Hana Shafi "Be Yourself"—Whatever That Is...

“Just be yourself.”

Everyone says it like it’s so obvious. Even I say it now. Just be yourself. What the hell does that even mean? What does being yourself actually entail? I’m not trying to get all philosophical on your ass, but the truth is, for some people, being themselves can be difficult and doesn’t come as naturally as you would assume.

Because to me, truly being myself means falling up the stairs a few times a day (yes, UP the stairs), laughing by myself in public places (because you really can’t stop your brain from just thinking of the funniest shit ever at the worst moments) and being that person who has suddenly just shared too much information. And I suppose the people in our lives who love us, clumsiness and strange idiosyncrasies aside, are the ones who we should value the most and dedicate most of our time too.

But let’s be real here, remaining in that comfortable bubble of friends who know you in and out is not a 24/7 arrangement (and really shouldn’t be, because that would get horribly boring). And the only times people ever advise that you just “be yourself” are when you do have to venture outside your group of equally dysfunctional buddies and interact with the intimidating world of seemingly more-charming-and-awesome-than-you strangers. It makes it worse when said strangers turn out to be hot as hell and now you’re all tingly and warm and fidgety. 

So now what? Are we now expected to somehow get rid of all social anxiety and inhibitions and show these new lovely people around us our true fucked-up selves? I think it’s more complicated than that. I think that “being yourself” is not just one state, but a combination of several different selves like different outfits you pick for each occasion. This is not to be confused with dressing yourself up as someone you’re not and masking every facet of your personality. What it means is simply that being ourselves varies based on who we’re around, but doesn’t make it any less genuine. We’re humans and we adapt to our surroundings, which sometimes means that no, you may not be at that point of intimacy with these new people that you can tell them that really messed up sex dream you had last night, even if that’s a really “you” kind of thing to do. 

As confusing as this sounds, be whichever self you feel most comfortable being in those situations because chances are, nervously going over in your head how you need to seem relaxed or comfortable or sexy usually ends up backfiring. 

Suddenly, all this talk about who we are and which part of our self we show is making me question my existence and causing my foot to fall asleep. If only “be whichever part of you you’re most comfortable with showing to new people” was as catchy as “be yourself.” 

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