Why is it so Hard to Be Yourself?
How many times do we come across the phrase ‘Be Yourself’? Or maybe one that expresses the same thought: convincing you that there’s only one you, everybody else is taken… yada yada? The question arises, why? Why are we asked to do such a thing? And furthermore, why is it so difficult?!
It’s actually a secret that only a few know, but the answer lies within the question itself. A single word. A single indicator. “Yourself.” Think about it for a moment. What does this word even mean? Be myself? But… who am I? Do you see the issue here? Let me explain it a little.
The problem is not society. Yes, society is a major contributing factor in the story. It’s the society encouraging us to be ourselves, regardless of its methods and biases, but that debate is overdone. The problem is us.
We, as human beings, as intellectuals, as possessors of minds and souls and inherent instinct and feelings–hidden or apparent– tend to be like ‘construction workers’. In the most obvious way: we build, and we destroy. We have an ingrained sense of putting labels, and identifying things. The very first thing God taught us was the names of things. It’s human nature. So we try to do the same to ourselves… which eventually shoves us into this spiralling loop of an identity crisis.
We build a personality over time, but the more we age, the more confined we become to those personalities. We build this image of ourselves in our head; “this is who I am, and this is what I like”; this leads to us getting caught up in this no-win situation where we reject any change that comes our way.
We feel like hypocrites. Thinking that if we have established ourselves as anti-social and shy as children, we’re supposed to stay like that our whole life, or rather that we WILL stay like that, deeming ourselves incapable of change or growth. Even when you’ve unconsciously picked up the skills of speaking from the constant interactions you’re forced into due to your professors at university or your mother at family gatherings; you chat all those people up quite easily, maybe with the least interest, but, at the end of the day, you socialized, and you forgot your shyness for a moment or two. However, ironically before going to bed you sing yourself to sleep with the lullaby of you being an anti-social person.
There was a Greek historian who went by the name of Plutarch. Look him up. He talked about the persistence of identity. Are we who we are today? Or who we were a few years ago? He used a ship to demonstrate this paradox. If a piece of the ship was damaged and replaced with an identical but stronger piece every single time it got damaged; would it still be the same ship over the years? That is to say that with time, each and every piece had been replaced with a newer, updated piece, that technically speaking; it was built of entirely different parts. Was this new ship the same as the old one?
We’ve learned and improved, to make who we are right now. So are we the same people we were 10 years ago? How do we identify ourselves? What legacies do we keep, which ones do we drop? Are we still that kid who wet their bed? This dilemma is what locks us in anguish. How can we be ourselves, if we don’t even know who we are!
And so people of the world, it’s not society as a whole, but you as a singular who thinks too much about self. You don’t need a label. Be whatever you want to be and do whatever you believe in. Because ultimately, we all live in this confusing paradox called identity, which was never something constant to begin with.