14 votes

“Be yourself” is terrible advice

18 comments

  1. [12]
    modern_prometheus
    Link
    This piece of advice is only worth as much as the interpretation the recipient has of it, and that can vary wildly depending on who it is. It might be terrible advice for most people, this...

    This piece of advice is only worth as much as the interpretation the recipient has of it, and that can vary wildly depending on who it is. It might be terrible advice for most people, this reflects poorly on their conception of their self and on those who tout this piece of advice without reflecting on what it means. I think saying it's terrible is misleading, it is terrible to the extent it is misunderstood.

    6 votes
    1. [8]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Maybe it's good for some people and bad for others, depending on the situation, rather than all-purpose advice good for everyone? Mostly I think it's vague.

      Maybe it's good for some people and bad for others, depending on the situation, rather than all-purpose advice good for everyone?

      Mostly I think it's vague.

      2 votes
      1. [7]
        Death
        Link Parent
        I think the vagueness is deliberate, it's an aphorism after all. Usually when I've seen it thrown around the meaning changes heavily depending on the context for both the speaker and the...

        I think the vagueness is deliberate, it's an aphorism after all. Usually when I've seen it thrown around the meaning changes heavily depending on the context for both the speaker and the listener(s). Because really, when you dig into the semantics of it, what does it actually even mean? How are you going to be anything but yourself? Really the phrase is pretty much up there with "it is what it is" in terms of how it's meaning is really just a product of context.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          modern_prometheus
          Link Parent
          In an attempt to make this more concrete I'll explain what I take this advice to mean. I think that this advice is often an invitation to be open and honest with yourself and others about who you...

          In an attempt to make this more concrete I'll explain what I take this advice to mean.

          I think that this advice is often an invitation to be open and honest with yourself and others about who you are. I think it mainly points to the way self-deception muddles identity and hinders the process of discovering your earnest purpose, aspirations, direction and whatnot.

          The problem arises when people don't go past the surface and simply take this as validation of their current state of being, no matter how underdeveloped, unsophisitcated and ungenuine it might be.

          5 votes
          1. ThatFanficGuy
            Link Parent
            It's one thing to say this to someone who's struggling to be true to themselves because of outside conditioning. It's another thing to say this to someone who only wants their sins absolved.

            It's one thing to say this to someone who's struggling to be true to themselves because of outside conditioning.

            It's another thing to say this to someone who only wants their sins absolved.

            1 vote
        2. [4]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          Easy, by convincing yourself to emulate others or to play up or down aspects of yourself you believe will be beneficial to the audience you are catering to. I see this play out all the time in two...

          How are you going to be anything but yourself?

          Easy, by convincing yourself to emulate others or to play up or down aspects of yourself you believe will be beneficial to the audience you are catering to.

          I see this play out all the time in two major ways:

          1. Dating - people believe they are fundamentally uninteresting, have flaws that they wish to hide, or have some heavy stuff that they don't want to put onto the table until a later point in time. Being uninteresting is just an aspect of being the person living your own life - obviously things you do regularly are going to be less interesting than things you haven't done but contain aspects of things you enjoy as that's just how motivation and thought typically work. There's no reason to trot out flaws on the first date except as a way to show off some vulnerability to build trust, but that really depends on how the first date (or few) goes. Same goes for heavy stuff, as it can often burden others or scare them away. Generally speaking the advice of "just be yourself" is given by another person to reassure the questioning person that they are actually interesting, that their flaws are more like quirks, and maybe to some extent to encourage them to share some of the heavier things earlier on.

          2. Presentations, job interviews, social interactions, etc. - the other way this advice typically gets trotted out is when someone is preparing heavily for a specific social interaction such as a presentation or going to an important holiday party or even preparing for an interview. In all of these situations you are still fundamentally presenting yourself, but the event calls for a specific style or construct of presentation. When the advice of "just be yourself" is given in this context, it's usually used as a key to tell someone that they are overthinking and overly anxious about how they should present themselves and have created an unrealistic or unsustainable version of themselves to present and the person offering the advice is trying to calm their nerves or get them to be a slightly more authentic version of themselves.

          4 votes
          1. [3]
            Death
            Link Parent
            What I'm getting at though is none of those things are a person not being "themselves". Concretely, all of this is still a product of their singular being, it's shaped by the way they internalized...

            What I'm getting at though is none of those things are a person not being "themselves". Concretely, all of this is still a product of their singular being, it's shaped by the way they internalized the world around them, and how they project that outwards. And that in turn shapes who they "are" through the way it is reflected in the people around them.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              Gaywallet
              Link Parent
              That's an interesting view of self, as it is malleable to the current circumstances of an individual including but not limited to emotional state and recent social interactions. Do you view a...

              That's an interesting view of self, as it is malleable to the current circumstances of an individual including but not limited to emotional state and recent social interactions. Do you view a person's traits or characteristics as inherently malleable along a spectrum of minimum and maximum values?

              1 vote
              1. Death
                Link Parent
                No but not because I have a more working model or anything. I just don't think that, if such a spectrum exists, I could reliably claim to be able to observe it and consequentially to know it's...

                No but not because I have a more working model or anything. I just don't think that, if such a spectrum exists, I could reliably claim to be able to observe it and consequentially to know it's minimum and maximum. In my view that would require something functionally like omniscience, because how else do you know it to be finite?

                Therefore I wouldn't understand a person's "traits" as a discreet measure of inherent properties, but more as an ongoing description of observable actions in, or perhaps more like reactions to, the world around them. They are "malleable" in that they are necessarily limited to exist within the continued inexorable movement of time and space, and therefore subject to change. And since we have, as I am presuming, some degree of agency they are shaped by us as much as we are shaped by them.

                1 vote
    2. vakieh
      Link Parent
      If something is terrible advice for most people, and the question of 'which people is it terrible for' is answered by the question "who is going to misunderstand it"... It is quite universally...

      If something is terrible advice for most people, and the question of 'which people is it terrible for' is answered by the question "who is going to misunderstand it"...

      It is quite universally terrible advice.

      2 votes
    3. [2]
      elcuello
      Link Parent
      But for it to be misunderstood implies that you know what be yourself means which nobody really does and I think that's why it's terrible advice.

      But for it to be misunderstood implies that you know what be yourself means which nobody really does and I think that's why it's terrible advice.

      1. modern_prometheus
        Link Parent
        If you asked me what "being myself" means I would be able to answer with absolute certainty. I never really am, but rather I'm always "becoming". I am the principles upon which I shape myself, a...

        If you asked me what "being myself" means I would be able to answer with absolute certainty.

        I never really am, but rather I'm always "becoming". I am the principles upon which I shape myself, a task that'll never end.

  2. [3]
    Sand
    Link
    Just because you interpret it literally doesn't mean it's terrible advice.

    Just because you interpret it literally doesn't mean it's terrible advice.

    5 votes
    1. Thunder-ten-tronckh
      Link Parent
      Oh just wait till you read my 2,000 word critique of “Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” as it utterly neglects the plight of students who must make studying a...

      Oh just wait till you read my 2,000 word critique of “Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” as it utterly neglects the plight of students who must make studying a full time job, becoming wise at odd hours of the night and preventing them from making money through conventional employment.

      6 votes
    2. envy
      Link Parent
      It's not my fault, I blame the aphorism.

      It's not my fault, I blame the aphorism.

  3. ibis
    Link
    A bit of an aside, but this is the second piece I've read this week by an ex-Gawker employee reflecting on her bad behaviour while employed there. The other one I read is here:...

    A bit of an aside, but this is the second piece I've read this week by an ex-Gawker employee reflecting on her bad behaviour while employed there. The other one I read is here: https://www.thecut.com/2020/02/emily-gould-gawker-shame.html

    The women were employed 10 years apart, but it's interesting how similar some of their experiences and reflections are.

    4 votes
  4. Akir
    Link
    This is a strange oppinion piece. It's a strangely practical refutation of existentialism, but I'm not sure how much the author actually understands the philosophy. In any case, I mostly disagree...

    This is a strange oppinion piece. It's a strangely practical refutation of existentialism, but I'm not sure how much the author actually understands the philosophy.

    In any case, I mostly disagree with the conclusion, though I know most people will disagree with my reasoning. The biggest problem is how the author seems to project the "be yourself" advice into places it doesn't belong. I have only ever heard it being used in the context of dating or meeting new people, and it makes sense there. If you are trying to hide that you are the biggest Steven Universe fan when you meet a new person, you will not as likely find happiness when that person is around. While the advice sounds existentialist in nature, it's only an aesthetic simelarity.

    4 votes
  5. wundumguy
    Link
    I think what people are SUPPOSED to say is, "Be the person you'd be if you didn't care so much what others think."

    I think what people are SUPPOSED to say is, "Be the person you'd be if you didn't care so much what others think."

    2 votes