How to be yourself
I’ll figure it out eventually… or die trying
I’ve been trying to be more true to myself lately. It’s an ongoing thing I’ve been working on for say — half of my life — but in the past few years I’ve really taken it on seriously. Partly because it feels horrible NOT being true to myself.
Middle school, high school, college — all fucking terrible. And not just because teenagers are cruel bastards to each other (they are), but also because I was a cruel bastard to myself. Everyone was self-conscious, unsure, anxious and worried about fitting in during those years, but I took all that fear and uncertainty and turned it inward where it festered into a monster of self-loathing.
I held back so much of myself and wound up doing too many things that not only weren’t me, but that just plain sucked. Like any teenager/human being, I just wanted to fit in. I already felt like I had the weirdo deck stacked against me, so why make it any harder on myself? I basically steamrolled some of the best parts of my personality, for the better part of a decade, because I was afraid of what being authentic meant. Now I’m undoing all the unnecessary damage I did to myself. It’s hard enough going through puberty as it is. There’s no need to crucify your own self esteem while you’re at it.
Now that I’m 30-years-old and in grad school, I’m finding that the weird little idiosyncrasies that I would have covered up and buried deep down, even just a few years ago, are the things that make me interesting. To no one’s surprise but my own, people think I’m pretty okay and actually invite me to things. These are people that actually know the truth about me: that I really like collecting random trivia facts, that I love sleeping in and need like 12 hours of sleep a day to feel human, that I threw up on an elephant once, that I buy almost all of my clothes from South Korea, and I drink coffee like a fiend.
No one seems to care that I like to spend my evenings reading about Russian criminal tattoos and analyzing rap lyrics while eating Filipino comfort food. No one seems bothered that I don’t drink alcohol because reasons — I still got invited to go on the party bus! I think people actually like me — for me. And you’d better believe that feels better than a hundred invitations to parties where you don’t know anyone, or awkward happy hours, or pity prom dates, or boring conversations with girls who are more popular than you.
Now I haven’t completely mastered this whole “being yourself” thing, but I’ve at least got it down conceptually. Being me is great. Being you is great. Remember that everyone is struggling too — even the most confident people still have to fake it sometimes. But confidence is sexy. Especially when it’s combined with authenticity. And if your authentic self is weird? All the better. Because what’s normal anyway?
Blending in is boring and sad and terrible. It may feel like the path of least resistance for awhile, but eventually, that awesome you that’s all bottled up inside is going to want to break out. So let it out. The sooner the better, because not only are you missing out on being more you, the world is missing out on you too.
Everyone, take note: the things that make you weird are also the things that make you great.