The Myth of “Just be yourself”

Before you can begin mastering this art of playing the game and before you can begin making the necessary changes to become that person whom other desire you must be willing to admit that you need to change. How many times have you heard that feel good statement “just be yourself”?

I recall expressing relationship trouble with a friend once and he shared some advice for a while and then stopped. “You know what I’ve really found to be the most effective in getting a girl? Just be yourself. They will naturally come to you.” What will naturally come to you? Girls attracted to insecure guys? Desperate girls who just want a husband. Sounds almost like the Statue of Liberty “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Just let me be myself and you can be yourself!”

Honestly though, don’t we always say the definition of insanity is continually trying the same thing and expecting different results? What I’m saying is this, if you have tried your hand at dating and found that you are not getting what you want, if you have been frustrated with the way life is playing out, and yet you still want to just be yourself, than I can’t help you. All the advice I can give you is not going mean anything. So you might as well stop reading here and find something else.

This may seem to contradict my last post where I mentioned that inner desire to completely expose ourselves faults and all to one person and feel fully confident that they will not use that knowledge against us. But first you have to get to that place. Before you can have that deep intimate relationship that you desire (or even a brief fling if that’s what you’re into) you have to get there. You have to demonstrate value. You have to display confidence, and you just may have to change some core value and habits that . . . well may mean you can’t be yourself anymore.

The idea of just being yourself seems to be a misplaced idea that we are at our core one particular person whom we can mask or hide but always remains constant. The theory is that we won’t actually be happy unless we stay true to this inner self because that self will eventually come out and cry betrayal when we have forgotten to please it.

However, both scientific and experiential knowledge would seem to argue otherwise. For example, in his book outliers Malcolm Gladwell clearly illustrates how generational habits and cultural norms often shape people into who they are. In other words the reason some cultures are exceptionally astute at math may have more to do with upbringing and culture than with brain cells and an inner self.

Gladwell illustrates that these culturally made habits can often be detrimental. In the South Korean cultural one learned relational habit is the idea of mitigating to higher authority. Unfortunately this can often cause devastating effects in risky flying situations where engineers who sense danger feel they cannot authoritatively address their pilot who is deemed above them in social rank. Thus the dire situation is not properly addressed and the aircraft and its passengers are risk for crashing. After a decade of unnecessary accidents the South Korean airline realized this cultural trait was harmful to both customers and their business reputation. So the company retrained their staff to think outside the bounds of culture and assert themselves when necessary.

Similarly, James Collins in his book Good to Great illustrates how many companies that he studied which went from running a decent business to becoming an enduring great companies often had to completely change who they were, even their core products. And yet those changes are what made them great.

My point is this. Sometimes to become the best you will have to change the good person who you are. It takes a proud person to claim that by just being himself he can get the relationship of his dreams. And it takes a lazy woman who thinks that prince charming will ride up on his white horse simply because of her natural charm and grace. We’re not born masters we must become them. We weren’t created great communicators and lovers we must develop these skills.

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