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“Be yourself” is terrible advice

McKinley Valentine — 1 min read
“Be yourself” is terrible advice
Photo by Rishabh Dharmani / Unsplash

I love this piece - the story of someone who thought of themselves as a provocateur who was just being their authentic self, and then realised they were just being an asshole and should stop it.

I especially like this:

"Trying to be authentic did not reveal an immutable self so much as produce one".

Argument 1 is that if your authentic self is shitty then you should change. But Argument 2 is a thing I have super strong feelings about - this misguided idea that your first reaction is somehow a more authentic one than your slow, post-processing decision about how to act.

If someone annoys me and my first reaction is to snap at them, but instead I take a breath and respond calmly, that's not "being fake". My more deliberate, second-or-third reaction (generally kinder) self is just as authentic as my instant reaction self.

And you can be influenced by others while still being totally authentic: the self that has enormous respect for my partner's brain, and so seeks his input on decisions - that's me! That's a choice I made and keep making!

The self that cares what other people think because you're not a sociopath and you don't want to hurt people is authentic too.

(Your first reaction is you too - they're all you - but you get to decide which of the yous gets to actually interact with the world)

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #67 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceEQ & Interpersonal


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