Despite the common exhortation to just be yourself, there is always a temptation to look at the success of others and try to copy who they are to be successful like them.
But it’s your very uniqueness that the world is craving for. That is why those other people who you want to copy have made it in the world already. They were simply one of a kind.
As three-time Academy Award winner of long ago, Ingrid Bergman said,
“Be who you are. The world worships the original.”
The ultimate depth of being yourself means you have to find within yourself that inward part that is the essence of the original you. This quest is sometimes referred to as a spiritual quest.
It’s often recommended by mentors and coaches that picking a person you admire most and using them as a role model is a good strategy for achieving your own ambitions. But it’s a sham and not what famous people say about themselves.
Martial arts film legend Bruce Lee gave the following advice,
“Always be your real self, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
Likewise, one of today’s most bankable film stars, Matt Damon (aka Jason Bourne), has said that it still holds true even today, as follows,
“It’s just better to be the person you are than to try to be some version of what you think the other person wants.”
The Problem of Education
On of the balancing acts of our current education system is that society wants a steady stream of people to fill roles such as a doctor, nurse, airline pilot, engineer, etc but at the same time it needs the creativity locked inside us to provide innovations, change, and progress.
This situation was recognised well by thinkers of the past who also influenced our current education system. But it’s a balance that is difficult to strike.
Even in the 1800’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the eminent thinker, and educator said that you need…
“To be your authentic self in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
So after the traumas of going through our current school’s program, we need to take some time to reassess who we are in order to re-kindle the buried facets of our personalities.
Wayne Dyer, American philosopher, self-help author, and a motivational speaker pushed this point as follows,
“The essential lesson I’ve learned in life is to just be your true self. Treasure the magnificent being that you are and recognise first and foremost you’re not here as a human being only. You’re a spiritual being having a human experience.”
Your Inner Critic
Another problem we all face is that we have voices in our heads that push us in different directions. It’s simply a fact of life that we are not individual and coherent single beings. We contain a mixture of, often conflicting, personality traits.
Our inner critic pops up whenever we hit a snag of any kind. Then we beat ourselves up a little (and sometimes a lot!) over what we did and therefore, who we are. So we have to learn to deal with this bogeyman and keep the faith in ourselves.
This is absolutely clear if you have decided to be a stand-up comedian. It’s a lonely life on stage and you have to bear your soul in every performance to entice your audience to laugh at your jokes.
So here, I think comedian Michael Ian Black, can be relied upon when he gives the following advice,
“Your harshest critic is always going to be you. Don’t ignore that critic but don’t give it more attention than it deserves.”
Honour and Respect
“You need to love yourself and be that person one hundred percent before you can actually love someone else.”
Says singer/songwriter Christina Perri
I think that before you can be in a relationship with anyone else you need to find yourself and love yourself. And it’s not easy because sometimes if people don’t like you, you may be tempted to act like someone else. But it’s not a strategy that works in my view.
After you have met someone and proffered your tried and tested (but copied) pick-up line, what on earth do you say next? You will always need to revert to yourself if you wish to be authentic.
However, you can “accentuate the positive” and at least play down the negative a little. You will need to select aspects of yourself that are appropriate for the situations you find yourself in. We all have different facets of ourselves but try to stick to your “strengths” rather than worry too much about the “weaknesses”.
As television playwright, Dennis Potter observed,
“You have to assert something about yourself in order to be your true self.”
But it may take some time to craft the person you are into the balanced personality you want to become. Being your true self is a process of discovery and refinement.
“You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be just the person you really are.”
– Alan Alda, A six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner
But at the same time in the interest of selecting the middle way. As Amar’e Stoudemire, star basketball player formerly of the New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat says,
“Be yourself. Don’t try too hard – it shows.”