Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
“Be yourself” is terrible advice (theoutline.com)
158 points by paulpauper on April 19, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments

The reason the advice "be yourself" exists, and also why older people tend to be the ones expressing it, is that the danger in not being yourself is that you may wake up one day in a career or surrounded by people that do not accept you for who you are. And you end up trapped in a life where you have to pretend to be something you're not. The idea is that the younger you start being honest about yourself to others, the sooner you will wind up away from people that do not like your true self, and closer to people that appreciate you for that true self.

This advice can backfire if your natural state can get you in trouble and cause damage to your life. A perfect example of people not being themselves for their benefit is mental health services for people with minor issues. While a person's natural state may be to be very emotional, current society frowns upon most emotions beyond happiness, so it may be more beneficial for that person to take a drug to make them more in line with other's emotional level.

This is a great point, and one I think could make more sense if I (clumsily) update the saying to "Be true to yourself". I agree with the writer that most of us probably don't need to express every thought, no matter how negative or insulting, as it doesn't usually add a lot of benefit to our lives or others. However, I believe knowing what you want out of life, whether it's career, family, or hobbies, is definitely an important way to be happy. But, usually this doesn't negatively affect others.

Also, "be" is not necessarily a state of passivity. It can be an active process of determining what your goals and life-quality factors, and of carving out space in the world for them. That your self can be an ideal, rather than a default.

Of course life is fundamentally about eating other life, except for bacteria that eat rocks. So there could be an adversarial element to it

Totally off topic, but plants and fungi don't eat other life. Plants make their own food using waste products from animals. Fungi use dead and decaying matter for food.

Even more off topic, the only reason I feel the need to comment is my kid is prepping for a Singapore Science test and they seem to have a lot of questions about this stuff.

That's interesting. I think I saw that on the YouTube channel called Ants Canada. So some fungi do kill living things.

Added: That means some of the answers on the sample Singapore Science tests are not really correct.

ah also these https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivorous_plant

in general blanket statement about the nature are going to always find corner cases

A possible counterpoint to that is that walking away from people has a price and it may not be easy to find people who accept you for who you are - especially if you perceive the more disagreeable side of yourself to be the more authentic.

Yes if you be yourself you might feel better, but you might lose out on friends, on a great job, on a marriage even. At the end of the day those people who regret not being themselves may not properly account for the things they wouldnt have if they had been.

> The reason the advice "be yourself" exists, and also why older people tend to be the ones expressing it, is that the danger in not being yourself is that you may wake up one day in a career or surrounded by people that do not accept you for who you are.

If you are an African American or female or both in the tech industry the above couldn't be more true.

The danger factor with "be yourself" seems to be similar to the danger factor of "what do you want". These are meant to be interpreted deeply, not shallowly.

Most people are neither themselves nor know what they want, in the sense that both concepts are frequently constructed for them and not actually derived from the knowledge or best interest of the person. The first order of business when implementing either is to make sure they actually belong to you in the first place.

I.e., if your parents have pushed you to be an artist your whole life and you're actually meh on it, and if you go through social motions without seeing much value in them, neither of these is "you". Which is not to say that either of these things is somehow wrong or bad, but you should reexamine them for yourself to either see their value and keep them or identify them as of low value and discard them.

This is all completely orthogonal to the idea that other people should tolerate your behavior merely on the basis of it being authentic. That simply doesn't follow.

It's also very important to completely understand the implications of "be yourself". Which is often impossible. All of this is canon fodder for the narcissistic individualism which can easily make you into a curmudgeon that no one wants to be around... which will make you socially isolated and ill.

What are those implications from your perspective?

To tone down those tendencies in yourself that are likely to cause you to get into bad situations. For instance perhaps you love to argue, often that leads people to dislike you. Find a way to be yourself and do the things that you enjoy doing without getting contempt from other individuals and society... However, there are professions where this is impossible such as porn star for instance. If you choose such a path as I said know the implications and be willing to live with them. Recently Mia Khalifa got very angry for being called a porn star, something she did for 3 months, she claims. There is someone who was trying to discover who they were and trying things and now their entire self is based on something that they regret doing.

As I've already said others don't have to approve or tolerate whatever it is you do or are by nature of being authentic. That is not related, why would it be? Being authentic is an end to itself, but it makes no guarantees, and the clash between the individual and society is often the point.

> perhaps you love to argue

Or go on HN, where everybody loves to argue.

More generally, the world is broad enough that there's usually a tribe for everyone. You may not find them in your local area. That's an impetus to go beyond your local area and seek them out.

Arguing without literacy is shouting.

Be yourself is a non-statement. I don't know what it means. Does it mean follow my primal urges? Follow my idealistic goals? It doesn't say anything.

To me it means that you should act in a way that more authentically represents your wants and your values.

For example, if someone wants to impress someone else, they may act in a way they think is in line with that someone else's wants and values. This can result in awkward and embarrassing situations since it's not natural or well-practiced, and it can result in being deceitful.

Instead it's better to acknowledge and be sensitive toward what that someone else wants and values, but to still behave in a way that is true to our own wants and values.

Then you're back to the question of what it means to be authentic or have true values, a question that's very similar to the question of what it means to be "yourself", and while there's usually implied guides regarding extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, it's not really clear to me that there's an absolute dividing line there, or that it's even easy to sort out decidedly intrinsic/internal values into authentic or not authentic.

I both want to play video games for hours and focus on applications of Richards Curves. I want to exercise and not exercise. I want to meet people and take care of social relationships, and have lots of time to myself. Which desires are more authentic? If one desire transcends a mere want and becomes a value, how would we distinguish that? And then, how would we distill that into meaningful advice?

Probably not effectively with the words "be yourself."

> Probably not effectively with the words "be yourself."

Agreed. It's an easy platitude to give, which is probably why it's so common.

> it's not really clear to me that there's an absolute dividing line there, or that it's even easy to sort out decidedly intrinsic/internal values into authentic or not authentic.

Right, it's nebulous and a good subject for philosophy textbooks. As far as practical advice goes, I think it's not too much to say that you can draw the line when you're behaving in a way that feels unnatural in hopes that others will respond positively to it.

Which do you choose, and which choice leaves you happier afterwards? Authenticity means being able to look back at our choices afterwards and say "Yes, I'm proud of what I did."

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -- Albus Dumbledore

I think it's supposed to be something like "don't only try to emulate others".

As best I can tell it means, "I'm naturally good in social situations, the point where I don't have to think about it. If and when I do, that just makes things worse because then I'm noticeably self-conscious. I'll assume you're just like me and need to do the same, because I don't know what it's like for that to be different."

The most charitable interpretation I can give the advice is, "Yeah, you're not skilled at this, and there isn't much I can do to help. But there are likeable aspects about yourself, and they don't shine through if you're constantly focusing on imitating some external model of how to do it right. The best you can hope for is not to have such unforced errors, so that at least you can keep whatever wins come from the real you."

Even your "charitable" interpretation is obviously not charitable. "Yeah, you're not skilled at this" is not what people mean when they say "be yourself", unless by "this" you mean "emulate other people". Instead, what they mean is "You are naturally skilled enough at this thing, so stop doubting yourself and just stick with your natural skill/gut"

If it's not charitable, then at least it's usually correct. People giving the advice are generally unaware of what it's like to be naturally skilled at social interaction, and think it's just a matter or relaxing and enjoying yourself.

If they think "you're naturally skilled at this", they're usually mistaken.

My charitable version is what people would say if they could be honest and were aware of the relevant facts on the ground.

> If they think "you're naturally skilled at this", they're usually mistaken.

We have completely different anecdata. I've said and heard people say "be yourself" many times. Rarely have I seen it go awry. Typically the people who say "be yourself" are naturally skilled at social interaction, so they can read whether the person is also able to socialize and make the right decision. But I can see how someone who lacks social skills might repeat the saying without even noticing the level of social skills of the person they're saying it to. Much like what this commenter was talking about: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19702757

Your imaging a direct 1:1 scenario where the phrase is said referencing a specific moment. The problem is this advice is also given generically in one to many contexts or in writing form where there is no temporal component.

You're right, giving advice to a wide audience increases the chances of it harming people.

I’ve had the experience of thinking that I had terrible social skills for most of my live, then getting treatment for depression and anxiety and suddenly finding that socializing is easy. In my case, the problem really was my own fears and overanalysis about myself.

My problems couldn’t be fixed merely by someone telling me to “be myself”, but they had the right idea.

That's exactly what it's supposed to mean, I think.

It's especially useful in the short term context (let's say you have an interview tomorrow): you don't have enough time to pivot your personality, if you try, the judging person will read your inauthenticity as something fishy and you will increase your odds of missing out on your objective.

But in so many contexts -especially in dating- it gets misinterpreted as long term advice "you are entitled for others to accept you as you are and/or eventually someone will accept you as you are, and your objective X will be met"

I think it means to act around people that you aren't familiar with, the same way you would act around those your are very close to (such as immediate family, life-long childhood friends, etc). That is, don't be an "actor playing a part" when interacting with others.

I think it's an indirect way of telling people not to over think or analyze action.

I think it's rather: don't try to imitate others, strive to emulate them.

Makes me think of that classic scene between Jude Law and Dustin Hoffman in "I [Heart] Huckabees" --

Hoffman: ... are you being yourself?

Law [increduluous]: How am I not myself?!

Hoffman : "How am I not myself."

Law: _How am I not myself?_

Hoffman : "How am I not myself."

Law [distressed, starting to choke up]: How am I not myself.

It means, "don't be afraid", because being afraid largely covers up who we really are by changing how we act.

The other top level comment explains the advice very well:

The reason the advice "be yourself" exists, and also why older people tend to be the ones expressing it, is that the danger in not being yourself is that you may wake up one day in a career or surrounded by people that do not accept you for who you are. And you end up trapped in a life where you have to pretend to be something you're not. The idea is that the younger you start being honest about yourself to others, the sooner you will wind up away from people that do not like your true self, and closer to people that appreciate you for that true self.

If you are an introvert, do not spend your life trying to pretend you are an extrovert. Instead, embrace your introversion and find a sustainable way to get the social interaction you need/want.

If you do not enjoy managing people, you will fall behind people who do enjoy it, so instead spending your years unhappy and trapped, try to find a career ladder where you can focus on being a great individual contributor.

If someone close to you just died and you are grieving, do not try to pretend that you're fine or cheerful for the sake of others. Take the time to process it however you need to.

There are plenty of other examples. This advice isn't really about how you act day to day, it's about making sure you are doing things for reasons you actually believe in.

I don't think this is a complicated one.

It means to express yourself, your ideals, and to not conform entirely to peer pressure, or to conformity.

This is something we tell young people because they are often at the whim of social norms, some of which are bad, like 'Instagram popularity contests'.

It's generally I think decent advice, even for adults, for whom I think the notion of 'being authentic' would apply.

There’s the old quip about Gershwin asking Ravel to teach him. Supposedly, Ravel declined, saying “Why should you be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin?”

In this more specific light, find your own path rather than copying and pasting.

at its core "be yourself" would be better phrased as "don't lie to yourself"

the latter is less uncompromising on how you go about living and presenting yourself but contains the same principle of unity between knowing when your acting in the world is aligned with your ethic and when it isn't, so that either your acting or your ethic can move to the point the other is, to reduce entropy in your life.

"Be yourself" as advice is bad advice if you take it uncharitably. It's good advice for individuals that repress their identities and discard their own happiness - e.g. gay men and women that force themselves to act straight (though not without caveat as death/execution/persecution is very real). If you reinterpret it as "be authentic" or "become yourself", it again takes a better meaning for those without fundamental crises of identity. Self-actualization is at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs for good reason. Despite this I don't disagree with the advice to "be less yourself". I don't think article is wrong and this advice still resonates with me - taking detours is part of life. If you need to take a step back to take two steps forward, it's worth it - but god damn it you should still "be yourself" at the end of it all. If you have to lose who you are, it's not worth it.

One thing I've found again and again is that a lot of advice is good for some people (even most people) but terrible for others. It all depends where you're starting.

What is an example of a person for whom this is terrible advice?

I can only jokingly think of people who are naturally hostile or low on EQ. "They can't handle all this!" kind of people.

There's also people whose natural tendencies are thoroughly self destructive. For instance, I know a person who doesn't feel like themselves at home. Their favorite moment in the world is when, after speaking at a tech conference and getting praise from random attendees, they get blasted in the after party with something legal or illegal, and have unprotected sex with multiple partners, at least some of which they just met that day, and probably won't remember in the morning. Their quest to feel more like themselves leads them to dozens of trips a year, while their children ask why they have such a demanding job. In practice, they hold their job because they have relations with said CEO, as coworkers know that complaining about their coworker's lack of productivity will lead to termination.

And this is just one example. I have quite a few more of different flavors, all of which involve someone deciding that "being themselves" is all about destructive behavior. They don't lack EQ: In fact, I'd say almost all of them have very high EQs, but they are also either very damaged, or not very good people.

Those are good examples actually. Basically, if someone really latches on to a "just be yourself and don't think about it" philosophy, they're cutting off their only source of feedback that could help them grow and mature socially.

It's a good approach for someone who's already developed those social skills and wastes a lot of time second guessing themselves, but it's a terrible approach for someone who's really immature or unpolished. It gives them carte blanche to dismiss all conflicts and disagreements as being someone else's fault.

I've known too many people who will formulate vast and complicated worldviews to explain away all their personal troubles, before they'll ever consider looking in the mirror and admitting that they might be able to improve some things about themselves. Example: incels and redpillers. They will change their view of the entire world before they consider changing their view of themselves. Someone who habitually blames everything on other people is unlikely to ever perceive their own faults, and may even embrace them rather than grow out of them.

People who won't understand it, like many literalist commenters here, and the author of the article who took it as an excuse to continue acting like a solipsistic child

What is an example of a person for whom this is terrible advice?

Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.

How do we know they were being themselves?

Maybe Hitler's true self was being a painter, maybe the horrors of the trenches or Germanys humiliation pushed him to it? Maybe it was the rejection of not being able to sell any paintings.

HN, the place on the web I can visit if I want to find people defending Hitler.

You’re right benj111, maybe he was just misunderstood.

Lol, I'll take that as a compliment.

I don't think I was defending him though? If he's killing millions of people whilst not being himself isn't that in some ways worse?

The variation I like is, "Become who you are."

That's a good one. I also like "Become your best self".

Less profound but invites continual improvement, and it subtly elicits what matters to you.

That's Nietzsche's "werde, der du bist".

> The human who doesn't want to belong to the masses need only cease to go easy on themselves; let them follow their conscience, which cries out to them "Be yourself! You are none of those things that you now do, think, and desire." Every young soul hears this call night and day and trembles, for when it thinks of its true liberation, it has an inkling of the measure of happiness for which it is destined from eternity. As long as it is shackled by the chains of opinion and fear, nothing can help it attain this happiness. And how bleak and senseless this life can become without this liberation!

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

That's not permitted though. This is the framework that is permitted, and within which we can discuss the difference between "be yourself" and "just do what you want" in articles of appropriate word count as suggested by the editor:

> [Hobbes] foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d'etat.

-- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"

We have this "open world sandbox", moot and harmless, utterly devoid of deep meaning, because it's all printed on stickers without any lasting adhesive, that can and will be removed without any trace or consequence. We may not have noticed this, but our brain did.

Most "thought" expressed in the 21st century stems from rationalizing around that elephant on the couch, that's what I think. When I come across a turtle on its back in a desert, I don't know quite know what to do, I never seem to be able to help and it's really stressing me out, but I know what I will NEVER do, I will never say "oh, I guess that's just what the turtle does, that's just how it walks, it's not dying, that's how it lives".

To me, the hn version of "be yourself" is "You'll never beat Mark Zuckerberg by trying to be Mark Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg will always be a better Mark Zuckerberg than you." (I think this is a pg quote, correct me if im wrong) That isnt saying that you dont have room for improvement or that you are your authentic self or whatever, but rather that you compete with people on the results and by trying to copy their methods you will never reach further than them. Do something unique / different. Do something that only you have insight to. To me, thats what being yourself is all about: using your unique strengths to succeed.

Why would you want to beat him anyway?

I heard that if I can't beat him, I have to join him, and that sounds undesirable.

You just get consumed for nutrients and become part of the mark-mind.

I've always interpreted "Be yourself" in the sense of the old saying "to be, rather than to seem" [1]. It's not an affirmation of you being perfect, it's just saying that you can't even begin to know yourself and your true merits if you spend your time just trying to appear a certain way for the benefit of others.

Yes, the author of this piece had to learn the hard way that their attitude was toxic, but had this person never actually felt consequences from that behavior - there would be no hope at all for growing into a better person. You must be accountable for yourself, and if you think you must hide yourself to be liked or just follow someone else's example all the time - any time something breaks down, you won't know if it's because what you're pretending to be is wrong or if you're just doing it wrong.

The accountability necessary for personal growth is therefore precluded on accepting that the actions you take are fully your own, and consistent with your own conception of self. It's better to be wrong and learn why than to chase temporary praise through shallow, idealized imitations that serve to suit the expectations of whatever audience you value at the moment. Because when you cast off one imitation for another one, it will make it hard for anybody to know what you actually value - including yourself.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esse_quam_videri

I've known lots of great, kind people that were shy, or scared to be made fun of, or just lacked confidence. "Be yourself" is great advice. It means, I know you and you are a great person, you just need to be yourself. No one ever told this "loudmouth" to "be yourself". We tell those people they need to be a better self and go to therapy.

yes, i wouldn't tell e.g. the author of this piece to "be yourself" personally

I don't particularly like the simplification to 4 letters, but the Myers-Briggs test does do one thing right: it assigns positive self-worth to all 16 personality types it defines, and it addresses the challenges in the different types very clearly.

It shows how different people in this world can find paths to success without all of them having to be stamped out clones.

I think what be yourself means most of all is understanding the implications of being yourself. Self-awareness of the downsides to extreme ends of your personality - being too trusting, too cautious, too demanding, too brittle, too accommodating, too demonstrative, too anything that in and of itself is a perfectly normal human trait - goes a long way.

The tricky part is that, in order to be yourself, you have to know yourself. (The age-old conundrum.)

To the extent that you've been 'socialized into' adopting the behaviors of those around you (often unwittingly), your authentic self may be buried ... even (for some) forgotten.

Most of us, I suspect, are reminded now and then of times in our teens/early 20s when we acted in ways that we now regret. In ways that might have sickened our pre-teen selves. Where were our 'selves' then? Well, as Blake put it, 'You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. '

First know, then be.

Whether or not "being yourself" is interesting advice depends on the listener. Some people are in a context where deciding when to "stop" in a few key moments per day is more interesting than deciding when to similarly "go". The person in the article calls themselves a loudmouth, so clearly this person is focusing on a scenario where restraint is a persuasive value, versus a scenario of social anxiety.

Be yourself is a phrase which implies stagnation.

I heard a joke once that "past me was an ass hole, and ate that cake so now I've got to run." or something like that. That's the way I try to think about this. If I don't look back at past me with a little bit of that same feeling I get when looking at old code then I haven't grown. And I try to use that to remind current me that future me matters too.

I do this. I learned a long time ago that past-me could be quite an asshole even to future-me. Thinking in this context allows me to assess the now and try to be a better past-me while in the present. I consider how future-me will react and adjust my actions accordingly.

Unfortunately it turns out that nobody, not even me, likes future-me. So fuck that guy, i'm going to leave that task for tomorrow

Some people aren't too happy about past-you either.

Eh, I prefer to think of it as looking at your foundation, or roots. It’s just a slab of concrete, where the stuff on top is a bit more elaborate and abstract. Looking back should be like looking at your foundation. It’s supporting everything that comes after it. Of course it’s less ‘sophisticated’. That’s good design. Unless someone was using crown molding build the foundation of their house. Like using OOP where you don’t need it.

"But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the egg and the tripe and the cabbage, it actually brings it out." --- http://merecslewis.blogspot.com/2011/03/can-world-see-christ...

Substitute humility for salt and personality for the tripe and cabbage. That was Christ’s message after all, right? Beyond any supernatural phenomena, the whole New Testament seems to be a testament to humility. Like, ‘I am literally God and even I am not above washing another person’s feet, get over yourselves Romans’.

Better advice is "Know yourself." That implies the need to develop the ability to step outside of yourself and examine your behavior, desires, assumptions, and reactions. I say "develop the ability" because for many people, this is not an innate ability, but has to be learned. It also required brutal honesty. Some people cannot do it.

Yes! Great talk on that subject here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2eWOqz_mJ0

Umm... that is a song by Drake, and is incoherent nonsense. I assume you meant to link to something else?

You are already yourself. Be yourself is not an advice needed, but not to avoid it either. Rather, is good to learn from your experience what is better, to learn better. Yourself one year in future is not necessarily same like yourself one year in past, so, improvement is possible to do.

Be yourself. Unless you're an asshole, then figure out how to not be an asshole, then be yourself.

What if everyone is an arsehole, and the only variation is the degree that they let that show?

Conan O'Brien on Johnny Carson:

Rule number one is just be yourself. And that's actually the first thing, when I got the Late Night Show -- I bring them up now because they just did this great documentary about Johnny Carson -- one of the first people I talked to was Johnny Carson and he said, "Just be yourself." He said "It's the only way it can work." He didn't say it would work, because he's being honest; he didn't know me. You might be yourself and it would be terrible. But he said, "Be yourself, it's the only way." There's an honesty to that. I do think that that's a little bit timeless.

My version of it: don't be yourself, work towards being the best person you can be.

I like this interpretation. I think the entire reason my social awkwardness has diminished in the past decade is that I've learned to ignore worries about how people see me and just focused on trying to make things better whenever the opportunity overlaps my skills. 'Being myself' means fuck-all but 'using my skills to support others' has some meaning.

It's not a competition, and the universe doesn't give a shit who's happy. No one's owed anything. Make things better for those around you, and maybe it'll spill over. No guarantees... but as a hand it's all we hold against death and taxes.

The piece is really talking mostly about socializing or interacting with others. In middle school everyone goes through the phase where they are complaining about everyone else "not being themselves." It's at that age that you should learn the lesson that interacting with different groups of people requires tact, empathy and all the other things that make living alongside each other possible. It seems that some people, usually people with a lot of social capital, just take a bit longer to learn that.

Be someone that you like and respect. Then be yourself.

The usual platitude skips all the hard prep work required for "be yourself" to actually be good advice.

Highly recommend the book 'Wisdom of Insecurity' by Alan Watts. This article touches on the search for an immutable self but it doesn't quite make the leap that there isn't one and that the advice to "be yourself" is never going to bring any psychological satisfaction.

No, it’s absolutely fantastic advice. But there’s a second part of it that needs be attached. Be yourself, and be ready for feedback. Your self might just be awful. I think everyone has this happen to them, where who they are needs some adjustment to fit into the bigger picture. Not to blindly conform, but to really find your niche.

The feedback may not always be pleasant, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time not being yourself. If the self you’ve constructed deviates so far from the norm, you’re going to struggle normalizing it. Maybe you’ve created the next big thing, and everyone needs to adjust to you, sure. But maybe you haven’t. And even if you have, you’re going to need to assist everyone in understanding how you’ve come to where you are. And that’s going to take work.

Again, being yourself is the best thing you can do. It’s great advice. Be ready for feedback. And be ready to defend your self against that feedback or to let if guide you. But there’s absolutely no other way to live your life than to be yourself. At all. Anything less is a soulless existence; an existence worse than death.

TLDR, be yourself, and be ready for a reality check. It might come, it might wrong, it might be anything. But do not sell your soul to someone else’s.

It’s funny because contrary to the title it sounds like the author wasn’t being themself, but rather a persona they thought they should be. Another way of saying it is, “don’t be someone you’re not.”

I agree, this read as a long winded article for the author to "stick it to" the person they are projecting blame for the consequences of their own actions and inexperience.

It's only bad advice when applied universally. ANY advice given to single individual applied to everyone regardless of context/circumstances is going to turn out terrible.

I like, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

"Be yourself" is the only thing that matters.

"Being free does not lead to decadence. It brings out potential." -- Shigesato Itoi

Skillful (ie flexible and situation dependent) application of this generally useful principle is key, as I have learned the hard way.

“Become the person you want to be” might better capture the sentiment we tend to express with advice like this.

I've heard the adage, Be the best version of yourself you can possibly be. Become your Platonic ideal.

The lack of self awareness in this article is cringeworthy.

Just read the headline, that's as good as it gets.

I read it as mistaking the beginning of self awareness for being well along the journey. I try not to judge. Every time you look back the road ahead is longer than you thought it was at the time.

I think it's OK to judge in this case given the articles casual sexism and racism, inevitably alongside Godwin's Law.

> Don't try to be like someone else, don't try to act like someone else, be yourself. Be secure with yourself. Rely and trust upon your own decisions.


It is great advice. For the person who is giving it.

How about “overcome yourself to become a better self”? Or to put it another way “Don’t act like who you are, act like the person you’d like to be”

What I learned was, "be yourself" is terrible advice if "yourself" is the kind of person who writes for Gawker.

I was going to say something acerbic about the sort of life choices that lead to animated gifs for horizontal rules, but it looks like that was decided by Gawker, not the author.

'"Be yourself" is terrible advice' is terrible advice... Ok, mediocre advice.

Next on Hackernews: "\"Be Yourself\" is terrible advice" considered harmful

The real surprise here as that he got to 27 without realising this.

Be yourself, but don't ever be complacent and always try to improve yourself as well.

Yes, be yourself. Own who you are.

Accept who you are, brutal honesty.

Then begins a self talk. You can't really have it be meaningful prior to brutal self acceptance.

Own your future. Who you are today is not who you have to be, or even will be.

It is all about who you can be and why.

When that why is rooted in your reasons, the change comes easy and it will endure too.

In all of that is the difference between having to manage a layer of abstraction, forethought, dedicated to some sort of compliance or show

, and

thought as action, your very nature being that which makes sense, treats others, itself well.

Own yourself. Others doing it for their reasons will leave you a mess, inhibited. Don't do it.

Edit: how do I know?

Did exactly what I put here in my 20's. Walked away from ugly family issues, religion and a lot of hate and intolreance.

Married someone better than me, in the gets people sense, and she did the same in the technical sense. We made each other better.

Owned it all the day I walked. Resolved to sort every last bit if all that shit and did, one long drive to work at a time, and one simple choice at a time.

Starting is the hardest. Once doing this becomes part of your nature, the rest follows naturally.

Another edit:

Parts of this struck me the wrong way. Comment removed. Too harsh. Their story is solid.

Is is things like this:

>holistic self does not exist; we are made of many selves that are revealed through endless experimentation and self-examination.

I would argue the self grows and matured, can become more complex, or simplify, based on experiences, and choices.

Many selves, to me, is a compartmentalized mind, presenting fragments based on context.

Those compartments can be resolved as the self-lies, failure to reach self acceptance are resolved.

Lies compartmentalized our reason. So can simple error, denial.

There is the reason, and there is what is associated with the lie or elevation of error or belief to fact. Reasoning across these boundaries us difficult and can be a source of anxiety to some, anger, shut down for others.

The sense of who you are does not have to be so fragmented. That same process of self discovery and ideally acceptance can be revisited to decompartmentalize and congeal who we are into a more atomic entity.

I would argue we benefit from doing that.

Buddhist interjection: realize that there is no self (and no free will), and wonder in which century will people stop talking nonsense like "be yourself".


Edit - Kierkegaard's rambling quoted in the article points to the difficulty of pinpointing the "self", the essence of a human (where's the essence, the self, the soul of a car - a buddhist would ask?):

> Man is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation [which accounts for it] that the relation relates itself to its own self; the self is not the relation but [consists in the fact] that the relation relates itself to its own self. Man is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short it is a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two factors. So regarded, man is not yet a self.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact