Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Being Yourself

Collage by Beth Hoeckel, text inserted by me

Whenever I watch a movie or read a book where the main character moves to a new place or goes to a new school, I always think to myself about how that would be a good thing if it happened to me. While the character onscreen mopes around, I ponder the possibilities I would encounter in that situation. Going somewhere where no one already knows you is a strange freedom in itself. You may find that suddenly you are free to reinvent yourself and be whoever you previously yearned to be. It doesn't mater how far-removed and improved your new persona is from your old one, because the people you meet have no knowledge of your past to compare it to. 
So, after considering all this, it is with great excitement that I realize that in about one week, I will be heading off to the Academy of Art, where I can become whoever I want, because no one knows me!
Now I have realized I need to consider some things before beginning any transformation, which is why I decided to write this post. Being yourself is a common dilemma, and this is my attempt to figure it out (in a handy Q&A format!).

What does "Being Yourself" even mean?

   A lot of the time, adults give teenagers the sage advice to "Be yourself.", and while this is a smart decision to make, it's often hard for teenagers to divine exactly who "yourself" is. As we grow, our identities are always changing, so pinning down who we are at any moment is kind of a challenge. I think this is why, in order to take the advice and be ourselves, we have to piece together who we are along the way, inventing and filling in the blanks. But this is great, because it means you can basically make all the qualities that you aspire to have a part of yourself. But in order to truly "be yourself" you must show the world the new self you have constructed. I think that is also a really important part what of being yourself means, you have to be unafraid of how others will judge you and just be who you are!

How can I be myself? 

   Truly being yourself takes both courage and knowledge of who you are/who you want to be. Let's talk about the second part first. In order to know who you are or who you want to be, you have to take some time to figure those things. I recommend sitting down with a journal and writing out qualities you admire in others. Those qualities essentially represent what you want to become. Now write all the positive qualities you possess already. Some qualities will show up on both lists, and that is great! Really think about how you want the world to see you. After you have reflected on this and gained some knowledge, it's time to bring courage into play. For example, if one quality that shows up on your list is the ability to wear whatever you want fearlessly, now you know that you want to dress fearlessly, and you can employ your courage to make that a reality, as you show the world who you really are, also known as being yourself (are you noticing the patterns here?). If you want to be the person who treats everyone kindly, it takes courage to do so, but when you do, you come closer to really being yourself. And even if you feel you do not have courage, there is some deep inside. But you can only discover it there if you use it first. 

Why should I be myself? 

    In context this may seem like a silly question, but many people who struggle with truly being themselves are questioning why they shouldn't hide from the world. Here is why you should be yourself: Being yourself is being free. Free from the opinions and judgements of others, free from fear of these judgements, free from second-guessing yourself, free from having to hide any part of who you are. Doesn't that sound good? Of course it does!

When can I start?

   Today! Although really, being yourself isn't just like turing on the lights. Some parts of your public persona probably already fit with who you truly are inside. Other parts may not. This is fine, and if you can make more of an effort to continue to be yourself, you will make progress. I know that I am taking my opportunity to be who I am when I go to AAU next week, to a new place where no one knows me. There, I can test out what it's like to truly be myself. I hope that you find there are opportunities in your life where you can choose to really be yourself as well. 

More to See

For those of you who would like to read up on the knowledge aspect of being yourself, you can look at this post I wrote about female role models, paying special attention to the Choosing Your Role Models

Now go forth, and be free. 
Be yourself. 


  1. Madeleine, this is a lovely post! I enjoyed reading every of your thoughts and I must say that's exactly what I think. But to be honest, it's really difficult to find out who "yourself" is. I'm trying to find out everyday (this may sound weird) but I still can't define myself clearly. But I'm just 16 and I've enough time to figure this out right? So I hope you'll have a great start at AAU next week :-)

  2. Being yourself is definetly something ALL people struggle with. Thank you for sharing this!


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