Let me ask you a question. How well do you know yourself?
Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter how good your self-awareness is. You might know yourself, but you’re not being yourself.
Does that sound familiar?
Here are a few more questions for you:
- Are you the same person at work and at home?
- Are you the same person when you’re with your friends and with your spouse?
- Do you feel like you’re forced to behave differently in some situations?
Often, the answer is no to the first two questions, and yes to the last one. The reason is that we somehow feel we have to be different people in different situations. But that’s a lie.
Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best:
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Emerson’s quote is still as current as can be. We really live in a world that tries to turn you into something you’re not. There are so many standards about the way you should look, talk, and behave.
Don’t try to change yourself.
We often find ourselves in situations where we feel we don’t belong. Maybe you feel like an outsider at work, at school, at your in-laws, or even at home.
Now, I don’t believe in the whole, “you don’t get me,” thing. Too often people just try to rebel and say that other people don’t get them. That’s either pretentious or childish.
However, I do believe in one simple thing: Never apologize for who you are.
It has nothing to do with being rebellious or an outcast. It just has to do with being you. And sometimes, you just can’t be yourself. In those cases, it’s time to get out. There’s no other solution.
“Why not improve your weaknesses?”
I used to believe that you should improve your weaknesses. Look, you hear it all the time. At school, work, and even in your relationships.
Somehow, we believe that we should get better at the things we suck at.
But who says your weaknesses are actually weaknesses? Who gets to decide?
It’s all about fit. Maybe your skillset doesn’t fit with a certain company or industry. Does that mean you suck as an individual? Of course not!
Focusing on weaknesses is a story that society has made up. It’s particularly made up by business people. They say, “you just have to adjust to the company culture.”
Really? Do I have to adjust to complaining, backstabbing, and office politics? If that’s not your thing, don’t adjust.
Peter Drucker said it best in Managing Oneself:
“The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself — you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform.”
Don’t change. Improve your strengths.
Who do you NOT want to be?
The whole “do not try to change yourself” idea took me many years to apply in my life.
In the past, I would get jobs at companies with shitty cultures. I would also go for “drinks” with dudes who only talked about cars, flats, football, and random hookups.
But these days I just don’t put myself in those situations anymore. I don’t work for or with stuck-up people. I don’t hang out with judgemental people, or people who are shallow.
About that, Robert Greene, the author of Mastery, says:
“The more clearly you recognize who you do not want to be, then, the clearer your sense of identity and purpose will be.”
And that’s why I’m myself all the time — I know who I don’t want to be.
Take a stand. Have the courage to say, “I believe in...” And stand by your principles. That’s the true lesson here.
You can’t be liked by everyone in the world. If people don’t like you: So be it. It’s a price I’m happy to pay as long as I can be myself.
In fact, I’ll pay any price to stay true to character. Because that’s one of the few things in life that’s really worth it.