So what is this common advice that I really can’t stand?
“Just be yourself.”
Your parents and friends mean well, as you do when you tell your friends the same thing. However, let’s think about this advice for a minute. Let me use this dialogue as an example.
You: “Mom, I’m really sad and frustrated that I can’t make friends in this new school.”
Mom: “Just be yourself, honey; you will make friends!”
Sure, you don’t want your mom to start lecturing you about how horribly awkward you are, but let’s think through this advice of “be yourself” for a few minutes.
YOU can’t make friends.
YOU need social help.
YOU are frustrated, sad, and lonely.
Instead of being “yourself,” it sounds to me like you need to move beyond “yourself,” at least at that particular moment.
Your mom may have your best interest in mind. She’s trying to affirm you are all right as you are. And, that is a good thing. However, the better option would be for your mom to empathize with you (try to understand where you are coming from and acknowledge your feelings), but also provide you with some tools to help you actually make friends.
Personally, I don’t want to “be myself,” if I am fundamentally unhappy with who I am. There was a time when I was 50 pounds heavier, shy, awkward, depressed, and lonely. I’m glad that I stopped “being myself” from that period.
“Just be yourself” encourages you to stay right where you are. If where you are is miserable, depressed, lonely, unhealthy, and unfulfilled then guess what? You probably want to be someone else. Since you can’t be someone else, what can you do?
Stop being yourself at that moment, and become your best self.
Doing this right is a two-step process:
1. Stop Hating Yourself
If you aren’t where you are, and you want to improve, that’s great. But, it doesn’t mean you need to shame or hate yourself. Acknowledge that you are valuable just because you are you. It sounds sappy, but if you hate yourself, you’ll never become your best self. It is like an artist hating the very paint and canvas he is using on his masterpiece. So, acknowledge that you are cool and worthy of respect from the start. Stop judging and shaming yourself and start you journey to a better place!
2. Focus on Making Slow and Positive Changes
After recognizing you have value and worth as a human being, now you can focus on becoming your best self.
The best methods of self-improvement are slow, positive (lead you to happy, safe, and healthy), and based on sound science. If you are looking for something that fits the bill, you should *cough cough* check out our Teen Popularity Handbook.
For example, you can work on your shyness, practice meeting new people, overcome your fear of talking in groups, lose a pound a week, start running a few miles each week, etc.
Whatever you choose, becoming your best self is fun, exciting, and also challenging, but it is a good challenging, because you will work hard, but see great results from working hard.
You may find that after a few months of working to be your best self, you’ll be glad you stopped using “be yourself” as an excuse, and instead put in a little extra effort.