance, I once wanted to be Crysta the fairy from Fern Gully and my friend Elyse wanted to be former playboy bunny Kendra Wilkinson. Today, I’m glad my aspirations were slightly more unachievable than hers. But the thing is, it’s not so bad to aspire to be like someone if you admire them for all their qualities and values. These are the people that set the will to succeed in us. ‘Being yourself’ does not necessarily mean being 100% different to everyone else, it can mean taking little pieces from others that fit with the type of person you might one day want to be. Don’t be an actor playing a role that someone else created, write your own character and pull inspiration from others if you need to.
Stop caring what other people think and share that mentality
Most of us (girls) tone ‘ourselves’ down a li’l bit for public consumption. Tell us to be ‘ourselves’, you’re more than likely going to get 60% crazy, 30% emotion and 10% GIRLS season 4. It’s incredibly difficult to stop caring what people think of you, our day to days are plagued with constructing perfect stories of our lives through social media. But while it’s hard to let go of the ego, I imagine this is one of the greatest steps in the direction towards ‘just being yourself’. It requires you to be honest and even speak up when you don’t want to, to listen to your gut instincts, to not be afraid of sometimes being an outcast, and to most importantly recognise when someone is also being authentic with you. The more you liken yourself with people also trying to be ‘themselves’ the more compelled you will be to pursue that same goal.
It doesn’t have to happen over night
Lot’s of things can happen over night, like baking a cake or making a baby, but becoming ‘yourself’ is not one of them. As humans we are in constant evolve. Everything you experience continues to add to the person you are and will become, so the whole ‘being yourself’ thing is a never ending project and you should become accustomed to working on it on a frequent turn around.
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should
At the risk of sounding like a Full House episode, someone once told me “Don’t choose opportunity, choose opportunity that faces in the direction of your dreams”, which reminded me that the in order to have dreams we must do things ‘ourselves’ in order to achieve them, which requires us to not always do things others are doing. Once again, this is part of growing up and being challenged by these types of situations highlights our independent strengths and weaknesses that inevitably make us who we are.
While these tips build a relative foundation for ‘just being yourself’ there’s still no distinct guide on exactly how to do it. Possibly the best advice is that no else in the world is you, but you. So perhaps we should stop confusing people by saying ‘be yourself’ all the time and replace it with something a little more inspiring like ‘be the self you’ve always dreamed of being’.
Then maybe we might just find ourselves.