It’s funny how the entire world of self-help and self-development continually echoes with ideas of just “being yourself”, and how “you’re perfect the way you are”, and “if they don’t like it, that’s just their problem”. Not only because these ideas seem to downright contradict the entire concept of developing oneself. But what if, genuinely, being yourself is not enough to go where you wanna go in life?
“Be yourself” is probably one of the biggest mantras in this post-modern society of ours. We’re more concerned with personal purpose and self-determination than ever.
And sure, if you ask me, I wouldn’t want it any other way, either. Why would I spend half my waking life slaving in a cubicle for some Armani-wearing dipshit who doesn’t know my name and couldn’t care less if it was me or someone else punching in those numbers, right?
But the problem is, in all our praise of individuality, we forget that our personalities aren’t fixed. You might be familiar with psychology professor Carol Dweck’s theories about how having a ‘fixed’ mindset — as opposed to a ‘growth’ mindset — is detrimental to our growth as human beings.
See, unlike other species, we can intentionally improve ourselves. And in some areas of our lives, it’s crucial that we do it.
Take me, for example. To become a successful entrepreneur, I’ve had to change from someone who slept ’till past 9 A.M. most mornings, partied at least twice every weekend and just plain dicked around with no direction… To someone who wakes up at 6 P.M. every day, exercises every other day, detoxes for weeks on end and works from morning ’till evening.
Had I kept listening to whoever was parroting “just be yourself”, I would’ve settled.
If you don’t act a little out of character, how will you ever expand your comfort zone? If you’re shy and introvert, but you genuinely wanna be able to confidently interact with other people, are you gonna settle for simply “being yourself”?
I hope not.
No matter how this sounds, we need to acknowledge that in by far most cases, being yourself is not enough if we need to evolve ourselves to reach our goals.
(And really, name me one worthwhile goal for which one would not need to evolve oneself just a little.)
And yes, of course, we should all feel confident and love ourselves. But I’m sure every insensitive, narcissistic megalomaniac out there feels confident and loves themselves, too. And in the case of one such person, I’m sure the rest of us can agree that simply being yourself is not enough if you want the rest of the world to remember you positively.
And here’s another thing:
Not necessarily by intention. Not necessarily even by themselves. But over time, things tend to change. We grow up. We get tired of certain things, and we start feeling like trying other things. New people enter our lives; others leave. Some by simply dying; others by growing apart from us. Oh, and our bodies change.
Indeed, everything changes. And this affects us. What we want today might not be what we want tomorrow. And that’s okay.
Essentially, “being yourself” is an illusion. It is estimated that 40-60% of our personalities can be ascribed to biology. This means a hugely significant portion of who we are is not only subject to change, but also within our means of changing.
In the words of best-selling author and professor of management and psychology Adam Grant, “unless you’re Oprah, ‘be yourself’ is terrible advice”.