Don’t just be yourself—be authentic

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“Just be yourself!”

Trash.

This advice is an actual trashbag full of putrid and rancid self-justification that needs to be thrown in society’s garbage disposal. As we become a more environmentally-friendly world, I think we can recycle this abstruse phrase and turn its essence back into something lovely and productive. 

Sure, being yourself sounds simple until you realize we live in a world characterized by judgment— mostly judgment of ourselves. If everyone is too busy looking and comparing their own selves, they have no time to do the same for you. And yet, we build homes for our insecurities within the rural hills of our minds where they grow old and eventually retire to the city in our heart. 

 And with this ever-growing community of self-seen flaws, it can be hard to find the genuine “you”— the you that doesn’t fake a smile or laugh, the you that doesn’t follow the status quo, the you that doesn’t stay up late running through the day’s events, overthinking everything. 

But, some people master it. Or at least they seem to. 

They speak their truth loudly and proudly to anybody who will listen, anyone kind enough to care or pretend to. It doesn’t matter whose feelings get invalidated or whose emotions get steamrolled by their candidness. As long as they stay true to themselves, do others’ views of them really matter?

Well, to say it concisely, yes. 

And this is what I believe to be the rescuable essence of the phrase. 

Not caring is a choice. It is not the natural thing to do; it’s forced. This air of indifference takes over until the indifference becomes the facade, and you become confined by others’ derogatory ideas of what kind of person you are. But isn’t being yourself all about letting standards go so you can feel good about yourself?

 Even though they probably exude confidence, those following the “be you” mantra are probably more insecure than everyone—but in denial, of course. Throwing everyone else to the floor just so you can pull yourself up leaves only one person standing alone and isolated. 

There is no point to being yourself if you crush everyone you come into contact with. There is no point to being yourself if you don’t like who that person seems to be. 

So change.

Nobody but you can define you, so why define yourself at all? 

You don’t have to know who you are to be genuine. In fact, not knowing is the fun part. Your conception of who you are can be like a whiteboard: it holds the pertinent words until they are no longer needed, wanted, at which point parts can be rewritten or the whole slate can be wiped pristine.

Who you are doesn’t have to be static.

 It is human nature to always want to improve, to become better, to never settle. A writer always wants to develop their craft. An athlete always wants to run a little faster, jump a little higher. A scholar always wants to know more. So why would you settle for one version of yourself?

Just be authentic. Just be better.