Are you really ready to 'just be yourself'?

“Just be yourself” is that well-known, perennially glib piece of advice given by well-meaning friends and family members (and let’s be honest, people who don’t really know what else to say) as you stand in the face of a challenging life event.

For all their well-meaning-ness, the thing people never really tell you about “just being yourself” is that it’s incredibly difficult, not to mention genuinely terrifying.  First, you need to understand something about who you actually are in the first place.  Then, you need the confidence to put that understanding on full display, in the knowledge that some people won’t like you.

Case in point: I’m about to publish a book of collected ‘inner life’ blog posts I wrote years ago, when I was married and with a dull career.  Writing the back cover blurb for this book is up there with the hardest tasks I’ve ever had to complete.  “The book needs to be relatable, so just be yourself,” I was advised by a publishing expert, with instructions to write truthfully about my eccentric childhood and unexpected divorce, so that readers might be able to relate to, or at least empathise with, my experiences.

This is proving to be incredibly difficult.  Absolute honesty, i.e. “just being myself”, would almost certainly upset quite a few people I’d rather not, and it’s a dilemma I’m still grappling with as I write.  Watch this space!

The same goes for turning down social invitations with people and in places I’m not all that wild about (baby showers and karaoke nights are top of the list here).  The dilemma is always clear: “just be yourself” and upset your closest friends, or let them down gently by telling them you’re…really busy?

In a world where it’s so much easier to just blend in, the one area in which I’m finally happy to “just be myself” is in business.  After leaving such a dull and uninspiring corporate career, It’s incredibly important to me now that I’m able to work with like-minded people who care about good work, and who respect the time and effort it takes to create it (and who don’t mind the odd smile along the way!)

I’m learning that in business, if you try to please everybody you’ll gradually lose yourself and your uniqueness in the process – as well as being so bland that nobody will know anything about what you actually stand for. 

When you work for yourself and you are your own product, “just be yourself” can actually be wonderful advice, because as Chesney Hawkes once belted out with Nineties’ gusto, “no-one can be myself like I can”. 

So next time you’re given that piece of sage advice, remember to use it wisely!

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