Caution: Why “Be Yourself” Is Bad Advice If Not Taken Properly

by Mikey B

coo kid shadesI was in the lineup for attendance call a few days into the first week of grade 5. My bag was with me, messy but all things were accounted for. In between the first few last names starting with “A” I caught myself looking at the back of my peer’s abnormally dark head through the tinted lenses of my new sunglasses. They were gifted to me from the gent that my mother was dating at the time. They followed the contours of my head perfectly and reflected enough light that no one could see my eyes. I felt like the epitome of grade 5 cool.

A few seconds later I looked behind me to find the one guy in class that I hated the most who also happened to be the most popular. “Why are you wearing those?” he asked with a half grin implying the obviousness that they were unnecessary. “That’s stupid to wear sunglasses if the sun is not out.” My self-esteem was already low and in an instant I went from “LL Cool J” to “LL Cool not” as the crushing blow was delivered. I slipped my shades off and quietly placed them in my backpack. Upon telling the story to my mom’s gent, I told him that I had continued to wear them regardless of the guy had said.

The reality was that I was too scared to tell him I had conformed to someone else’s opinion and was embarrassed to share the truth with him from fear of losing his approval. “That’s good,” he told me with a smile on his face. “Be yourself, that’s all you ever need to do,” he said with his hand on my shoulder. Those words sealed the casket of any positive emotions now passed away.

Looking back now I know it was wrong to let the guy tell me what to wear and what to not. Of course it is silly to wear sunglasses during a day without sunlight, but what the hell! Sometimes you just need to do the things that make you feel a little bit better about yourself. If that means wearing sunglasses during an inappropriate time, then wear them!

Be Effective With The Advice You Give

Studying Stephen Covey taught me one thing beyond all the rest: be effective at whatever you do.

This is especially critical with so much advice being thrown around in the self-development community.

Coaching guys & girls in our Mentorship Program has allowed me to see certain patterns of behavior in people’s development and how well they take the advice of others. Of course when you’re going over a topic like the “relationship with oneself” I often hear frustrated symptoms of the “be yourself” advice.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that no matter how many times you hear or say it, it does not become anymore effective at teaching yourself to come into your own or how to be more confident… if you have the wrong frame of mind.

“Be yourself” is one of the most powerful realizations that you can have as a growing individual.

“Be yourself” ranks 10/10 on the importance scale and 1/10 on the effective advice scale.

Question: Why is this not an effective way of helping someone you care about?

Answer: Because if one does not know themselves, how are they supposed to “be themselves?”

Know That Being Yourself Is The Answer

The only reason I was able to overcome my insecurities and lack of confidence was the burning desire to improve and fix what had been broken internally. On my search I have heard “be yourself” more times then you can shake a stick at. Each time I knew it was true; I just couldn’t connect myself to the statement and internalize it.

Even thought I have heard “be yourself” in its many forms, I know that the only reason I am able to learn from it is because I know it to be true. Each time I hear it instead of letting it frustrate me I let it nudge me one step closer to internalizing it. One of my favorite writers Earl Nightingale said; “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Instead of allowing that advice to rot my mind, I allow it to power my personal growth.

“Be yourself” is a piece of advice you’ll never stop hearing about, so we need to learn how to utilize it properly.

Here are 3 ways to learn more about yourself:

  1. Learn the power of vulnerability. Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the key to true self-esteem. By being vulnerable and embracing who we are, we avoid destructive behaviors found within shame. Vulnerability is key if we are going to “be ourselves”. Watch this amazing video on the concept.
  2. Understand your values and priorities. Take 5 minutes to write down the 5-10 most important things to you right now at this point in your life. Once you have your list, rate each one to establish a priority.
  3. Create a vision for yourself. A vision will help your sense of identity and give your life direction.

If you can learn that being yourself is the answer you are searching for, and you can slowly get closer to that reality, you will be able to take those once frustrating comments and use them to fuel your success.

By the way… applications for our Mentorship Coaching program will be closing soon. There are a limited number of spots left, so if you want to accelerate your success in implementing the strategies of Social Dynamics to live a more badass life, apply today.

About Mikey B
Mikey B is soul bound to the journey of growth. His genuine intent to better the world drives every movement, choice, and solution that Mikey B comes up with. Backed by a large heart, he has no plans to ever give up on himself, his students or the new experiences in his life.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Gregg Boquiren November 22, 2012 at 11:17 pm

It’s really true.
One time, i told my friend that “I don’t care about what people say about me as long as I don’t hurt hem.” But he replied that, “In that way of thinking, you end up hurting yourself.”

I believe that you have to doubt what other people say about you. Don’t believe it as if it’s a 100% truth yet use it constructively to improve whatever flaw you have. Use it to grow.

With this quote “Instead of allowing that advice to rot my mind, I allow it to power my personal growth.”

I do agree.

Very Nice Article. It gives me the reason to be confident with myself in a higher level. 🙂

Cam November 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

@ Kevin – I really like your friends response! I also love the quote you shared, thank you!

Izzy December 1, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Yo Mikey I dig this man.

I read and/or heard “be yourself” at minimum a bazillion times. As you did such a great job pointing out this is the answer but not the process.

I believe personal development is the answer to this. It’s interesting to me, that there i a resistance from many people about learning from themselves. The irony is that if we studied ourselves through personal development with the same tenacity of trying to become a doctor we could become truly exceptional people.

But most people do not see it this way.

Great starting points to further explore ourselves :). – I would also add “Try new activities that make you uncomfortable.” When we are in situations that challenge us we learn a lot about ourselves.

Mikey B December 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm

@Kevin – I think that one of the things that I have struggled with is being perfect and always trying to avoid stepping on other peoples shoes. I believe that it is 100% acceptable to not agree with someone and still have a positive relationship with that person. Everyone is rough around the edges, those of us that can admit and accept that, seem to carry more confidence and effectiveness with others because we are more effective at taking care of ourselves 🙂

Thanks for the comment!

@Cam – Agreed 🙂

@Izzy – Great comment!

I believe that every experience we go through can be something that we learn from. That doesn’t matter if you are becoming a doctor or slinging tires at a shop. Everywhere we look we are surrounded by people and those people serve as mirrors for us to learn from. I think if we can merge what were interested in and what we believe I agree that we can become truly exceptional people.

The logical progression of that road would be doing things that make you uncomfortable. However the trick is not to do many things that make you uncomfortable, rather do things that you believe in regardless of how uncomfortable you feel.

Thanks for the comment. Love your perspective.

Cam December 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Great insight guys 🙂

Amit Amin January 26, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I like.

From how I’ve seen ‘be yourself’ applied, I think “and 1/10 on the effective advice scale,” might be an understatement. All too often, people use this advice as a means to cope and stop moving forward.

Cam January 29, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Hey Amit. Thanks for commenting! I’m off to check out your site now. 🙂

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