How to “just be yourself”

Today We’ll discuss breaking through the plain old advice of “just be yourself”, what it means. How to use it to make a life-changing impact on your life. Rather than being a confusing puzzle.

I bet you received this advice in many situations: Talk to that girl at the bar, going to a job interview, meeting strangers, joining a club, performing/presenting, “just be yourself”.

What was that supposed to mean? Haven’t you been yourself for your whole life?

I Remember being nervous before an open mic. My palms were sweatier than a bologna sandwich that was left in a sealed Tupperware container. I didn’t know what to say before on stage. Looking at my peers for advice, I was told again: “just be yourself”.

This is an unfinished sentence; the full sentence is “just be your best self”. You can be somebody you’re proud of and stay true to you at the same time.

Why it’s hard to be ourselves?

When we are children, I believe we are fully ourselves. When you felt like singing you sung, wanted to play with dolls? You didn’t care if you were a boy or a girl, or what was cool.

As we get older, people around us play an important role. They sculpt the direction of where our life goes. Unfortunately, many people are not always surrounded by positive and encouraging people.

Think of the common story of the little boy/girl that loved singing. Then he/she grew up around others that were annoyed by it or said hurtful things like “that’s awful”. Causing them to give up on chasing their dream at a young age.

Relatable experience, I grew up in a strict immigrant family that planned out your life before you even learned to walk.

I loved seeing people smile. I told my mother and aunt that I wanted to be a dentist. What was there reaction? Laughter.

After that, I decided to never be a dentist. The thought just left my mind. This isn’t putting blame on anybody for me not being a dentist. What I’m saying is, it pushed me into another life direction.

Instead, I did the next best thing. Doing a stand-up comedy and writing positive articles. Where making people smile is in the job description. A career that gives me joy, but they did not approve of at first.

If I listened to them fully, I would be living a life I dreaded.

Remember this, do not take advice from people about what it takes to pursue a career. especially if they’re not part of it. Even the experts make constant mistakes on others potential.

We see this happen in sports constantly. For example, Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the NFL draft.

When deciding if you can pursue a field do not ask yourself questions like, “Am I good enough?”. Instead, Ask yourself about things you can control “Do I want this?”, “Can I happily give 1 hour a day to this?”.

Advice about chasing goals. This is a Ted-Talk that helped me get out of my own head.

Surround yourself with Positive Company

This means gauging(checking) your energy levels closely. Are there certain people that make you motivated?

  • Favorite Teacher/Professor
  • Gym partner
  • Significant other
  • Life-Coach
  • Siblings

What does energy mean?

A research study at Bucknell University shows self-esteem is positive.  correlated(patterned) with the friendship quality of their best friend.

Energy includes: Confidence, enthusiasm, positivity, optimism

Tip on Finding people that boost your energy

Journaling(diary)every-day/week. Looking back on the moments and situations give you joy. This gives the journal writer a better idea of certain patterns that make them happy.

Positive example:

John checks his daily journal. John realizes that after every Thursday he feels a greater deal of fulfillment, compared to other days.

His confidence levels are higher. John feels energetic and is ready to take on challenges that he faces throughout the day (Thursday).

John, after realizing Thursday was his best days, he looks at patterns of things he does mainly on Friday:

  • Swimming
  • Singing
  • Going to Cafe

He also realized that he saw his friend’s Mike and Hakeem every Thursday.

In John’s case, there is a logical course of action after realizing this pattern. Try to make every day feel like Thursday. Hang out with Mike and Hakeem more often. Try to go swimming, singing and/or the café more often.

Therefore, I recommend the 4-week challenge to all my clients. Get a calendar, and rate every day from a scale of 1-10 based off these details:

  • Confidence
  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Optimism

After this, you can track down the activities that bring joy. Then realize the people you spent time with to better detail what you’ve been doing.


Warning: Some people make you feel better on average after looking at the calendar/journal. When one person has a slightly more positive pattern in the journal, it does not mean that they are necessarily (100%) better for you.

This is used to track much larger differences. So, don’t cut off your mother for your drinking buddy, just because he has a slightly better pattern.


The reason this is not always as simple as it looks is that we feel comfortable in familiarity. It’s easier said than done. Choosing people that make you feel better seems simple. Until deciding between a toxic friend you’ve known for a while versus an acquaintance.

It’s commonly known that humans comfortable in familiar environments, that’s why abuse victims always go back to abusers.

What if I don’t know who boosts my energy”?

Sometimes we are not good judges of characters. Here are some examples of traits positive people have: people you should surround yourself with.

Traits of positive people:

  • Looks for good qualities in others
  • Forgiving
  • Builds people up
  • Accepts wrongdoings and able to apologize: “I’m sorry.”
  • Spreads Happiness on purpose

What if I Am Scared to Be Myself?

It is okay to be nervous before a situation. Change is always scary. The main reason we stay nervous of becoming our best self is that success lies out of our comfort zone. Many people adopt the belief that if it feels uncomfortable, then it is not for me.

People are guilty of avoiding tasks and situations just because it gets their adrenaline rushing. There is no problem with being nervous before an event. Anxiety can mean the situation matters a lot to you, and hope it goes well.

Chasing a goal, despite being scared should be encouraged. In fact, that’s the definition of the word courage.

It’s time to see the anxiety in a positive light. Being scared with uncomfortable situations: doing karaoke, presenting, introducing yourself, etc.

Means that you are making progress because you’re leaving the comfort zone. On top of that, the next time gets easier, and the confidence gained is transferrable(applicable) to other areas of your life.

If social anxiety is what is holding you back, I suggest reading through the article public speaking with social anxiety.

Another reason for social anxiety. When a situation is unfamiliar, we become scared of it. This is simply human nature.

Remember how nervous you were driving for the 1st time vs the 1000th?

This is why police academies spend a great deal of time act out real-life role-plays with new recruits to help them feel more prepared when the real situation comes.

Who do you want to be?

Role-models are important. Many aren’t fortunate to have a person in their life to emulate. This is okay. Many people have moved past this.

However, we all have a different idea of who we want to be? Our self-esteem revolves around the thoughts we get when we look in the mirror and think of our daily actions/accomplishments.

Often, the people we look up to is our brain telling us who we want to be.

Forget about strangers, parents, friends. What profession seems fulfilling and cool to just you? People feel too anxious to give themselves permission to be successful. This leads to people avoiding their passions, and their true selves.

Go on the internet. Search for somebody from your country/ethnicity that achieved a goal that you’re going for. Seeing somebody like you achieve more than your wildest dreams, helps you envision how possible it is.

Avoiding Career Paths, you Enjoy Hurts the Self-esteem

Why? if you don’t appreciate them, then you will not look at your life achievements with pride. Because no matter how far you go in your pursuits, every win won’t matter, and every loss will feel like a waste of time.

Keep your Goals Small and in Control.

Are you thinking that this advice is negative? Do sound like your bitter grandma? This is not. When you tell people about a goal your chasing; When it’s not traditional (doctor, lawyer engineer); they usually ask questions like: “how much money you will make?”, “will you be famous?”, “Isn’t that risky?”  etc.

These are things outside your control, and downplay the work you may put in. The problem is, they ask about goals you will reach, that are out of your control. Keep goals controllable. They are helpful in achieving more and boosting your confidence.

Pursuing anything comes with a great deal of pressure we put on ourselves. We begin to become nervous about our progress. This is unfair to you. Progress does not always match the work you put in.

Life is not like a video game. We do not level up gradually, and we notice improvements in short bursts.

How do I Set Smart Goals?

Always set goals that you can achieve. Do not set progress related goals. Here are some examples if you want to start working out.

ScenarioPositive GoalNegative Goal
Working OutWorkout for 3 hours per weekGet super muscular
SingingWin Talent ShowSign up and audition for a talent show
SchoolGet straight A’sHand in every assignment and proofread 3 times.

Obviously, it’s good to check progress to make sure what you’re doing is working. However, try this after a decent amount of time in. If you’re working hard results will come. Regardless of who you are, or the “talents” you have.

Conclusion:

Try following the path of least resistance, this means doing things you find easy, but others find difficult.

No hidden talents?

I bet you have them. Let’s entertain the thought that you don’t have any skills. Then try something you’re interested in, or that you find yourself studying.

You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of in such a short amount of time. Remember, learning/doing one helpful thing every day is a lot of progress. Now go make yourself proud!

References

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1013060317766
https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/njpdresources/dom-violence/dv-dynamics-instr.pdf
https://www.britannica.com/topic/vote-of-confidence

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