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Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice (nytimes.com)
50 points by rohmanhakim 81 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments

This is truly an amazing piece of junk speculation from a supposed psych prof.

I find it interesting how the current culture is confusing social norms and personal acceptance when they want to then say "be a special snowflake". Not everyone will like you and that's okay. No one has to like you, except for you. You should like yourself. Generally speaking. Same goes with not liking everyone else. No one will like everyone. Again, nothing wrong with that. That happens when you foster self worth. Social cues are then far easier to manage when you learn that you can pick and choose who you can like and appreciate. It's easier to ignore assholes and enjoy the time with good people.

Monitoring social cues and being yourself are two different things. Being yourself means that you don't agree with everyone around you always to appease them. Social cues, or the self monitoring as they like to say is knowing when to say "I don't agree because xyz" or "you're a dumbass".

Damn it I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here. Did tech really make society this stupid this fast?

I'm completely on board with what you're saying. Liking yourself is important and sometimes very difficult. I used to obsess so much about not just being liked, but being the most liked. I hurt a lot of friends in my teenage years while trying to become the most popular person in the "group'. At some point in my 20s something clicked and I just stopped caring about how others thought of me. I felt confident in myself and I no-longer needed an audience to find me interesting or funny.

One of my favourite traits/quirks is making jokes that are guaranteed to bomb for anyone but myself or maybe someone who isn't present. I'll get confused looks and just say, "don't worry, the cosmos found that one hilarious."

Part of finding yourself, and not appealing to people is you take the next step and foster a better understanding of social interactions in groups. You use a bit of cynical implementation to be part of groups and team's. You're not doing to prove anything to you, but other than being singled out and isolated.

I understand being self actualize is great, but part of growing is what is more valuable to you isn't what you know but it's what other people know. If your not integrating yourself part of social circles you miss out on leads and adventures you wouldn't of otherwise found if you're sitting by yourself because no one want's to interact with yourself because you haven't developed yourself more than yourself.

I don't think tech made society stupid, but it did overall amplify the voice of everyone, smart and stupid. I just think there are more stupid people out there than smart people.

`Psychology is not a science but rather a belief system.`

(paraphrased)- Paul Lutus


That's not a fair statement.

Psychology is an extremely complex science, similar to weather forecasting. We still don't get forecasting right beyond a couple of days at best. There are so many factors and moving parts in the brain, that its impossible right now to take them all into account. Especially since every psychologist would agree, we still don't know all of the moving parts yet. It's also a very young field in comparison. It's only been a serious scientific endeavor since the Freud and Jung time. Roughly only 100 years.

Jung and Freud are like reading Timothy Leary or the Prophet Ezekiel. It's not science in the same way testing for dark matter is.

Science must be quantifiable, repeatable, testable, and have controlled experimental conditions, an agreed upon terminology, etc. etc.

Simply asking people how they feel then sprinkling some statistics over the responses to try to grasp meaning isn't really the scientific method.

That's not to say belief systems aren't important, they are. Nor to say psychology might not provide help to people or insights, I'm sure it can in the hands of a trained practitioner.

But as for it being a "science", Lutus' claim is very fair, and I think he is right.

Yea, they laid the groundwork for questions to ask and recorded the lives and data from people, trying to find some correlation. I'm not saying they were perfect. They were the first ones that tried to do it seriously. Freud came up with his parent relations theory of people being jacked in the head because he saw a lot of that going on. But Jung, taking that info found that it's even deeper than that.

You also have to realize that not everything is perfectly quantifiable if you don't know how to quantify yet. Under your assumption, we should just give up entirely on trying to understand how and why people think the way they do. The right questions still aren't figured out yet. Hell, don't forget there were problems with predicting orbits with newtonian physics. It wasn't until einstein's theory of relativity that fully figured out orbits of local solar system objects. Does that mean that newton should have been thrown out immediately and the field of astro physics should have been trashed? You're living in an imaginary reality that all answers are perfectly figured out in the first try. That's not science.

Again, psychology is young and there are a ton of unanswered questions. It's not like "people thinking" is fake. We do it. How and why? It's trying to better understand how the most complex structure that we know of works, the brain. Neuroscience explains the gears and pulleys. But it can't recreate a functioning brain. Both neuroscience and psychology would need to be mastered to do so.

Just because psychology studies things that are hard to quantify – often resulting in practitioners who do not follow good scientific method – does not mean it's not a science.

"Bullshit is what makes society work".

It's not a new idea.

Eventually it leads to where we are now: Living in a (hopefully temporarily) post fact society, where loud enough lies function as truth, where politicians have long since given up on the idea of genuinely believing anything they say, where corporate leaders own governments and chuckle at the idea of caring about the general wellbeing of mankind.

And where all the bullshit has lead to lots of tiny decisions based on misinformed priorities, cumulatively resulting in the largest mass extinction event in 100's of millions of years and a genuine existential threat to the human race.

I think authenticity is a very practical cultural goal. Misused and misunderstood sometimes maybe, but much needed.

I think it may be more complex than just "faking it makes you a winner". Faking it is easy, authenticity is hard. People who fake it every chance they get regress their character, while being authentic builds character. Authenticity is probably better long-term, for personal development. A leader who fakes it may be able to reach a position of power, but only authentic leaders will be able to create something when in power.

^this guy for prez 2020

Be yourself is terrible advice if you read it as an excuse to thoughtlessly act on every impulse. That's not what being authentic means. It's unfortunate that the author fails to provide even a loose definition. High self-monitors aren't necessarily being inauthentic, and low self-monitors aren't necessarily being authentic. They simply have different strategies and preferences for navigating the social landscape.

Being yourself in this context is to me more about having a certain resilience to social responses -- being confident and without remorse with your words and actions, because they're grounded in your beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour. Just because you're being authentic doesn't mean everybody will like what you're saying or doing. But if you're authentic you can take it or leave it and keep going.

i can't imagine how i could be authentic without monitoring myself and making deliberate decisions about how i see myself and what i consider part of my authentic self.

for example, i deliberately don't cross roads on a red light, even if everyone else is doing it. that's something that i decided i want to be part of the person i want to be. but when i go with friends, i have to watch out not to betray that by just following them.

There's no such thing as "authentic" and there's certainly no such thing as an "authentic self". If you're the kind of person who hates going to the bar, but goes because you like having friends, and to survive it you go into comedian mode, that's a part of who you are.

Beeing yourself can also be an excuse to never change. If somebody is beeing themselves but happens to clash constantly in unhappy ways with their environment, maybe they are not beeing themselves, but they have unresolved issues of some sort — and cementing who you are at a certain point of time is not gonna help.

"Be yourself" is the best advice I've ever received. But it took me nearly 20 years after I heard it to figure out who I really was.

Opinion pieces like this always strike me as more about their individual definition of the phrase.

To me "Be Yourself" doesn't meant to blurt out everything in your head it means don't try to be something you're not.

In my experience people can subconsciously pick up on authenticity and if you're trying to be something you're not you're just going to fall flat on your face.

To put it simply to be yourself is to always strive for genuine connections and goals which truly interest and excite you, in work, love or whatever

I am reminded of Lily Tomlin who said:

"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."

To "be yourself" is not the same as "be blunt and ignore any basic social norms". Unless your true self has no tact, no social interaction skills and only thing it truly wants is to lay with all the women in line of sight. It is not a call to degrade ones all being to instinct/raw emotion level behaviour. Shape yourself as an individual by thinking, analyzing and making own decisions rather than copying everything that seems(!) popular, cool, intelectual.

Since nobody else has said it: Oprah isn't herself either. Her backstory is quite amazing, but I would not characterize it as a story of being herself and forcing the world to adapt to her desires; I would characterize her as hard-working, willing to experiment and grow, and making the most of opportunities. The only thing that "be yourself" might have to do with Oprah is her name.

This article might be junk.

In case you didn't click through, the brutal experiment in honesty mentioned by the OP is really worth a read.


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