Being yourself sounds so reassuring. Motivating. Inspiring. “Just be yourself and everything else will take care of itself”. The former expression is used so many times in self-help books and in life advice articles that the majority of the population really believes that it’s the ultimate advice for a happy and fulfilling life.
If you ask me, this advice is full of crap.
Not that I don’t believe in individuality and authenticity, it’s simply an expression that doesn’t lead to anything productive, or anything that can help you escape from the shit hole you’re in.
Not only the advice doesn’t mean anything in particular, it’s also something that, if followed, can cause more damage and can actually ruin your life.
10 years ago, I was broke, I was addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, I was insecure and the odds for brighter days were close to zero.
If I’ve listened to the “be yourself” advice every guru on the planet was giving, I was probably still going to live with my parents, smoke, and drink every-single-day, as I did in the past.
The opposite of being yourself, don’t be yourself, is probably what you need if you’re looking for some sort of aid with the problems you’re facing in your life right now.
Let me explain why this counterintuitive approach can actually be what you’ve been looking for all these years.
Why Being Yourself Sucks?
Let me ask you something: Are you happy? Fulfilled? Do you feel like you’re doing meaningful work?
Since you’ve stumbled on this site, and you’re actually still reading, there is a high probability that you’re looking for sort of advice. Some answers. Some sort of help. Meaning, you’re not really fulfilled with your current life.
But that’s just part of the problem.
There is a chance that you’re overweight, broke, addicted to social media, alcohol, sex, cigarets, your phone. You might be still living with your parents and you’ve probably seen exotic islands, and the sea, only on Instagram.
Now, I’m not saying this to offend you. Simply, statistically speaking, the chances for something from the above to be true is quite high.1
And since we mentioned the word high, let’s say you’ve just smoked a joint with your best friends and you accidentally found an article about “being yourself”.
“OMG, John. This is amazing. This dude is saying that we should be ourselves and we’re going to make it. Wow. I never thought that smoking weed and watching Netflix for a living will help us earn money and become super ultra successful. We have to patent this idea and sell it to the guys from the Silicon Valey. They can make an app for smoking weed and we can become super rich and stuff. I’m so excited. Let’s roll another one.”
So you get out of your parent’s basement and you go to the nearest mall to take a loan so you can present your idea to the world.
You see, people who end up reading self-help books and articles about meaning written by online gurus are most probably desperate. That’s why, they search for some sort of advice, obviously.
I’m certain about the above because I’m, too, reading self-help books. And even though I don’t consider myself desperate nowadays, I was surely such a couple of years ago.2
If you’re fulfilled and content with your life you won’t read the thoughts of some random guy online, right?
You’ll be doing your own thing and mock everyone owning a book by Napoleon Hill or Deil Carnegie.3
So, since the lives of the guys who are looking for advice in books and articles suck, and their daily actions are most probably also something that requires modification, telling them to be themselves won’t get them closer to happiness. It’s actually the opposite. It’s like giving a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic and telling him: “Hey mate, here’s a bottle. Just do what you do best.”
Being Yourself is Deceitful
To say the least, the advice “be yourself” is misleading.
Exactly yourself put you in the shit hole you’re in right now. The reason you’re not happy, out of money, in debt, afraid of heights, married to the bottle, overweight, single, is no other, than yourself.
You might disagree:
“No, my parents are fluffy and I’ve inherited their bone structure. It’s their fault.”
“My wife is spending all of our money on clothes. She is to blame for our bank loan.”
“Everyone around me is stupid. How can I be happy while I can’t bare the people I see in my life?”
Hey, I don’t blame you for not agreeing.
It’s a normal human reaction to defend ourselves when we’re attacked. We felt threatened, we fight back.
But that doesn’t really matter, doesn’t it?
Even if you’re right – your wife is actually spending all of your money on clothes – it’s still up to you to find a solution.
And obviously, being yourself won’t work.
Probably you’re shy, you lack confidence and strength to oppose your dominating wife.
If you continue to be yourself, you will still be shy, weak and you won’t have the guts to protect what’s rightfully yours. Or, do what’s right.
So, what should you do?
Don’t be Yourself
I was this shy, fat little kid that was afraid of talking, even looking at beautiful girls. Every time I was walking towards I girl I felt how my stomach begins to shrink and my mount drying like a desert.
Yes, I wasn’t popular in school.
I was the opposite of an alpha male. But like every man, I had a desire for a relationship. And since girls weren’t fighting to go out with me, something had to change.
I started with something easy, I changed my wardrobe and I started exercising, thinking that girls love men who are muscular and wear shirts all the time. Shallow but that was the most common perception.
To be honest, it helped a bit.
But I was still this uncertain dude who was so afraid of crossing the dance floor to go talk with the girl who was making eye contact with him through the whole night.
I’ve made changes on the outside but in the inside, I was still the same shy guy. Something else had to change.
When we’re born, we’re like a blank slate. Depending on our surroundings and the people who we communicate with, we’ll learn some skills, be familiar with others, and lack third.
It’s simply impossible to know everything.
But one thing is certain, if you want to make a positive impact in your life, you should be something better than your current self. This involves admitting that you don’t know something and desire to learn it.
Realize That Your Current Self Sucks
The hardest thing to admit in front of others, as well in front of ourselves, is that we lack some skills.
When people fail in certain areas of their life, or they simply fail to execute an assignment at work or in school, they rarely admit that they’re the ones to blame.
You hear complains all the time from people:
“I’m sorry for being late for school, again, there was a lot of traffic, again.”
“Teacher, I swear I did my homework, but my dog ate it.”4
“What can I tell you boss, I didn’t sell enough diapers this month because babies are becoming better at going to the toilet themselves. It’s like they are born on top of the toilet. I don’t know, it’s a phenomenon.”
You surely can’t predict the traffic, but you can change the time you leave for work. Probably your dog ate your homework, but it’s up to you to leave it in a safe place. Or, do it again if something happens to the paper.
If you really want to make a positive difference in your life, you need to admit, in front of yourself, first, that you suck at some skills. Even say, out loud, that you were wrong.
This is something more than just writing your strengths and weaknesses on a piece of paper, it’s actually admitting with your body and mind that you’re not so awesome as you might think.
It’s a hard thing to admit.
A lot of people continue to fail in life only because they omit to do the above step. They have a huge ego and they believe, with their whole hearth, that they’re awesome.
And of course they do, when they were little boys/girls they’ve been told that they are “the best”, “the smartest”, the “most beautiful person on the planet”. These sentences from their parents stuck in their minds like a gum on your shoe.
But once we’re adults, it’s up to us to be responsible for our actions, or inactions.
The main reason this step is so key, it’s because if you don’t know where is the real problem, you can’t really find a cure.
Let say you have a problem with your car – for some reason, it won’t start. If you don’t really know what’s the problem, you might change some parts on your own, spend some cash, but the real problem will still persist. That’s why we go to a mechanic, so he can run a diagnostic and tell us what exactly needs to be fixed.
If we lack something in our life, you don’t need to go to a mechanic, or a coach, to understand that what needs to change is ourselves. It’s always us:
You can’t sell enough goods at your job? The problem is not that people don’t want to buy, you simply need to work on your sell skills.
You don’t have enough money to cover your monthly expenses? You need to realize that, you, need to do something: stop spending like crazy, probably look for another job. Complaining that your boss is not paying you enough won’t actually get you more money;
You want to lose weight? You need to work, and most probably change your daily habits. Probably your parents are indeed fluffy, but how is this helping you?
That’s why being yourself as a life advice sucks.
If you want to make progress, you need to first admit that you’re doing some things wrong, and start making them differently.
How Should You Be If Not Yourself?
Often you’ll see that such articles end up with the line: Be your best self.
Even though this is true, it’s merely part of the solution.
You need to figure out what part of yourself you want to change.
Each individual has certain beliefs, understanding of the world, habits, ways he handles problems and tasks, routines, friends, likes, and dislikes.
The combination of all, lead you to your current lifestyle. To your current apartment. To your partner. To your current job. To your current view of the world. But if you don’t like part of it, or everything from the above, you need to change.
Put simply, if your current self doesn’t know how to code, you won’t be working for a Software firm, right?
But if you do want to work for a Software company, the below needs to happen:
You need to first want to learn how to code;
You need to go to classes;
You need to practice;
Repeat the above two.
But that’s only part of the solution. You’ll also probably need to change your daily routines: Find time for practice; Spend some money for the classes; Spend less time with your friends and in front of the TV because you will be busy learning.
In the end, you will be different.
Probably you no longer find watching TV shows appealing. Or, going out with your friends might seem dull to you. Your income might change which will lead you to a different neighborhood with different people who will impact your view of the world.
Eventually, I was able to find the courage to talk to girls. Initially, it seemed that it’s not a big deal, but over time this changed me.
I was no longer shy. I’ve become confident, which helped me later in life in numerous ways.
So, if you’re looking for a way to become better, to make a positive change in your life, you need to stop being yourself and executing your current activities.
Because your current self brought you here, and if here, is not what you wanted, then obviously something needs to change. And that’s you.
I have some numbers to back this statement: In 2016, more than 15 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (15.5%) currently smoked cigarettes. This means an estimated 37.8 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes – Resource link.
I was surely desperate back in the days. Drinking and smoking every day. It took me years to stop, slap myself in the face and escape the vicious cycle.
Reading self-help books sends a message to other people. It means that you’re not awesome. A lot of people can’t admit that. They think they’re the best.
I’m sure that you had a classmate with a hungry dog.