“Be yourself” is quite possibly the most commonly used phrase in the history of individualist-based advice. Be yourself. It’s such a vague adage. What does it really mean, to be yourself? And is it really as easy as it sounds? With the steps below, it can be.
PART 1. Discovering Who You Are
1. Find yourself and define yourself on your terms. Oscar Wilde once said with his usual wit: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. As humorous as this might seem, it’s a basic summation of the truth. Yet, you can’t be yourself if you don’t know, understand, and accept yourself first. It should be your primary goal to find this out.
⦁ Find the time to learn upon what you value and take time to consider what makes up the essence of who you are. As part of this, contemplate your life and choices. Try to think about what kinds of things you would or wouldn’t like to do, and act accordingly; finding out through trial and error helps more than you might think it does.
⦁ You can even take personality tests, but be careful to only take what you want from them so that you do not let such tests define you. Instead, ensure that the defining you do is based on your own terms and is something you feel absolutely comfortable with. You may feel self-conscious, but over time if you are around the right type of people for you, they will accept you for who you are.
2. In finding your values, don’t be surprised if some of them seem to conflict. This is a natural result of taking on broad values from a variety of sources, including culture, religion, mentors, inspiring people, educational sources, etc. What does matter is that you continue working through these conflicts to resolve what values feel most true to yourself.
⦁ Just because your values seem to conflict doesn’t mean you necessarily have to abandon them. Consider it all a part of a dynamic you. You cannot be shoved into any box or pegged. You have values for all different aspects of your life, so it’s natural they be different.
3. Avoid fixating on the past and not letting yourself grow. One of the most unhealthy approaches to being oneself is to make a decision that who you are is defined by a moment or period of time, after which you spend the rest of your life trying to still be that person from the past rather than someone who is still you but grows with the passing of each season and decade. Allow yourself this space to grow, to improve, to become wiser.
⦁ Allow yourself to forgive past errors and past behaviors you’re not so proud of. Work on accepting mistakes and choices you’ve made; they’re done and in the past. You had your reasons for them and the decision made sense at the time, so instead of harnessing yourself to past mistakes, allow yourself to learn their lessons and continue to grow.
⦁ Look for people around you who proudly proclaim they are no different than they were the day they turned 16 or 26 or 36, or whatever. Do these people seem flexible, easygoing, happy people? Often they are not because they are so busy insisting that nothing has changed for them ever, that they’re incapable of taking on new ideas, learning from others, or growing. Growth into every new age and stage of our lives is an essential part of being true to ourselves and to being emotionally healthy and whole.
4. Never stop looking for your own strengths. Over time, these may change and thus, so may your definition of yourself, but never let up in focusing and refocusing on them. They more than adequately balance out your flaws and are the principal reason for not comparing yourself to others.
⦁ Comparison leads to resentment. A person filled with resentment cannot focus on the mantra of “be yourself” because they are too busy hankering after someone else!
⦁ Comparison leads also to criticism of others. A life filled with criticizing others stems from low self-esteem and a need to pull others off their perches that you’ve placed them on. That’s both a way to lose friends and respect, and it’s also a way of never being yourself because you’re envy-struck and spending too much time on admiring others for their characteristics and not on yourself.
5. Relax. Stop worrying about the worst that could happen, especially in social situations. So what if you fall flat on your face? Or get spinach stuck in your teeth? Or accidentally head butt your date when leaning in for a kiss? Learn to laugh at yourself both when it happens and afterward.
⦁ Turn it into a funny story that you can share with others. It lets them know that you’re not perfect and makes you feel more at ease, too. It’s also an attractive quality for someone to be able to laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously!
PART 2. Dealing with Others
1. Be honest and open. What have you got to hide? We’re all imperfect, growing, learning human beings. If you feel ashamed or insecure about any aspect of yourself and you feel that you have to hide those parts of you, whether physically or emotionally then you have to come to terms with that and learn to convert your so-called flaws into individualistic quirks or simply as basic, down-to-earth acknowledgments of your own imperfections.
⦁ Try the tactic of owning up to your imperfections mid-argument with someone. You will often discover that suddenly you’ve removed the very reason for stubbornly holding the line of argument, which is often about preserving face and not giving in. The moment you say, “Yeah, look, I get really irritable when the room’s in a mess too. And I acknowledge that I shouldn’t leave my clothes in a pile on the floor and yet I do it because that’s a lazy part of myself I’m still trying to train out of the habit. I’m sorry. I know I could do better, and I will try,” you suddenly infuse an argument with genuine self-honesty that disarms the entire point of the argument.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others. If you’re always striving to be someone you’re not already, you’ll never be a happy person. This comes about through comparing yourself to others and finding yourself wanting in certain ways. This is a slippery slope to tread, where your thinking will only become more and more negative.
⦁ You can always see the appearances others wish to portray publicly but you won’t ever see what’s really going on behind their facades in their apparently perfect world. By comparing yourself to others, you give their image-portrayal way too much power and reduce your own worth based on a mirage. It’s a useless activity that only brings harm.
⦁ Instead, value the person you are, love your personality, and embrace your flaws; we all have them, and as explained earlier, being honest is better than running from them.
3. Stop caring about how people perceive you. Some of them will like you and some of them won’t. Either attitude is as likely to be right or wrong. It’s next-to-impossible to be yourself when you’re caught up in constantly wondering “Do they think I’m funny? Does she think I’m fat? Do they think I’m dumb? Am I good/clever/popular enough to be a part of their group of friends?” To be yourself, you’ve got to let go of these concerns and just let your behavior flow, with only your consideration of others as a filter — not their consideration of you.
⦁ If you change yourself for one person or group, another person or group may not like you, and you could go on forever in a vicious cycle trying to please people instead of focusing on building up your talents and strengths.
4. Stop being a people-pleaser. Always wanting everyone’s love and respect is a totally pointless exercise in the end that can harm your personal development and confidence. Who cares what other people say? As Eleanor Roosevelt said once, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent and what matters most is that you listen to your own inner confidence and if it’s missing, that you start developing it!
⦁ Does this mean no one’s opinion in life matters? No. It hurts if you’re socially rejected. If you’re forced into a situation where you must spend most or all of your time among people who can’t stand you for reasons of their own, it’s dangerous to internalize their negative ideas of who you are. What you can do is exercise some choice in whose opinions you value more than others. It’s much healthier to pay attention to people who genuinely mean you well and who agree with you about what you want to do with your life.
5. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t trivialize what you’re going through if you face negative social pressure or bullying. It’s easier to withstand it if you are aware of it as pressure and build healthy defenses. Building up a circle of trusted friends and people who share your views and beliefs in life is a good way to help reduce the impact of hostile people. You can tell yourself their opinions don’t matter, and they shouldn’t, but that’s a lot easier when there are others who agree with you and stand by you.
⦁ Compare those who love you to whoever the bully is; suddenly you can realize that their opinion of you, your family or your lifestyle, is worthless. We inherently care about the opinions of those we respect and look up to. This works both ways; if someone has no respect for you, then what they say about you is just empty words coming from someone who is one step above being a total stranger.
6. Learn the difference between intimidating, sarcastic, or conniving comments and well-intended constructive criticism. It will focus on real faults that you don’t know about, and could do with remedying. In the latter case, people such as parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, etc., might well be telling you things that you need to digest and mull over at your own pace, to make self-improvements for the better. The difference is that their critique of you is intended to be helpful.
⦁ These people care about you and are interested in how you grow as a person, and are respectful. Learn how to spot the difference and you will live well, dismissing pointless negative critiques, and learning from the constructive critique.
PART 3. Cultivating Your True Self
1.Treat yourself as you’d treat your own best friend. You value your friends and those close to you; well, who is closer to you than you are? Give yourself the same kind, thoughtful, and respectful treatment that you give to other people you care about. If you had to hang out with yourself for a day, what is the most fun/enjoyable/fulfilled/calm/contented type of person you could be, while still being yourself? What is the best version of you?
⦁ Be responsible for yourself and for boosting your self-esteem. If others aren’t telling you you’re great, don’t let it get to you. Instead, tell yourself you’re special, wonderful, and worthwhile. When you believe these things about yourself, others will recognize that glow of self-confidence and begin confirming your self-affirmations in no time!
2. Develop and express your individuality. Whether it’s your sense of style, or even your manner of speaking, if your preferred way of doing something strays from the mainstream and produces positive outcomes, then be proud of it. Be a character, not a type.
⦁ Learn to communicate well – the better you can express yourself, the easier it is for the people who like you as you are to find you and the ones who don’t to just steer clear.
3. Avoid being unfair to yourself. Sometimes comparison causes us to compare apples with pears. We’d like to be a top movie producer in Hollywood when we’re a lowly, aspiring scriptwriter. To see that top producer’s lifestyle and find yourself wanting as a result is an unfair comparison – that person has years of experience and hobnobbing behind them, while you’re just starting out, testing the waters with writing skills that may one day prove to be exceptional.
⦁ Be realistic in your comparisons and only look to other people as inspiration and as sources of motivation, not as a means to belittling yourself.
4. Follow your own style. The common thing a lot of people do is copy others’ actions because it seems like the better route to fit in, but really, shouldn’t you stand out? Standing out is very hard, yes, but you need to try avoid assuming other people’s perspectives of you, even if it’s not something you would normally do; that’s what being yourself is all about.
⦁ Whatever you are, accept it. Being different is absolutely beautiful and it attracts people to you. Don’t let people change you!
5. Accept that some days will be better than others. People might raise eyebrows and even make fun of you when you feel like you’re truly being you, but as long as you can shrug and say, “Hey, that’s just me,” and leave it at that, people will ultimately respect you for it, and you’ll respect yourself. Most people struggle being themselves; if you can do it, they might even admire you.
⦁ Sometimes it will hurt when you’re teased. While this can be very difficult, and far easier said than done, try your best to flick it off your shoulder. In the end, you’ll be a bigger and better person, know who you are, and better able to survive whatever obstacles arise in your future.
PART 4. Standing Tall
1. Stand up for yourself. When someone bullies you, why let them? They never got a certificate saying they had the right to bully! If you have a problem, there are so many good, understanding people eager to help you.
2. Stand up for others. When you catch a bully, it is in your good nature to stop them. No matter how you do it, you have the right to stop it. You believe in yourself.
3. Stand up for those you stood up to. Just because you had to defend yourself doesn’t mean these people have no heart!
⦁ Just because someone says they don’t like something about you doesn’t mean it’s bad or you need to change it. It really depends on what it is; often it’s a matter of preference.
⦁ Change is a constant. So changing who you are over time is inevitable, and is always likely to be a good thing if you’ve stayed informed, relevant, and clued in to the world around you and have allowed your personal development to be a top priority in your life.
⦁ Even if your friends seem different, don’t hold back. Be yourself and if they don’t accept you they aren’t your real friends.
⦁ It can be highly harmful when you’re striving to “be like” someone else just to have their popularity, appearance, and attitudes rub off on you. Keep unique by keeping your perspective focused on building your strengths through the inspiration of others, not through becoming like them.
⦁ Fads and trends are a personal decision. While some people avoid them like the plague in the name of “individualism”, it doesn’t mean you’re not being yourself when you choose to follow a trend. It’s all about what you want.
⦁ Know when going with the flow is better than digging your heels in on something. Example: Sometimes it’s better to agree on going to a concert of a band you don’t like because you’ll be spending time and having fun with your friends. That’s about compromising and being respectful of others’ preferences.
⦁ Don’t say you can do something when you can’t just to please someone! This won’t help at all, and that person will just find out easily.
⦁ While trying and accepting yourself, don’t let your flaws get you down. If you can work on it and even if not, know that they make you who you are and help you define yourself. Flaws are actually a part of you, don’t be ashamed of them.
⦁ While picking out an outfit, look at yourself in your mirror. Instead of picking the bad things about how you look, pick out the good ones. This helps boost your confidence.
⦁ Don’t let your friends get you down or mislead you into something you don’t want to do. Be you & Be True to who you are.
⦁ Not caring about how others perceive you doesn’t mean letting go of grooming and manners. Basic respect for yourself and others is founded in etiquette and ensures that people can all live together in harmony and with a basic level of expectation for how they will interact with one another politely.
⦁ Respect others as much as you respect yourself. While being yourself means expressing yourself and your opinions, dreams, and preferences, it certainly doesn’t mean ramming these down other people’s throats! Everyone has needs, dreams, and wants that are equally deserving and it’s up to each one of us to acknowledge the other’s value as much as our own. Therefore, avoid being rude, thoughtless, or egotistical in your journey to being yourself.
” BE YOURSELF “