We’ve all heard it before. “Just be yourself!” Whether it’s your parents telling you that you’re fine just the way you are, or a girl telling you to just “be yourself,” every single one of us has been told this before.
And the truth is, a lot of people struggle with being themselves. But, it isn’t that simple—sometimes you want to be yourself, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not.
Depending on who I’m talking to, “just be yourself,” could actually be the worst advice in existence. But, if I’m talking to someone else, it could actually be the best advice in existence. Here’s why.
Just Be Yourself? The Paradoxes of Self-Help
Anybody who’s been into self-development for long enough knows that there’s a lot of contradictory information—and interestingly enough, it’s all valid.
It just depends on what stage you’re in. Whether you’re just getting started on the path, or a decade down the path, the information that you need on the journey of self-development will change.
For someone who’s just getting started in the world of self-development, telling them to “just be yourself!” would be one of the worst things that you could do. It would give them an excuse to be lazy, to ignore other peoples’ advice, and to simply stagnate.
On the other hand, if somebody’s been actively improving himself for a while, “just be yourself,” will come as a major gem of wisdom. After years of trying extremely hard to always optimize and enhance every part of our lives, sometimes we need to just learn to relax.
In other words, depending on your mindset, “just be yourself” will either be great or terrible advice.
When This Advice Is Horrible
Say that we have an 18 year old man (or rather, boy). He probably isn’t very healthy, muscular, happy, wealthy, or emotionally grounded, because most men in our society aren’t really taught how to be functional men.
So do you know what telling him to “just be yourself” would do? Would it help him improve, and unlock higher states of consciousness? Or maybe it would help him develop his body through exercise, his mind through reading, and his emotions through self-exploration!
No. Telling him to “just be yourself!” would cripple his growth and give him a justification to just remain a lazy slug.
When you tell somebody who is, generally speaking, not very successful at life to “just be yourself,” they typically view it as an excuse not to change.
Why bother putting in hours at the gym when you should just be yourself? Why bother meditating to become more focused when you should just be yourself? Why bother working out and putting effort into your appearance when you should just be yourself?
Do you see why this advice is so fucking terrible? By telling someone to “just be yourself,” you remove any and all reason to change.
People need to realize that “just being yourself” isn’t good enough—you should always be striving to evolve and grow as a human being. You must seek to
improve your body, your mind, your emotions, and your lifestyle.
When This Advice Is Great
Say that you have someone who has been steeped in the self-development community for years. He’s probably developed somewhat of an obsession with improving himself. He probably works out daily, has a business, actively practices game, and is constantly improving his emotional health.
Telling him to “just be yourself” would be the best advice that you could possibly give him.
Why is this? Well, as we saw in the last example, some people use “just be yourself” as an excuse not to change, but the opposite end of the spectrum is wh
en people develop an unhealthy addiction to improving.
This happens to a lot of people in the self-development community, and it happened to me. I became so obsessed with improving that I was constantly down on myself.
“This isn’t good enough, that should be better, I need to do this and that!”
I was incredibly stressful, and rather than being fun, self-improvement became a chore. When I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect, and I could just be myself, ironically enough I improved by leaps and bounds. It was so much better for my emotional health to accept myself for who I was.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t change, but it means that rather than coming from a place of self-loathing, the change comes from a place of self-love.
When you accept yourself for who you are, you accept that you will never be perfect, and rather than agonizing over the destination, you learn to savor the journey. This is the key to success, because if you don’t enjoy the journey of self-development, you won’t stay on it for very long (take my word for it).
Coming Full Circle: Resolving The Paradox
Like I said before, there are plenty of paradoxes in self-development. You must be goal-oriented, but enjoy the process. You must be humble, yet proud. You must focus on your body, but focus on your mind.
One of the most important paradoxes in self-development, is learning to be yourself while simultaneously striving to be the best version of yourself.
This is very difficult to do, however. Most people take it way too far—they just stay on one end of the spectrum and don’t ever achieve balance in this realm.
The vast majority of people stay on the “I don’t need to change,” end of the spectrum, and don’t ever really accomplish anything worthwhile. They just wander through life, never really changing the world (or themselves).
On the other end of the spectrum you have people who become obsessed with changing, and it becomes a dysfunctional addiction. They feel like they always have to be better, stronger, wealthier, and more sociable.
The key is to find a balance. Understand that changing yourself for the better is a great thing to do. Always be improving yourself—to stagnate is to die. But at the same time, accept yourself, flaws and all. Don’t get angry because you aren’t where you want to be. Don’t judge yourself for not being good enough.
Once you achieve this harmonious balance, ironically enough, you will start to improve exponentially, because you aren’t dragged down by negative emotions or apathy.
We SHOULD say: “Be The Best Version of Yourself”
This is a better way of putting it. Don’t just “be yourself”—strive to be the very best version of yourself.
Are you naturally athletic, but lack intelligence? Then maybe you should work on your intellect by reading some of the best books out there for men. Or maybe you’re naturally smart, but aren’t very strong? Then maybe you should work on your body by lifting weights and doing cardio a few days a week.
Accept yourself for who you are, and strive to improve your weaknesses.
We’re all imperfect, and that’s just fine. Being perfect is overrated. So rather than trying to be perfect, just try to be the best version of yourself; be the best that you can be. Maybe you’re a gifted musician, but aren’t that great at writing. That’s fine—pursue your craft, and maximize your strengths.
Don’t let your weaknesses go unchecked—bring them up to at least an average level. But also focus on maximizing your natural abilities. This is how you become the best version of yourself.