“Be yourself”. I have heard and read this mainstream advice since 13. The teenagers of this age get enthusiastic about this phrase because it is their period of becoming an adult, a grown-up person and they get obstacles in a way. Some will make fun of them, because they may be fat, skinny or less smart. So, teenagers will say “let them be, I am gonna be myself, I don’t care what they think.” I have been through this period, and I am very glad I am not a teenager anymore.
The problem is that sometimes many grown-ups get inspired by the phrase. This quote is nothing, but a limitation and self-deceiving technique. Saying the phrase over and over again is a “self-defense reflex”. It just shuts you down. You start limiting yourself. You start defining you by “yourself” and as Oscar Wilde said, “to define is to limit.” The funny thing is that he was the one who also said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” But, what is yourself? One cannot be sure about it. You will never know yourself, if you do not stop being yourself. You will never be yourself, if you do not start exploring. When you are yourself, you are not changing, you are not growing. It will lead you to failure, it will put you into boxes. You are not aware of your real abilities when you are yourself.
I think people usually confuse “being yourself” with “not being what you are not”. You cannot be what you are not, what you do not want and it’s totally OK. Let’s say, you have a naïve personality and you don’t want to have a prudent one. Just don’t be like that. Or maybe you like making jokes and don’t want to be serious. So just don’t be serious. So, let’s not misuse the phrase “be yourself” and instead just “Do not be what you are not”.