Why “Being Yourself” is Actually Good Advice

I’ll be honest. I’ve always hated the advice, “Be yourself.”

Before a big speech or presentation or job interview, the last words echoing in your head are usually, “Be yourself.”

(Not so much if you’re about to act in a play. Then you don’t want to take that advice.)

But I always wanted something more from my supporters, like some grand philosophical entreaty from the Greek gods.

But I was always left with, “Just be yourself.” And why did I hate that? Because honestly, I’ve always kind of hated myself.

I hated my voice, my cereal gut, my bald spot. I’ve had some serious insecurities. So much so that not too long ago I deliberately lowered my voice to sound more like Bear from Armageddon. 

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As a result, a supervisor at work repeatedly asked if I was okay and said that I sounded like I just heard the truth about Santa Claus. After a week my wife lost it and told me to stop and that it’s annoying.

Recently my best friend wrote me something which kind of took me back. He spoke about how I have this gift of storytelling and evoking emotion in people when I speak. The truth is, the information I deliver may be utter bullshit, but I have this Steve-Jobs ability to make people feel, despite how annoying I think my voice is. My friend ended on this note:

And so, my advice to you is to learn to open up. Tap in to that inner place in your heart that is hidden from everyone else. Let the darkness see the light. For it is when we are most vulnerable and raw that we can truly impact the emotions of others. Because…you can actually influence others to be on your side. Storytelling is a way to relate to others and a way for them to relate to you. It’s a way for us to feel human. And before long, we find out that we all have similar journeys and experiences and that, despite what we may think, we aren’t in it alone after all. 

So yeah, I might get plugs when I hit the jackpot, and I can promise myself for the millionth time that I’m going to stop eating cereal and lose weight, and I can change my voice to sound like the Green Giant, but none of that will replace my skill of changing opinions through my orating, influencing ideas, and guiding peoples’ emotions like a crossing guard.

So when people tell you to be yourself, tap into your strengths. They’re not saying to lift your shirt and expose your fat, or to point to your twitching eye, or to walk around with a sign over your head saying, “ACCIDENTAL SLOB,” or “SUCKY CONVERSATIONALIST.”

They’re saying to be the best things about yourself. BE that confident speaker. BE that wonderful artist. Let your voice ring through the concert hall. Let your fingers fly across that piano.

Here’s the thing. We all have insecurities. They’re about 60% of who we are. Our confidence ranges from about 5-10%. The other stuff is just what we’re okay with.

When you’re told to be yourself, they mean to check the 60% at the door. Go in there and inflate your 5-10% to 70%, because now you’ve got a 60% gap to fill. If you’re awkward talking to people, capitalize on it. Point out that you’re awkward, be comfortable enough to joke about it, but make sure that what you have to say is going to knock their socks off.

Think about why your friends are your friends. They’re not friends with you because of your thin hair or your personal hygiene or because you have to drop a deuce  every half an hour. They’re friends with you in spite of those things. They’re friends with you because they love the 5-10% of what you’re so often trying to bury underneath your 60%.

That 5-10% of awesomeness is what draws people to you. It’s what gets you ahead.

And it’s what you need to focus on expanding and bringing to the forefront. No one cares that I’m balding, even though I do. But if I can forget about it and check it at the door, I then can make room to be more of my awesome self instead of my insecure self.

So today, go out there and be yourself. Really dig into that 5-10% you’ve been hiding from everyone and just let it out, and then you’ll find that you’re not as awful as you once thought. Because, as my friend said, we’re really just all the same.

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