Sounds simple, doesn’t it, just be yourself. It’s advice given when seeking jobs, do all these things and be yourself. But what if being yourself doesn’t work, doesn’t advance the cause? What if being yourself is the hardest thing you do?
Of course, trying to be someone else is harder, is quite a foolish pursuit, a sure fire path to doom and disaster, to failing relationships, feeling utterly fraudulent in everything you do, confusion and some degree of madness.
But, how, in the words of Judy Garland can you “Always be a first rate version of yourself not a second rate version of someone else”?
Ask yourself how well do you really know yourself? How comfortable are you with you? Are you just a reflection of what other people want – at work, at home, in love? Who are you?
Many of the troubles with have with self-hood (?!) is that we are shaped by others, by what they say to us and about us and how they react – smiles or frowns, included or excluded from the party; told you’re somehow inadequate in many varied and creative ways – subtle and hard to spot or obvious and cruel. From the earliest moment our behaviour and sense of self is shaped by others, especially our parents and family, and then our friends; not to mention our physical circumstances – where we live, how we live, society, culture and religion all play a part in who we become.
Hopefully our rough edges are smoothed off by their care and love and we blossom into someone others cherish and someone we quite like ourselves.
Ask yourself then – do you like yourself, are you comfortable in your own skin?
The answer to this will change over time but hopefully there are stages on your travels where you stop and say, yes I am happy, I know who I am and I like it. I had a moment like that around 36-37, when I realized there was no-one else I wanted to be and nowhere else I wanted to be. It was a good moment.
Being yourself can be dangerous, it carries risks of being excluded, of being on the outer, of not fitting in. This can be especially true of those who do not fit the expected norms of their society – being gay is still a big issue for many. But looking different and thinking differently also put you apart from others. Yep, for some this is not an issue and my point is really, if you’re happy and you’re comfortable in your skin and your life then go for it. But if you’re not?
Signs that you’re not yourself
You want to please others more than yourself
You try to fit in but never quite manage it
You let others criticize you more than praise you
You don’t know what you really like, what you would do if you could do anything
You feel guilty/uncomfortable if you disagree with others, if you want your own way
You’re always looking for the next trend, the next change to see if that suits you
You think other people’s character traits are more impressive or worthy than yours
You spend too much time wishing you were someone else
You always put other people’s needs and wishes first
How to be yourself
Spend time alone – just with yourself and no-one else at all, explore the things you like doing – experiment if you need, get used to your own company, see what you like about yourself
List your qualities – good and bad – check with someone trusted if you’re not sure what your best or worst traits are – and then do something about them
Enhance the good bits – develop yourself
Learn to accept the less attractive side of yourself – diminish where you can; but accept and acknowledge your faults as it is essential to knowing yourself
Learn to step back from your situations – ask yourself why you are doing/feeling what you are – because you want to or because you feel you have to???
Accept your imperfections and that change is part of life
Be with people who in Mark Darcy’s immortal words “love you just the way you are”
Develop your own style
Be less worried about what others think of you – be more concerned about what you think of them – why are you wasting your time with people who don’t appreciate the wonders of you?
The only knowledge is self knowledge. The only way to love and accept others in all their glorious mess is to love and know yourself first. It’s never too late to look at yourself and see if you fit in your skin and make sure that you do. (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)