Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Just Be Yourself

Everyone has heard this piece of advice before. "Just Be Yourself" is the one thing that everyone knows that you should do, but nobody ever does. I know that I for one am very rarely myself and I know that those around me are very rarely just being themselves. This doesn't mean we are all compulsive liars, just that we act with restraint, and inevitably tailor our behaviour to those around us. It's not dishonest, it's survival.

It's a lot harder than it sounds to be yourself. The advice often gets thrown at teenagers who are worried about fitting in and making friends, or people going out on a first date, and you can see the overwhelming temptation for them not to act as themselves. In terms of popularity, if you're not popular when you're trying, how damning would it be if you were unpopular when you were being yourself? In terms of dating, everybody has immeasurable amounts of quirks and oddities, but at the same time, some people dating may be in denial about this and be looking for somebody utterly perfect. You can't let all the crazy loose on a first date, and you can't let all the crazy loose when you're trying to find a niche in the world. Being yourself is fine so long as you are actually a pleasant person underneath layers and layers of social conditioning and second guessing, but my bet is that not many people are.

My girlfriend recently levelled a piece of criticism at this blog by saying that she didn't feel it was very personal and that she was reading it and couldn't feel that I was behind it. I think she may have a point here, but then, I don't think I really want to just open the door and let it all flood out on to the internet. I accidentally did that with a live journal once, and reading back on posts I'd made months and months ago came to the conclusion that I'd fallen into the "whiny emo trap" that I was dreading all along. I think that on this blog that I'm writing what I want to write, and what I think is worth writing about, but I'm not going to go on about my trials and tribulations of living in a flat in Camden with friends and my girlfriend, because everyone does that sort of thing every day and I don't feel that my particular version is going to be that different from everyone else’s.

Can you imagine how awful it would be if everyone was themselves all the time? I'm undecided whether or not people become themselves after a drink or twelve, but if it is true, hordes and hordes of people acting as if they are under the influence all the time would be a very bad idea. Even if people wouldn't act as if drunk, I don't really want to know everything about people I hardly know, and I certainly don't want someone to be themselves in a raw format the first time I meet them, because it's quite frankly overpowering, a bit frightening, and feels like an animal instinct of attempting to dominate the other party. We've all been in those conversations with people who are always trying to just say something slightly better than you, or that have done something slightly more impressive than you. That's all very well, and sometimes very interesting, I in no way begrudge being impressed or envious about someone's achievements, but most of the time it's just insensitive, rude and overpowering.

Maybe I'm just being a little on the Victorian side of things and trying to be repressive in respect of emotions and letting go, but I really think too much stock is placed on "Being Yourself". I'm not myself. I'm annoying, whiny and selfish deep down. I don't want anything to do with that. At the same time, I'm not going to go around claiming how much I enjoy watching football. I used to tell people I support "Swindon Town Football Club" if they asked, but that was just a lie, and it didn't really work out for me. Maybe that was just because of Swindon Town Football Club, but I think it probably had more to do with the fact that I didn't really see the point of watching football.

I think what I'm trying to say is a boring "you have to compromise" statement. A classic, David Hing, sitting of the fence answer, but it's the only one that will suffice. Don't be Yourself. Be thoughtful to those around you. Be sensitive, but at the same time, don't actually lie.

And if all that fails, Just Be Yourself. No one else is.

Additional Notes:
I once met somebody when I was working on the River Thames one summer who had the Swindon Town Football Club logo tattooed on back of his left calf muscle. It looked like he had been branded. Who knows, maybe he'd lost a particularly serious game of poker and fallen into servitude?

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