No Apologies—Being Serious about Being You
There is very little chance of my being anybody else.
Just be yourself.
This is advice we may get when we are children. It implies that if you just be yourself, people will see that you’re genuine and will like you. Parents often offer related encouragement, like “You’re a great person” or “You’re really funny.” But the main point is that you should be yourself regardless of your admirable qualities because ultimately, you can’t successfully be anyone you’re not.
When we’re born, we are truly ourselves. There is no purer version of ourselves we can be. When we’re tired, hungry, scared, angry, or happy, there is no filter between those feelings and our identity. When children grow up, they may start to experiment with different identities and personas. They notice the personalities of their friends, siblings, and parents and start to mimic some of their personality traits. As many people continue to grow up, gain confidence, and become comfortable in their own skin, they are able to truly understand themselves and who they are and embrace their identity.
Being Someone Else
One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead.
For many, the process of finding their true identity may take some time. When I was a young adult, I always tried to be “special.” I had a deathly fear of the ordinary, so I was always traveling down a path that would lead to something extraordinary (I still do, but it is much more genuine now). I wanted to be a professional baseball player, an astronaut, or a rock star—something that was bigger than life, something truly special. Those aspirations were not related to my own identity. I also tried to have bigger-than-life personality traits around people I wanted to impress (e.g., romantic interests). I tried to be very funny, smart, or adventurous. I am all of those things,of course (wink, wink), but I was desperate to make sure I was so funny and so smart that I’m sure I came off as forced or affected. I was trying to be someone I was not.
Eventually, I became comfortable in my own skin and in who I am—not just comfortable but also happy and excited. I’m still (as we all are) a work in progress. I try to make everyone happy, I try to be everything to everybody, I have trouble saying no to people, and I still go for the elusive “special,” but it’s a much more real desire now. It’s much more in tune with who I really am.
Embracing our identities also means finding confidence in how we interact with the world based on our identities. If we are truly able to do this, it will result in an extraordinary sense of freedom. We won’t have to second-guess what we say or the decisions we make. We will learn to trust our instincts. We will still make mistakes, but we will respond to those mistakes on their own merit rather than on a perceived consequence. For example, if we say something to someone and they react with anger or become upset, we don’t have to immediately apologize or assume we did something wrong.
We can (and should) assess our words and try to understand how they had the impact they had, but we shouldn’t immediately assume that we were wrong. We shouldn’t immediately beat ourselves up for saying the wrong thing.
Of course, we should be open to the fact that we may have been insensitive or incorrect or otherwise said something that shouldn’t have been said, and we should atone for whatever negative impact we had. We should also learn from the experience to avoid similar situations. But if we were acting in accordance with our true selves, we shouldn’t have any lingering regret, self-anger, or guilt. If we were acting based on who we genuinely are and it upset or angered someone, we should own it. We should feel confident in it. Yes, we should be sensitive to others’ feelings and treat them with respect and compassion, but we shouldn’t apologize for what we say or feel bad about it if it came from a genuine place and with positive intentions.
Not everyone has our same worldview, value system, and opinions, and that’s good. There will always be times when we speak across those elements. As long as we’re sensitive to those elements and cognizant of potential danger areas, it’s all good.
The Evolution of Who You Are
It’s also important to be open to your own evolution (see Evolve). At times, you may feel stagnant, feel as if there’s nothing new. But the fact is that every experience you have changes you. Most of these changes will be gradual, and you may not even notice, but the change is happening. With this change comes a change in our identity. As we observe ourselves—the way we think and the way we interact—we should note how those changes manifest. The more we know ourselves, the easier it will be to be confident and comfortable with who we are. As we embrace who we are, we should also embrace who we’re becoming.
Know who you are and be serious about being you.