When you hear a damn good quotation, like the title of this blog post, the likelihood is quite high of it having been written by Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. Or Oscar Wilde. He was an Irish writer, poet and playwright and had a gift of saying the profound in a concise and witty way. But surely being yourself is as easy and natural as…. well, just being yourself?
Yet, how often do we behave in incongruous ways? To please someone else, to prove we are smart, to get a result, to be seen to say ‘the right thing’, to be seen to do ‘the right thing’, to avoid criticism, to fit in, to follow the crowd.
Like the donkey in the lion’s skin from Aesop’s fables, are we at times pretending to be someone or something we are not?
What’s it like to not be yourself? Well, it can mean saying yes when we really want to say no. Or saying no when we really want to say yes. It can mean behaving in a way which conflicts with our values. It can drive low self-esteem and that can make us feel miserable.
So what’s it like to be yourself? Only you know the answer to that! But let me tell you about a client who took on a role as a leader reporting into a boss with a fearsome reputation. This position had seen a fairly frequent rate of turnover as the boss operated a culture of fear based on failure and firing.
Before her first meeting with him, we spent time discussing potential scenarios, to find an approach that allowed her to act in a way that was true to herself. At the meeting, her boss flew into a rage at the sales figures and demanded that she account for herself and her part of the business. How did she react? Like so many before her, did she explain, apologise, justify, promise to do better, to change? Did she try to appease? No, she responded firmly and politely, but mostly firmly. She challenged back and told him what she needed, what she wanted, in order to meet the goals. She asked for support, time and resources. She also established some principles of behaviour between them and stressed how she’d like them to work together. In being refreshingly honest with him, something he’d rarely, if ever, experienced before, she totally avoided behaviours that would enable him to revert to angry type. She got everything she needed, including respect. That she was not desperate to impress freed her, in her mind. It freed her up to be herself.
Here’s 5 things to consider if you’d like to ‘Be Yourself’ more often:
Value your value:
Cut out or replace the self-sabotaging self-talk or beliefs that can dominate when you try something different or something new. Listen to the ones that help you instead. Known as those ‘voices in our head’, they are the beliefs we hold about ourselves. Our beliefs are powerful. They are what help us to be good at what we do and who we are. Thing like we believe we can learn, be successful, have an interesting job, be a good friend, a compassionate leader. Our beliefs can also trip us up. They hold us back, make us afraid, and afraid to overcome the feeling of being afraid. Believe in your own value and value it. Value yourself.
Find your Flow:
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Hungarian psychology professor is known as the person behind the concept of ‘flow’. By that, he meant the mental state we achieve when we’re performing an activity and immersed in a feeling of focus, full involvement, and enjoyment and ease in whatever it is we are doing. That has always existed; he was the one to study it and label it.
To experience joy and ease, the opposite of misery and low self-esteem, is not to be sniffed at, right? If you want to truly ‘be yourself’, find out what creates flow for you and create even more opportunities to experience it. In this way, you’ll increase those moments of focus, full involvement, joy and ease.
Trust in trust:
Listen to yourself more often. Listen to your intuition. Bear Grylls has described the time how he’d had a niggling feeling about the ropes and the equipment during a climbing expedition. He didn’t listen carefully to his intuition, didn’t act on it and was injured by falling equipment: “I learned another valuable lesson that night: listen to the quiet voice inside. Intuition is the noise of the mind.” Trust yourself in other ways too: doubt and fear can sabotage our efforts before we even start. Trust yourself to know, to act, to achieve and to be…
Deepen your development:
Find out more about yourself. Explore your strengths and change beliefs and behaviours that hold you back from being yourself. If you shake off the shackles of who you think you’re meant to be, more of ‘you’ will emerge. So what if that’s the way you think you’re meant to be or do things? So what if that’s what was expected of you yesterday, last month, 10 years ago, a lifetime ago? When you are learning, growing and developing, you are open to change and finding out who you are and just who you can be
Connect with courage:
Sometimes when you become more yourself, others around you may react. They may not like this development, this change in you. Whilst we may have a responsibility towards others to understand, with empathy, how our behaviour influences them, we are not in charge of or responsible for others’ reactions. So go ahead and do what’s right for you without doing harm to others. The more likely reaction is one of receptiveness and encouragement. We’re attracted to people who are genuine and ‘being themselves’. And by the way, most people won’t even notice. There’s not a massive audience out there taking notes on all your behaviours. They’re a bit busy getting on with their lives and being themselves.