Unless, of course, you’re perfect!
People always say, “Just be yourself” as if it is a positive message. Don’t get me wrong, the intention is good, but really what they should be saying is, “Be who you want to be”
If I were to be myself, then I’d be a bad person. I have a good heart, but my mind has been warped by my childhood. To be blunt, I’ve seen some shit. Those experience have shaped my thoughts, and my tolerance for wrong doing is pretty high. It took work, and continues to take work, to strive to be a better person. How do I do it? I try to be more like people that I want to be like.
It doesn’t have to be the entirety of a person, nor does it have to be a real one. I see qualities in characters that I admire. It can be a phrase, a look, a walk, a tone, or a genuine sincerity. My self had always been shy, meek, not confident, ashamed, angry, wanting to lash out at others for a life I couldn’t understand. I hated myself, every fiber of my being.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I learned how to work on me. I started small, with one new quality that I wanted to have. It started with the word “well.”
I worked at Walgreens, in the photo department, and I rarely spoke to customers. This was before the electronic kiosks and digital printers, so I was developing the film in this closet of a “dark room” we had. It only had space for my head and arms to fit, the rest of my body stood outside of it. I remember reading a quote somewhere that said something along of lines of, “When I ask ‘how are you?’ and you say “good” I cringe. Superman does good, you are well.”
I thought about that for days. Then I looked up the use of the word “well,” and sure enough, when asking someone “How are you?” it is in reference to health. So, back in the day, people would respond with how they are feeling, their overall health being well. Responding with “Good” would be appropriate if I were asking you which team you were on in the battle between Good and Evil. Obviously, things change over time and “Good” is a completely acceptable answer today, but I wanted to be different.
Whenever I would have to fill in for a cashier, I would practice on the customers. I slipped many times and said, “Good” but I kept my eye on the prize. Eventually, it became habit, and “well” was my automatic response. I couldn’t believe how many people noticed. Most people didn’t, or didn’t acknowledge it, but many people did. They’d say, “You don’t hear that often, it is usually just ‘good.'”
I would give them a brief explanation of what I learned about “How are you” meaning your health, and some would say that they’d like to practice that response too. I felt genuinely uplifted every time after one of these short exchanges. That was something new about me that I liked. It was one of the only things I liked about myself at that time. But it was something to build off of.
That was nearly a decade ago, and I have been adding new qualities that I want to my character ever since. Today, I am a person that I like being. I have learned to love the things that I can’t change, like some of my physical features, but I’ve become in control of the things that I can. Every day I practice being a better version of me. I’m not perfect, and I’ll never be perfect, but I strive for it each day.
I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, and I’ll be damned if I am the same person 10 years from now. Being yourself is stagnant. We should be in a constant state of growth. Sometimes that means taking a step back to move forward. Like a tree shedding its leaves in the winter so that it can bloom in the spring.
So, the next time someone tells you to just be yourself, call them a hater and shine right passed them! You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
I’m here to tell you, don’t be you