“Just be yourself.”
You’ve heard it, been advised to do it, said it to someone else, lived by it.
But is it really good advice or should we be running as fast as we can away from this potential tragedy?
To be honest, I don’t like the saying much because, for a long time, I didn’t really like myself very much. Why would I want to be the self that had done so many embarrassing things? Why would I want to embrace the angry girl who flew off the handle when things didn’t go as planned? Why would I want to be that self?
The problem with “just be yourself” is that far too often we either don’t really know who we are or act in ways that aren’t okay and shouldn’t be repeated. I was very sarcastic for most of my life, and for certain, I still use my fair share of sarcasm even now, but the self that I was when I used sarcasm in judgmental and hurtful ways is not a self that anyone should have been encouraging. She was defending and protecting her fragile inside. She had no idea who she really was or needed to be. And no one should have been encouraging her to just be herself. That self was damaging herself by feeding negative into her mind.
Here are some tragedies that I’ve observed in myself and others while trying to live the just-be-yourself mantra:
- Being yourself even though you aren’t exhibiting healthy habits
- Being a fake self because you aren’t sure who you really are
- Being a made-up self because you don’t like who or how you really are
- Being yourself and avoiding any change because you are afraid to lose yourself
- Being yourself to the point of hurting or alienating others
- Being the self you find appealing but can’t actually sustain
I am so thankful that I am leaving that self behind and finding the self that I never was but was always meant to be.
In order to just be ourselves, we first have to leave behind all that is not moving us toward Christlikeness. When we leave those things behind, we have to refuse to look back. We have to keep our eyes forward so that we don’t get caught longing for what we left. And when we have gone in the direction of the self that God designed us to be from the beginning, we will find that going even farther is what we truly desire. It’s a desire born from truly seeing who we actually are.
C S Lewis says at the end of Mere Christianity that we are only ourselves when we are in close relationship with Christ and that otherwise we are just trying to be something that will never satisfy. The seasons that I have walked through have shown me the utter truth of this. The self-help industry, according to Stephen Covey, is a failure. We are seeking the wrong thing.
It is not ourselves that we should be working on; it’s our relationship with Christ that needs to come first. So run away from the Be Yourself myth and straight into the arms of the one person who can show you who you are meant to be and can lead you to that self.
Connie Benoit Sirois
Consultant | Writer | Speaker