What does it actually mean to “be yourself”?

It’s advice we’ve all gotten since around the time that we started getting made fun of for being ourselves.

It seems that most people go through those awkward, couple of years where they don’t know who they are, or they’re afraid that people won’t like who they are, or even they thought they knew who they were, but it turns out they kind of missed the mark on that one.

Then we grow up, and we get tired of pretending to be this person that everyone thinks we are; we just want to tell jokes we’re actually thinking, wear clothes we actually want to wear, and forget what anyone else has to say about it.

And some people do that.  And some people don’t know how.

We’re told to “be ourselves,” but that term is so vague.  They’re two words that have plagued identity-seekers since the beginning of human identity itself.  Here’s what it actually means to “be yourself”:

You have your own set of morals.  You’ve thought about how you want to live, and what values are most important to you.  You strictly stick to these, or you give the rules more flexibility: it’s all up to you.  This is your personal code of ethics, and I think that this is something that takes the longest time to develop out of all of the components of self-identity; I think it’s because knowing how you want to live and what you stand for comes with wisdom, and wisdom, in my opinion, comes with age.  It takes time to gather enough experience so that you realize what you support and don’t support.

Your lifestyle is your own.  Your way of handing problems, how you dress, and even your fitness routine is all part of how you run your life.  Figuring out what works for you and tailoring it towards what you want to achieve is part of being true to yourself.

Your dreams and your aspirations.  This is the first thing that came to mind, because I have a lot of goals I plan on making realities before I’m out of the game.  To be true to yourself, I think that you need to have your own set of things you want to accomplish: not something your parents told you you should want or something you read in a magazine.  When you’re working towards something you actually want, you’re making yourself genuinely happy.  THAT’S something you’re doing for you, even if it ends up benefitting other people.

You let yourself change.  This might be the most counterintuitive component of being yourself, but hear me out.  We’re told be love ourselves for who we are, and I think that’s totally valid.  Granted, people grow and change; you probably won’t be the same person you were 5 years ago.  Sometimes, being yourself means being the many people you become throughout your lifetime;  you’re still you, but you’re a different version–a smarter, wiser, and more compassionate you as you age.  Welcome any personal growth that comes your way.  Almost always, it’ll make you nothing but better.

Know what you’re good at, and know what you’re no-so-good at.  I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m pretty lousy at distance running.  I ran in high school, but I never felt like it was something I truly excelled at.  Going back, do I regret being on the track team?  No way.

Figuring out what you’re good at is an experimental process.

It’s kind of like fumbling around for your phone at 2 in the morning: you have this general idea of what you’re doing, but, sometimes, when it’s dark, you end up picking up the calculator on your desk instead.

My point is that you don’t know what you’re working with until you pick it up and try it out (like trying to tweet with a TI 83).  It takes a little while before you know exactly what you’re doing; but until you figure it out, keep on fumbling, my friend.  Just don’t stub your toe on the side of your desk.



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