The most cliche piece of advice is, you guessed it, be yourself! While we all love dolling out generic pieces of advice, do we even know what that means? What does it mean to be yourself? Are there moments where I am more myself than not? What do I need to do to be myself?
In our society, there is an emphasis on finding out who you are and being that to that 1000%. The truth of the matter is nobody tells you how to find yourself or figure out your identity. There isn’t a class that teaches you the steps to deduce who you are.
We are told this over and over again. In some respect, I get it. You have a favorite song, a favorite color, a way that you like your coffee and your eggs. There is a style that is all your own, a family history that is rich, and people around you that are sacred. Those things are simple enough, but is there more that we are reaching for?
As a college student, I feel like the idea of “being yourself” can put too much pressure on you. You’ve got to figure out your whole future, all the dreams you have, and the work you’d like to do as soon as possible. But a 22-year-old isn’t the same as a college freshman. All the same, the you when you were 10 isn’t the you that you are 20. Life changes people. What we want changes over time. We are molded by circumstances, always evolving into a newer version of ourselves.
At 18, I had a small set of friends who I loved (and still love), and now at 19, the group has grown and shrunk. I live in more than one place, and I have seen more and traveled more than I ever thought I would.
As much as I’d like to believe I am the same body as I was a year ago, that’s not exactly true. I have new scars. I have new stories to go along with those scars. An even more extraordinary fact, I have entirely new cells than I did seven years ago.
When we tell ourselves to be ourselves, we miss out on the parts of us that have developed and transformed us into the people we are now. We won’t always be this way. Who we love, who our friends are, our families, and our work changes over time.
While our favorite color might stay the same, a new song might make us dance. New friends may come along and show us different parts of ourselves to share and rejoice in. New memories are made and slowly, we are reconstructed into our new selves.
Where the Stagnancy Comes In
When we’re told to be ourselves, we get stuck in believing that who we are is constant. And when we try to fit this mold, we are forcing ourselves into something that we have outgrown. Like a trying on pants you used to wear 5 years ago, sometimes the things in our past weren’t meant to be carried into our futures.
This piece of advice “be yourself” may be a great way to tell someone not to hide their real personality. But if they stay themselves in the same patterns, habits, and opinions, they disregard who they are becoming.
Forcing yourself into a certain path because it fits who you are in the moment is when you start to feel stuck. Do not rush into the future. Instead, let us do the slow and steady work of following every step exactly where it wants to lead us.
Let’s take a subject outside of our comfort zones. Or try something a new club in our community. Take the lead on a project. Or let a friend teach us what their passions are.
We aren’t meant to do or be one thing for the rest of our lives. Rather, we are meant to take what we love and make the most of it as we are, and do the slow work of taking all the things we love and prioritizing them.
Find what you love
Maybe one year, you focus on your blog. And the next, you do the work of finding yourself a community. After that, you hone in on your skills and career preferences. Over time, what you focus on changes, and so what you love changes.
The job you have right now won’t always be the job you love. The state you’re in won’t always be where you are. The friends you have won’t always be in the same place they’ve always been. You are not one set of characteristics – you are ever-changing. Becoming more and more different from every memory life gathers for you.
Remember, friends, not to cling so tightly to what the world has defined you as. After all, you can always reinvent yourself.
What do you think about the cliche of “being yourself”? What do you think you need to do to “find yourself”?