The Idiocy of “Being Yourself”

July 27, 2012
I’ve always hated the phrase “be yourself” and generally those who spout it as a solution to most problems. Bully harassing you at school? “Be yourself. And it will all get better!” adults proclaim. Single and lonely? “Be yourself and someone will fall for you eventually!” you are told. Not sure what career you should choose for the rest of your life?” “Be yourself and you will figure it out.” Now at this point you may have resigned to the fact that I’m a cynical hipster who considers being genuine to be “too mainstream” and although I’m undeniably cynical and oftentimes a self-proclaimed “hipster” (whatever that means) , being genuine and sincere is what I so desperately strive for in my own life.

So then you ask, “What’s your problem with ‘being yourself’?” “My problem,” I answer you, “is that it’s nearly impossible to follow this rather cliché advice and ‘be myself’ when I have no idea who I am.” I’ve struggled with this concept for as long as I can remember and therefore have long been suppressing eye-rolls and litanies of expletives when people, with good intentions but bad form, tell me to “be myself”. Like I said, I have no problem with being authentic and consistent and even hope that this is something that I can one day achieve for myself. But the fact is, I still am not sure who I am and what I should be doing with my life, which makes it all the more difficult when others tell me that the end to all my woes is looking straight back at me in the mirror. It’s like my true self is locked behind that glossy reflective surface and I need only set them free so that the two of us can dance happily away into a field of sunflowers and daisies. For a lot of my life, I’ve felt that everyone else has already been reunited with their “true-selves” and found a way to shatter the cursed mirror, while I have been left hammering away at bullet-proof glass.

In recent years though, I’ve realized that rather than failing to live up to this storied advice of “being yourself’, I have been the victim of a flawed and meaningless cliché. My frustrating experience has had nothing to do with my inability to break down the barriers to connect with my “true-self”, but instead all has to do with the fact that my “true-self” does not exactly exist. I am an ever-changing, constantly evolving, and uniquely developing individual. Some days, I am the girl with three-piercings in her ear who wears grungy clothing and listens to angsty music, while other days I am completely enamored by classical literature and feel more comfortable wearing a cardigan and stringing my hair up in a ballet-bun. Neither one of these personas is more “me” than the other; they are merely other facets of my hodge-podge self. And so is the “me” who some days doesn’t know who she is or what she’s up to and is in a constant state of flux.

Ultimately, I’ve come to the realization that “being yourself”, while in theory is fantastic, in practice is nothing short of absolutely useless. Instead after years of struggling and with a little help from some inspirational Pinterest pins, I’ve come to understand that life is not about being yourself or finding that self, it’s about creating yourself.

So on days when I’m feeling like wearing a sun-dress in the middle of winter, I don’t feel crazy. I know it’s okay because by doing the things I want to do, I’ll become the person I’m meant to be. It may be wordier, but I think it’s more accurate and far less frustrating.

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