Be Yourself

“Be yourself.”

We’ve all heard of that phrase before. Or at least a variation of it. When we were young, we heard it from Disney shows where profanity is magically never muttered. When we become old, we will hear it from a self-help book, with the obligatory Oprah’s preface full of praises. And when we are anywhere in between, we will probably hear it from our hipster friends, because they are just so cool. To these people, individuality is the most important thing in the world, and to sacrifice that for any reasons is akin to sinning.

And I am here to tell you that it is all bullshit.

Now upon reading that sentence, Disney, the self-help gurus, and the hipsters would no doubt gasp in horror and roll their eyes in contempt. Disney would first berate me for swearing. Then Hannah Montana would remind me that everyone is special and that you should never ever pretend to be someone you are not just to become one of the “popular” people (a fate worse than death, it would seem). But in real life, we don’t make friends with terrible people not because we wouldn’t “be ourselves,” but because they are terrible people. What if the lonely protagonist is a neo-Nazi and the “popular crowd” is the kittens club? Would Disney offer the same moral then? On the other hand, Oprah would shake her head, and say that unhappy people are unhappy because they are not being themselves. But what if we were the ones that caused our own unhappiness? Do we take responsibility for it, or are we exonerated? Finally, hipsters would interrupt rudely, yelling that we should “be ourselves” instead of being a sheep that only does what other people are doing. But what if the sheep is doing the right thing? Do we listen to their advice, or do we dye our fleece black and listen to bad music?

To be or not be ourselves, that is the question. Actually, this entire question can be rendered into a single word: change. Do we change and grow, or do we stagnate and sink? Mother Nature changes herself all the time. The leaves fall. A flower blooms. Young men grow older and become, dare I say it, bald. But all the changes occur for a good reason. Fallen leaves decompose to support trees. Flowers bloom to herald spring. Bald men become teachers to young men. Change is vital and necessary.

However, when we are being ourselves, we are not changing. We grasp for that every last bit of ourselves, unwilling to let go. Worse still, we begin to think that we are perfect, that we are somehow “special”, and that we are not required to change. “There must be a reason why we are this way,” we muse, and we begin to believe that any changes we make to ourselves are somehow “fake” and unauthentic. That it is shameful to admit that we are imperfect and that we make mistakes. When consequences of our mistakes catch up to us, we shrug them off as a facet of ourselves. When failures start to threaten us, we accept them. “I am just not good at this.” We give up, accepting the failure to be part of who we are, and merrily go on our way. We are locked within ourselves, forever trapped in a cage made out of our “self-worth.”

But then, other people begin to recognize our flaws, and they confront us over them. But our hubris blinds us. When friends offer constructive criticism, we immediately accuse them of not accepting us for who we are. When parents discipline us to get to work, we begrudge them for not forgiving the “littlest” of mistakes. “And what did they mean when they called me that? I am just being honest!” By being ourselves, we fail to see the existence of others. We place the utmost importance on our own wellbeing and satisfaction. People must accept us who we are, or they are the “popular” people. We fight and we altercate, and we become selfish creatures that are unwilling to compromise. It is as if we are giants walking among mortals.

But what do we do when failures shatter our illusions? What do we do when relationships become broken? And what do we do when reality comes knocking on our door?

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18 comments

  1. omg weichen! i love this. you’re awesome.

    here are just some nit-picking stuff:

    “To be or not be ourselves, that is the question. ”
    For this paragraph, i think you need more than the mother nature example of change.

    “Until other people begin to recognize our flaws, and they confront us over them. ”
    I don’t think this fragment works.

    “But what do we do when Failures destroy our illusions?”
    I don’t see the need for a capital F. And also for “Friendships”.

    “And what do we do when Reality comes knocking on our door?”
    Give one more sentence after to really “close” the essay.

    I see 2 arguments here. I’m not sure if hussey wants 3.

    1. Hussey wants us to have any number from 1 to 3 arguments. So I think I’m fine with that.

      I CAN’T FIND A LINE TO CLOSE IT! 😦

  2. I like the second half…..the first part not so much….

    First, you wrote something like “the disney”….sounds strange.

    And honestly, I have no idea what you’re arguing from the first part. I can’t find the topic sentence and how all the things you say interconnect. You wrote that you’re gonna tell me it’s bullshit….yet you’re not actually telling me why it’s bullshit. I also don’t understand why you bring up Disney with not swearing. I don’t really think it’s relevant to your argument and it doesn’t add anything.

    Sorry if it’s harsh but I think you need to consider this. I still love you weichen!

    1. The paragraph after “…bullshit” is the rebuttal section… I’m going to try to make it a little bit more coherent. 🙂

      The swearing sentence was there for humour. 😀 Since Disney shows have no swearing in it.

  3. Hey Weichen, I couldn’t help but notice this on my newsfeed.

    You raised some very good points but there’s one I want to address and that’s the paragraph starting with “However, when we are being ourselves, we are not changing.” I dont agree with the entire paragraph. Change is an inherent part of everyone and when we’re “being ourselves” we’re acting on and along with the change. The assertion that “Be yourself” leads to our arrogance (overconfidence) sounds a bit like slippery slope; you see plenty of teenage girls who clearly aren’t true to themselves and are still arrogant bitches (“we begin to think that we are perfect, that we are somehow “special”…”). Likewise I don’t think it leads to acceptance of failure (underconfidence).

    I think the context you are using “Be yourself” in is a very literal one, while I take it to be more like “Do whatever the fuck you want.” So if you want to dance in a Russian field with the long grass between your toes, do it. If you want to change the fact that you’re an asshole, do it. And if you want to accept failures…well do that too, but in all three instances you’re being yourself.

    1. I disagree with you on that we change regardless of our actions.

      When we are being ourselves, we are, in some ways, “holding on” to ourselves. We do not allow ourselves the possibility of change. In fact, we accept our failure AS part of ourselves. Sometimes we shouldn’t “do whatever the fuck we want,” simply because it is not a good thing.

      Likewise, when you are standing up to your “popular” peers, you are not doing so for the sake of “being yourself.” You are doing so because the popular people are jerks. The point I am making is that people should do the right thing, and not the thing that they think is “being themselves.”

    1. Chun, the title came from Hamlet, from where I also borrowed the sentence “to be or not to be…” But I will definitely think about the title. Thanks. 😀

      1. uhhh i mean like it doesn’t make grammatical sense to me actually : S it just sounds like ur a wannabe shakespear and if it is wrong then it might have some bad influence
        i’ve never read hamlet though, so if you’ve basically quoted hamlet , then i think it’s brilliant

  4. This makes me lol. I used to have great aspirations in English. Yeah, then Hussey came along, and I learned to write for someone. That’s life.

    “The point I am making is that people should do the right thing, and not the thing that they think is “being themselves.” ”

    The flaw in your reasoning is that what one person believes is “the right thing” is BECAUSE of who they are. Perhaps you’re confusing “being yourself” with a false, pretentious search for identity (occupation LOL). But what is happening whenever you (the universal ‘you’) think something is the right thing to do is that you are drawing upon your experiences and morals to make a judgment call, and that’s being yourself.

    You (as a person) contradict yourself by being yourself. Think about it a little bit more.

    Also, “When we are being ourselves, we are, in some ways, “holding on” to ourselves.” I find that we hold onto parts of our essence precisely because we find them valuable and important to us. Change is a way to grow in ourselves, but I find that searching for and finding those things that are important to us is just as important a way to grow as a person and individual.

    Perhaps you need to define “being yourself” a little more clearly for yourself.

    A few grammatical errors here and there, but for the most part well-written SDM-wise.

    Ana’s right; Hussey loves the snappy one-liner endings. More so if they’re a kind of “maybe what if” line.

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