How many times do you hear the advice, “Just be yourself” uttered as if it’s a magical solution to all social woes? If I could be given a pound every time I hear or see that advice doled out to a Fresher…
How can I succeed socially? What do I need to do to fit in? “Just be yourself” is the key, apparently.
In a way the advice is good, but it’s pretty meaningless in isolation. People don’t act the same in front of everyone, so does that mean we don’t practice the advice? Can you be anything but yourself? Are you expected to become a two-dimensional character with only one persona?
A better way to think of the advice “Just be yourself” is this:
To be genuine is to do the things you believe in and want to be accepted for. There’s no need to pretend that you like something you don’t. You don’t have to try and act tough, or loud, or quiet, if that isn’t how you want to act. At university, anyone who won’t accept you as a person with a unique personality is someone not worth your time.
So it is wise to be yourself, but you have to understand what being yourself truly means. You don’t act the same way in a study group as you would with a family member. Likewise, you wouldn’t speak to most lecturers the same way you’d speak to your best mate.
And that’s how it should be. Altering your actions between different people doesn’t mean you’re rude to one lot and not the other. It doesn’t mean you tell one person what you believe in and then tell someone else that you believe the exact opposite. It’s about relating to others with a genuine approach.
Firstly, how can you be genuine?
- Don’t worry about what other people think – Respect the opinions of others, but don’t let them push you in a different direction if you don’t agree;
- Don’t compare yourself to other people – It’s difficult enough understanding how you’ve reached your own position in life, so how could you work out anyone else’s? Someone else may look more successful than you, but they may have problems you can’t even imagine. And there are probably people out there who think you’ve got it made, when they don’t know the half of it. Comparisons are pointless, because you don’t have all the information;
- Listen to yourself – Be positive about your likes and dislikes. Work out what interests you and what makes you happy to wake up every morning. It all goes toward your individual personality. You don’t have to be or do anything you don’t want to. So listen to what you love and enjoy each day striving for more of those things;
- Accept when you’re wrong – Nobody is perfect, so take the rough with the smooth;
- Be open – You don’t have to tell everyone every last detail about your life. There are people who, when I met them for the first time, decided to tell me all sorts of private (and sometimes, upsetting) detail of their life so far. That’s not the point of being open. An open attitude is when you don’t hide behind a façade, when you don’t hold back from what you enjoy.
A genuine personality takes the situation in front of them, stays constant in what they believe, states their true opinions, and gives the same respect to everyone, but does this in varying ways. The trick is having the confidence to interact with many different people in ways that they can relate to, while you maintain your own personal views.
Which brings us to the second question. How do you relate to others?
- Listen – People like to talk about themselves and they like to answer questions. So stop talking so much, start listening and ask a few questions. This alone is a big deal.
- Respect – Not everybody is like you. It’s fine to respectfully disagree with another person’s views. Respect helps relations. You don’t need to dismiss someone because they don’t agree with you. And vice versa!
- Be humble – Modesty and courtesy can go a long way. Whether you’re crazy and loud, or quiet and reserved, be who you want so long as you accept that others can be too. There’s no need to compete or outshine others. If others want to compete, let them do that while you go elsewhere to have some proper fun.
Don’t hold back. Have the strength to be genuine and situations are easier to deal with, not more difficult. Acceptance comes more freely when you’re happy to fight your corner.