“Just be yourself.” What does that even mean? Personally, for me, it represents a rather empty phrase. Do we even care for people to freely be themselves? Don’t we tend to frame people according to our own realities, experiences, expectations and prejudices? How open are we really towards getting to know someone for who they truly are? In the end, don’t we want them to be what we want them to be?
I don’t even believe that we know who we are. Do you know who you are? Aren’t we constantly changing and evolving like so many things in life? If I look at an old baby picture of myself I can hardly relate to it at all. And yet I know it’s me/was me.
Sometimes we might know more about who we aren’t, than who we are. And maybe it takes a lifetime to figure out the rest. To learn to be more true to ourselves and stop denying. American writer Joan Didion once wrote: “All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was”.
According to a Japanese proverb a person has three faces: the first face, you show to the world. The second face you show to your close friends and family and the third face you show to no one. It’s the truest reflection of who you are.
So to say “just be yourself” is very vague. However, it hints at bringing more of ourselves into any given situation. We might be encouraged to not hide behind masks that we created for ourselves as a means to fit in. To portray something we might not actually be. In order to gain and maintain approval we construct a world in which we might come across as something we secretly know we are not.
So we live different roles depending on what kind of act we play on our life stages.
What Kim K taught me about “being yourself”
From time to time I enjoy watching the Kardashians and in one of the episodes Kim K really surprised me. They were talking about how difficult it can be to be yourself, especially if constantly judged by so many people. I don’t remember exactly what she said word for word, but it was more or less about how crazy the fact is that we struggle so much to live who we are. We are born into us. That’s who we are. So why is it so difficult to express this? How can we even not live who we are? Why are we so much more inclined to live and wanting to live someone else’s life?
Is it because we are socialized to believe by definition that everyone else is more interesting, more important? Although we are all different we converge to the same mass by striving to align ourselves with an illusionary image created by media and society. We feel the urge to shake off mediocrity. We long to feel special and crave for assurance that we indeed are.
But to the same amount that we desire to be different we also want to be accepted for who we are. From an evolutionary perspective the need and desire to fit in and our ambitions to be accepted by a larger group/tribe was decisive in our quest to survive.
Someone unknown to me once wrote: “I want to sing like a bird without having to worry about who might listen.” This was a while ago but it stuck in my head since.
Maybe the first step for us is to accept that we are imperfectly perfect and make peace with being, feeling and wanting what we are, feel and want and learn to smile at the outside noise telling us differently.