No matter where you look, from elementary classrooms to Twitter replies, everyone is telling everyone else, “Just be yourself!” On the surface, this advice sounds very affirming and loving. However, it is really a lazy effort put forth by whoever is saying it AND it is bad advice also. Let me explain.
“Just be yourself!” said your first grade teacher, even if that meant your nose-picking, girl-pinching, smelly ways led to having zero friends show up at your birthday party.
“Just be yourself” said your mom, even though you really wanted to make the basketball team, and your lack of skills (and lack of time spent practicing) caused you to fall flat on your face.
“Just be yourself!” said your high school teacher, even though you dressed like a slob, had no confidence, had no conversation skills, and desperately wanted a date throughout high school, and couldn’t get one.
In all of these examples, “just be yourself” is horrible advice, and I will explain why.
It is Lazy Advice
“Just be yourself” is a lazy, thoughtless, and a downright dismissive response to people who have a real need (lack of friends, inability to achieve a goal, and lack of social skills necessary to attract a romantic partner). Let me give you a non-social example.
You have a need. You really want a new car. In fact, you really need a new car, since the one you have is broken down. You go to a friend who is a mechanic. His response is, “Let’s not worry about your broken transmission (which I could actually help you with); just be yourself.”
But, you may protest…”David, nobody would ever say that about fixing a car! If he responded like that, he would be blowing you off!”
So, why, in the case of someone who needs personality or appearance help, do we blow them off? In each cases I listed above, rather than helping you achieve your life goals (such as making friends in first grade, getting a spot on the basketball team, and getting a date), the people in your life dismissed your concerns, effectively suggesting you carry on in a miserable state.
It is Just Plain Bad Advice
Imagine if you just stayed yourself. Pick any point in your life. What about your awkward self in 6th grade? What about your pre-college, less educated self? What about “yourself” yesterday, when you were mad all day?
Would you be working that great job now if you stayed “yourself” before you went to college? Would you have completed a marathon if you remained your awkward past self? Would you be happy today if you stayed your angry yesterday “self?”
What if throughout most of your life you haven’t been happy or fulfilled, at least in a particular area? “Yourself,” at least at that moment, or throughout many moments in your life, hasn’t been what you want from life.
Instead of “be yourself,” our philosophy is to, yes, accept and be comfortable with who you are at that moment, while striving to better yourself to become your best self.
Being your best self is ultimately about figuring out your core values (what makes your life meaningful and happy), and then making personality and behavior changes that align with those values.
Maybe you value having close friends, a physically and emotionally beautiful girlfriend, and a fit body. If you aren’t at a point in your life where you have any of those things, then becoming your best self means learning how to achieve those goals, and then changing your behavior (and regularly practicing those changes) to become the person you want to be.
That is why we run this site, and why we wrote our six books. We believe that every guy wants to be happy, admired, and have the ability to make friends and get dates (the number is up to him…maybe he just wants one great friend, or to be surrounded by them).
So…as 2016 winds down and we think about the new year, think less about being “yourself” and more about becoming your best self.