We’ve all heard the slogan, “Be yourself!” But, you know what? Being me sucks sometimes.
I’m not a dish everyone wants to eat. I’m sort of like a plate of Korean BBQ ribs. Like do those three words really belong together, and isn’t that just a little tooweird or different? Some folks might even be like, “whywould anyone eat that?”
While I don’t know if I ever consciously sought out to be anyone other than myself, I do know that I spent too much of my life trying to make myself more “palatable.” To say things a certain way, to look a certain way, to be more gregarious. To like or want the things my friends or people I wanted to like me liked or wanted.
Growing up in the south, women who were “different” (educated, loud, smart, didn’t care about their appearance, etc.) were automatically labelled “dykes.” I tried not to be “too” different so I didn’t have my sexuality questioned. I got married early because it’s what everyone else I knew was expected to do. I went to insane lengths to have children (IVF, etc.) because that’s what everyone else told me it’s what I should want.
I went to hundreds of concerts even though I hate loud noises and crowds. I’m an introvert, but I tried to make myself into an extrovert through all manner of ways. The worst is that I chose a career path that required me to engage in constant public speaking. I have to purchase prescription-strength deodorant to combat my flop sweats.
When we are truly and authentically us, it means we can be rejected for our very being, for our soft sensitive squishy cores, and that can hurt.
When I got tired of being “too” palatable, I then went to the otherextreme: being unpalatable. Oh? You think I shouldn’t say the word “dick?” DICK DICK DICK. You think women should have long hair? Well, I’ll buzz mine right off.
Both extremes, whether I was attempting to be palatable or not, were not me. I wasn’t being joyfully authentic. I was embodying a persona, “putting on an act,” wearing a mask that hid my truest self.
I did it for the sake of social appearances and my reputation since all I wanted to do was be accepted by others, but by choosing to do so, I was limiting my relationships from being deep or intimate.
Being ourselves comes with costs. Some people will judge us. Others will absolutely hate us; still, others will not give two shits about us. Our dates or lovers might break up with us, and even our friends might abandon us. When we are truly and authentically us, it means we can be rejected for our very being, for our soft sensitive squishy cores, and that can hurt.
Psychologist Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, goes into detail on why you should though be yourself:
“In my relationships…I have found that it does not help, in the long run to act as though I were something that I am not. It does not help to act calm and pleasant when I am actually angry and critical. It does not help to act as though I know the answers when I do not. It does not help to act as though I were a loving person if actually…I am hostile. It does not help for me to act as though I were full of assurance, if actually I am frightened and unsure.”
Being yourself, as you think, feel, say, and do, means that you open yourself up to be intimately known and truly loved. The cost could be rejection, but the benefit is unconditional love. The people who like you will like you for whom you are instead of whom you pretend to be.
The Journey of Becoming
“Becoming” is a journey.
For example, in my teens and early 20s, I was so caught up in fitting in that I never stopped to wonder why I wasn’t much a fan of concerts. I would realize that the experience wasn’t all that enjoyable, but I’d blame it on the fact that my friends had fought before we walked in, or our seats weren’t that great, or that I didn’t want to wear earplugs because then people would notice.
I was so externally focused that I couldn’t internally assess that maybe this experience just wasn’t for me. Maybe I’m not a concert-goer or a partier. Maybe I’m more of a cosy sock wearer and hot cocoa drinker. Maybe I’m a person who likes to work out outdoors and hates the gym scene.
Being yourself, as you think, feel, say, and do, means that you open yourself up to be intimately known and truly loved.
The act of becoming is also an act of true acceptance.
Carl Rogers also wrote,
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Not only do you open yourself to gain real relationships, capable of depth and breadth with people who are better suited for you, by choosing to be authentic, you also gain the ability to change.
Think of it like this: I don’t love concerts, but I keep going to them because my friends go to them.
I keep thinking this concert will be the one I’ll enjoy going to. Or if I see this band. Or if I get these seats. Or if I go with these people. If I never accept that concerts just aren’t and will never be my scene, I’ll keep trying to makemyself like them.
Truly being myself has led to a lot of big changes in my life in the past couple of years.
I left a marriage I wasn’t happy in. I moved. I am in the process of changing careers. This means I’ll no longer need prescription-strength deodorant to get through my day because I’ll no longer be trying to make myself be extroverted when I’m not.
Being myself didn’t solve any problems. It actually made many more for me. It opened me up to being hurt, disappointed, and rejected, but it did lay out a path for me that is genuine, meaningful, and satisfying. All of those point to a joyful life.
The rewards for being me have greatly outweighed the costs. I hope you choose being you too, even if you are a plate of Korean BBQ ribs.