Have you ever been caught in a lie? I’m not talking about an important, self-preservation lie like “I didn’t touch the cookies,” or “I can’t watch you DJ because I’ll be out of town” – when you’re caught in scenarios like these, everyone kind of understands why you lied. It’s not that shameful.
What I’m talking about are the stupid lies. The totally unnecessary lies where being caught in them makes you look 1,000% worse than just telling the truth. Lies like “I only read Doestoevsky’s original Cyrillic manuscripts so nothing is lost through modern translation” or “I’ve seen Thin Lizzy play live at least 100 times. She just kills it on stage!” While you might get razzed a bit for playing it straight when you’re the only one who doesn’t agree or know what the rest of the group is talking about, it’s nothing compared to what you’ll endure if you’re found out as a fraud.
It’s easy to say “just be yourself!” But is the advice as easy to follow? No, for a number of reasons. Let’s hit a few of them head on:
Obstacle Number 1: You Don’t Know Who You Are
If you’ve spent your life working tirelessly to be all things to all people, it’s not uncommon to eventually come to the realization that you don’t even know who you are without an outside stimulus telling you who you are supposed to be.
When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I got really into punk rock music. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true – acceptance is the first step toward recovery in all things shameful. Anyway, I got it into my head that any music that included a keyboard or a synthesizer was automatically terrible, and all bands should have a maximum of 2 guitars, a bass, and drums. I’m too old to remember who put this notion into my head, but I do remember hearing Take On Me and realizing my musical life had been a lie. Fast forward to my mid 30’s, and I am much closer to proclaiming that all music should include a heavy synth ensemble.
My advice is to drop your preconceived notions and just start trying new things. Listen to new music in genres you’ve never given a chance. Watch some different movies, both new and old (a lot of people think they hate old movies… until they watch a few). Read some new books. Eat different foods. Just start stepping outside of your current box and see what you may have been missing.
There’s a chance you’ll find that you hate everything except what you’ve already been told to do your whole life, but at least you’ll have the schema to form your own opinion and stand by it. I used to tell a friend of mine that I hated Bibimbap despite never even trying it. One day I tried it, found that I hated it even more than I thought I would, and now have the power of truth behind my claims. It’s a very freeing thing.
Obstacle Number 2: You Don’t Like Who You Are
By now you’ve taken your figurative spin through EPCOT, exploring all cultures, cuisines and music the world has to offer in record time. You’ve picked the best and forgot the rest, then taken inventory of the new you: brace yourself, it might be ugly.
Despite what we’re often told, just “being you” sucks. It’s a great first step, but you don’t want to live there forever. You’re basically setting a benchmark for yourself to improve upon – you’ve looked in a mirror for the first time, and now it’s time to start cleaning up (or making peace with) what you see.
There are some things you really can’t help – these are the things you need to make peace with. Don’t be the 5’7” guy who insists he’s 6’ tall in front of a 5’11” guy who towers over you. Accept that you can’t change certain things, and focus on what you can affect.
Let’s say you wanted to be someone who loves reading, but you just hate it. You don’t necessarily have to give up, just work on ways to get yourself into the groove. Try audio books, or different genres. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting into the practice of dedicating 30 minutes a day. Or maybe you just hate reading no matter how you slice it – maybe it’s time to adjust who you’re trying to become.
Obstacle Number 3: You Like Who You’re Becoming, But You Haven’t Arrived Yet
Sticking with the reading example above, the most important thing here is to avoid falling into your old patterns: just because you want to be something doesn’t mean you are that thing. Don’t run out and say you love reading to fit what you envision, either put in the work to become that person and/or be upfront about the process. Here’s a right and wrong example for you:
Cool person who loves to read: “Do you read much?”
Old, wrong you: “I love reading, and I’ve read just about any book you can name.”
New, genuine you: “I want to be an avid reader, but it’s a real struggle for me. Any advice?”
Here’s the deal: the cool reader person might immediately judge you – that’s just life. In fact, they’re going to make a judgment in basically any scenario. They either:
- Think you’re cool based on a lie that will inevitably come out
- Respect you for owning up to who you are while getting their own little ego boost for being objectively better than you
- Think you’re a loser for not reading
- Wild card option: they don’t care about your answer because you’re only 5’7” and they’re heightist
Of those scenarios, only one is truly embarrassing in my eyes: the lie that comes out. If it’s important enough to you to lie about, just freaking take it seriously enough to make it true. If you’re rejected for not being a great reader or for something outside of your control, the person sucks anyway. If they respect you for trying to become a better version of yourself, maybe they can help you get to where you want to go.
Obstacle Number 4: The Loss of Old Friends
In the words of my 4 year old: “tricked ya!” This one’s a fake out: the bossy people who previously told you what to like and what to think were never your friends, and ridding yourself of them isn’t a loss. Get those freaks out of here and start becoming a real person.
When you establish yourself to yourself, and you can confidently stand up for your thoughts, feelings, and desires, you become essentially untouchable. Naysayers will always exist, but they won’t bother a resolute person for long before they move on to someone they can manipulate or catch in a lie.
Be who you are, stop masquerading as someone and something you’re not, and start making some improvements if you’re unhappy with your current self. Your future awesome self will thank you.