“Be Yourself” is Great Advice We’re Often Too Scared to Follow

Comments 19


Sometimes people tell you to “just be yourself” because they like you and assume other people will, too. They say that to you before you go on a date. Before a job interview. Before a public speaking event. Before going somewhere where you’ll meet a bunch of strangers.

We have heard it so many times that most of us don’t even know what it means. Many of us spend a ton of energy trying to be the person we think others want us to be because we’re ashamed of ourselves or because we’re afraid no one will like the real us.

Many of us seem incapable of forming our own opinion of ourselves. We pretend to know what other people think about us, guess wrong some of the time, and then we use that as our identity.

Not only do we let other people dictate our self-worth, but we actually let incorrect assumptions about what other people think about us dictate it.

It’s the reason so many people are sad and angry. It’s the reason we have dysfunctional family relationships, and drama-filled friendships, and totally broken and unhealthy marriages and romantic relationships.

I think maybe sometimes people don’t really grow apart.

I think sometimes they just never really knew each other in the first place.

It was about 4 p.m. Friday when I pulled into my hometown. A little Ohio town of about 20,000 people a few hours from where I live.

My friend and I get together every year to nerd out over the NFL Draft. He’s an attorney and needed to get some work done before meeting me so I slipped into a new bar and restaurant next door to his law offices to wait for him. I sat at the bar and had a few drinks. A little more than an hour later, he showed up.

By then, I’d met the owner and learned a lot about him and his business endeavors, discovered one of the girls working there is related to some old high school friends, and was drinking mystery shots with the pretty bar manager. We had one more drink and got out of there.

Before leaving, I went over to shake hands and say bye to the people I’d met. A good time was had.

As we were walking out the door, my friend who has known me since we were six—a guy who charms juries for a living—looked at me and said: “You’re better with people than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

I haven’t stopped thinking about that since.

Many people misrepresent themselves while dating or during job interviews. Basically, they’re frauds. A lot of us do this in really small matters. It gets scarier and more painful over really big things. And when you’re a fraud, it’s only a matter of time before you’re exposed.

It’s why sometimes two people meet and pretend to be different than they actually are, and both people like the fake versions of one another, but then after getting to know each other, there’s no compatibility or chemistry and the relationship crashes and burns. I’m pretty sure that happens 147 million times every day.

I think it’s important to be yourself, and I’m really trying hard to stop pretending to be something I’m not, even over little things designed to get someone to like me more.

It’s about identifying your values.

It’s about establishing your boundaries.

It’s about being authentic.

Over time, the number of people who share your values, respect your boundaries, and are attracted to your authentic self romantically, spiritually, physically, and professionally, will grow.

I’m pretty sure for every person that likes the fake me, there are just as many people who like the real me.

I’m pretty sure for every girl who likes tattooed felons, there are just as many who prefer me or someone like me. People who read and think and talk and can spell and speak coherent sentences.

People are afraid of rejection so they go into self-preservation mode rather than put themselves out there. But the truth is rejection from a stranger isn’t a 100th as bad as rejection from someone you love.

I think maybe sometimes people don’t really grow apart.

I think sometimes they just never really knew each other in the first place.

I bet 100-percent of people who worry about what other people think of them spend a lot of time pretending to be someone they are not on matters big and small.

It’s dishonest. Lying, essentially. All the pretending drains you and makes you a suckier version of yourself.

From James Altucher:

“This is not religious but math. The brain takes up 2% of the body’s mass and burns up 25% of the body’s calories each day. One in four calories you eat goes to fuel your brain.

When you lie, one side of your brain has to deal with one set of lies. And the other side of the brain has to deal with the other set of lies.

So to be at optimal mental strength you now need twice as many calories. This is impossible.

So the best way to be mentally strong is to be honest so all of the fuel in your body can be used efficiently at propelling your brain from strength to strength instead of fighting off the attacks on your weaknesses.”

People are attracted to people who know themselves and are confident being whatever that is. A confident person understands that they are who they are and that the only people worth spending time with are the people who like and accept that authentic person.

People choose who they’re going to spend time with based on how they feel around that person.

Two authentic people being emotionally vulnerable can form virtually unbreakable lifetime bonds. And those are the best kind.

I wish people knew it was okay to be themselves. Our need for acceptance and fear of rejection makes us pretend sometimes.

We just want to be liked.

But when we’re really honest about who we are and what we want… when we are actively passionate about things we care about… we won’t just be liked.

We’ll be admired.

We’ll be respected.

We’ll be wanted.

We’ll be loved.

And all this time. Who knew? All you had to be was you.

19 thoughts on ““Be Yourself” is Great Advice We’re Often Too Scared to Follow”

  1. I think being ourselves is a hard prospect. Something i find very unfortunate but true. I think a compulsive desire to be universally accepted and liked leads us all to adapt to the people we meet and situations we find ourselves in, to the point that being honest with yourself about who you are seems like harder work than it should be.
    It shouldn’t be work and maybe it doesn’t have to be.

    1. I think it requires being really mindful and honest with ourselves. It might even take practice.

      Practice disagreeing with someone politely, even if it makes you uncomfortable. When the group is looking for ideas, speak up about what you think would be the most fun, or the best place to go. Stuff like that.

      And I think when you get used to taking off the mask more and more and realizing people still like you and everything’s totally going to be okay, then we can continue to push the boundaries of confidence and authenticity.

      I’ve only just learned this in the last year or so: It’s BETTER to have a date go horribly, to have someone reject your advances, or to be the person who rejects another’s advances by being honest and authentic, than what happens when two incompatible people end up too far down the road.

      And that applies to every kind of relationship, really.

      We make up stories and rationalize our choices because we’re too afraid of rejection or to be the one who walks away.

      I’m getting infinitely better about this stuff.

      It’s the thing that has made me feel most in control of myself in years.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Sarah.

  2. completelyinthedark

    Sure needed to hear this, Matt. Self-esteem is really takin’ it on the chin today. 🙁

    1. The post isn’t that good. Meaning, it doesn’t do justice to just how important this topic has become to me. The pitfalls of not enough time to edit and rewrite.

      I’ve been reading and hearing more things where this theme keeps coming up, and I’m really buying in.

      I never want to sound cocky. I don’t like cockiness. But I know that I’m a pretty good guy. That I’m nice. Occasionally funny. Occasionally smart. Care about stuff. Can have meaningful conversation. And am not beyond hope in terms of physical attractiveness.

      I use to dedicate so much energy to worrying about how to be more likable and desirable, rather than the all-important realization that JUST MAYBE, I’m pretty cool, and maybe other people worry about the same thing with me. That in some interactions with girls I meet, they’re worried about what I think of them.

      And once I realized this and truly recognized how true it is, I got a lot less afraid, and felt a hell of a lot better about pretty much everything.

      Mike, forgive me for being “advice guy” (because eff unwanted-advice guy) but sometimes when I feel a little insecure about something, the thing that helps me most is finding other people with those same insecurities and helping them overcome them.

      Meaning, there are people in your life feeling terrible today. And maybe if you lift them up, help them understand that you really see them and care about their life, and help mend a little bit of what’s broken, you’ll feel the same thing. Because you become the one making the difference in the lives of others.

      Because you sir, are a God-send, and are among the most-supportive people I blog-know, and are constantly making people laugh or being a vulnerable human being that helps others realize they aren’t alone.

      Every time you have liked one of these posts, or commented, or shared, you have lifted me up and made me feel like I mattered.

      And I’ve appreciated it every time, sir. I’m fully aware of how much you’ve given to me, and others. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

      And I think if you knew how many people appreciate you the way I do, you’d be having a pretty kick-ass day. The kind you deserve.

      Thank you for reading and commenting and being so supportive of my writing, Mike. It means a great deal.

      1. completelyinthedark

        Thank you for those kind words. Since the unemployment front continues unchanged, Mondays are particularly hard. I always look forward to Tuesdays, when I help other un/under-employed people at a job search volunteer group. Just getting through today is the best I can muster. But really appreciated the encouragement! 🙂

        1. You’re already doing it! That’s awesome. I guess I should have known. That’s awesome, Mike.

          I’ve been there, and it’s hard, sir. Second worst thing I’ve ever felt. Best of luck.

  3. after i was revealed to the entire nation to be an adulterous whore, i felt the freedom to just be me. after all, it didn’t get any worse from there, what people might think of me. it was an incredibly painful and difficult way to learn i could just be me, but it has made me realize how much energy i put into my craving for acceptance and approval.

    ironically, the one place i can’t be my true self is in my marriage. i think part of my penance for my betrayal has been to try to be everything he wants in a wife, which includes lots of outward “maintenance”, a cheerful carefree attitude, and a fulfilling sex life. these things in place, we are able to be as if nothing happened. but i am a deeply emotional person with complex moods as well as a chronic over-thinker.

    the point being: being yourself is freeing and beautiful. some may not like it, and it’s up to each of us to decide if that sacrifice is worth it. for me, it is.

    great topic. i always thoroughly enjoy your thoughtful posts.

    1. I’m guilty of not knowing your back story. I find it interesting the way you worded that, but I pray you know I do not think of you that way.

      Your personal life is none of my business, but something you did yesterday, doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a corresponding label on you today. Certainly not one so harsh.

      We get to decide who and what we are today.

      Four years ago, I was a shitty husband.

      Today, I’m someone who reads, writes and lives thoughtfully, with human relationships and my desire to have really good ones and help others do the same as my focal point.

      Four years ago, I was ignorant and unworthy.

      Today, I’m a little bit awesome.

      Just like you.

      1. i forget that tongue-in-cheek doesn’t have its own font 😉

        learning from our choices and the fallout thereof is a powerful thing.

  4. I am sadly one of those people who spent what felt like a lifetime trying to morph myself into what I thought my husband wanted…and in the end lost myself and still wasn’t “good enough” to have it last. Being anyone other than yourself is exhausting and seeking others approval when you do not have a good appreciation of yourself is time wasted I believe. And I’ve wasted a lot of time.

    It is incredibly freeing just to recognize the pattern, and try a litter harder each time to remain true to yourself. Taking off those masks that have taken years to fuse to your face isn’t easy. I’ve had a few of those “incompatible further down the road relationships” but I think we learn invaluable lessons from each one nonetheless. Life is too short to be anyone but yourself – the ones meant for you will stay, and the ones who aren’t won’t. And that’s okay.

    1. Yes. More than okay. Great, actually. By being totally honest, we get to feel secure, and relaxed, and know that everyone around us WANTS to be with the real us.

      We feel better on the inside because we ARE better on the inside.

      Then, life is good.

      It’s a simple thing, really. But I think the vast majority of people–myself, included for many years–get it wrong.

  5. Because the nature of an intimate relationship or a close friendship is a slow reveal – some slower than others – it’s so hard because you are both vested – and then there’s this thing that they didn’t know, that might make them change their mind. They accepted you up to now, but not anymore. And it can be devastating. Finding someone you trust to stay, and love you for who you are before you reveal all of who you are and risk losing them….sometimes it’s easier to keep it to yourself.

    Not that I’m arguing against you. A relationship like that is what everyone who is not a sociopath wants, I think. I’m not sure I’m adding anything to this discussion that hasn’t been said, except to say that it seems simple enough – but maybe not. 🙂 Love your introspection.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and think about this stuff. It validates it and means a lot to me.

  6. “I think maybe sometimes people don’t really grow apart. I think sometimes they just never really knew each other in the first place.”

    Oh, that’s really good!

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Matt Fray

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