It is not about being ourselves, it is about having people to tell us that

We say “Be yourself” all the time. I get it, but I don’t get it. What does it mean to be “myself”?

  • The endlessly procrastinating person facing a pile of assignment/obligation is me.
  • The uncontrollably emotional person going through an unpleasant incident or news is me.
  • The hopelessly depressive person feeling nothing but numbness and dullness is me.
  • The uncannily deceiving person doing one thing but meaning something else is me.
  • The pitifully cheerful person serving others in hope for gaining love is me.

Although I prefer not to be those version of “me,” they are genuine parts of myself that existed or exist or will exist. When I was/am/will be in one of those modes, all I want to do is to get out of it as soon as possible. I guess everybody does the same. And doesn’t it contradict the “Be yourself” mantra?

In fact, I am always “myself,” including the moment when I am pretending to be someone else, because the doer is still me. Whatever I do or think, I am always there. There is no need to “Be myself.” I already am, all the time.

Then “Be yourself” must mean something different, because it still indicates that something isn’t working and we know it. Think of the time when we use that phrase; it is always because that person (it might be us) is “out of touch.” We might be out of touch with our usual self, friend/family/lover, or just reality. When we tell someone to be himself or herself, we are warning him or her that he or she is losing connections, mostly with us.

“Be yourself” = “Stop pretending”. That is more likely it.

But what if we are trying to get out of the version of us we do not want to continue? Isn’t it okay to “pretend” that we are doing fine in order to finish our tasks or calm our family or just wake up from the bed to embrace the day? I think it is more than okay—it is necessary. Bootstrapping is one of our fundamental survival instincts.

Let’s look at the “out of touch” problem. The truly annoying issue isn’t the fact that we are not being the usual us or that we aren’t able to do so. It is the fact that we don’t know that we are out of touch, that we are acting while believing we are behaving normally. It is the lack of awareness that matters. Therefore:

“Be yourself” = “Stop pretending” = “Look at you.” Good, it is getting warmer.

As long as we are conscious of what we are doing, then it should be fine even when we are outside our comfort zone, pretending to be someone, or just purely acting. As long as we are aware of where and how and what we are all the time, being in the “usual zone” or not might not matter that much. After all, no matter what we do, we are always “being ourselves.”

But because our eyeballs aren’t facing inward (I like this phrase a lot), I am not sure if we can fully comprehend our state all the time. We can only guess how we are doing, and in order to check ourselves (at least on the surface), we use a mirror. For complex human interactions, what can be used as our mirror?

Yes, the other people. The people who said “Be yourself” to us in the beginning, leaving us perplexed and frustrated. The people who care about us enough to say something unpleasant for us and them likewise.

Do I care enough to say “Be yourself” and do I open myself enough to attract “Be yourself”? I think that is the question.