Is there any advice out there worse, more trite than “Just be yourself”? It’s the cop-out, default answer to guys who want to get better with women. “Just be yourself!” Well… great. Be yourself. How’s that been working for you, so far? If you’re reading this blog, odds are pretty good that “being yourself” hasn’t exactly gotten you where you want to be. But then again, there’s an important question that isn’t being asked here: who are you?
Think about it for a second. This is real question.
Who are you? How would you describe yourself to me?
“Well my name is…”
“I’m a college student.”
“I’m a clerk at Gamestop.”
“I work at Apple.”
“I teach undergraduate English Lit.”
Think about this. Does what you do describe who you are? Is that how you really think about yourself? As your job?
Do you not see how incredibly sad that is?
How would others describe you? “He’s a geek.” “He’s the weird one.” “He’s the one who’s not good with girls.”
How many of you have passively accepted the labels that other people apply to you? How many have just taken how other people describe you to heart and made it part of who you see yourself as?
I can speak with a certain amount of personal experience when I say that it’s extremely easy to let other people decide who you are. In my group of friends growing up, we had designated roles. The Leader. The Sports Guy. The Funny Guy.
The one who’s not good with girls.
I took that frame and made it part of who I was. For many, many years, I identified myself with what I did and who other people thought I was. It wasn’t until I started to actively define myself that I started to improve. And the first step was rejecting the labels I had allowed others to apply to me and trying to figure out exactly who I was.
This is what a lot of people need to do, in my experience. If you’re the sort of person who’s spent a lifetime letting external influences define you, it’s time to stop, take stock and start determining who you are, and – critically – who you want to be.
This is the tricky part: you have to learn how to be absolutely honest with yourself. Guys, especially young guys, feel a lot of pressure to outwardly conform to their peer-group’s ideal of who a man is supposed to be. When you bow to this, if it isn’t truly who you wish to be, you end up doing psychic damage to yourself as you struggle to define yourself against who you really feel you should be. Be brutally honest with yourself; do you want to be a pick-up artist? Do you want to be a family man, with a wife, two-point-five kids and a dog? Do you want to be a bohemian artist in a loft in Brooklyn, struggling for recognition? Do you want to be a captain of industry, shaping the financial future of thousands if not millions? Do you want to be the man who’s on the bleeding edge of fashion, or do you want to be the man with his own style – a collection of clothes that would look weird on anyone else but somehow you just make it work?
Do you want to be Wash from Firefly? Or would you rather be Mal? Do you want to be Hal Jordan or Ollie Queen? These are all valid and correct choices… as long as it’s honestly you.
OK, bear with me here. This is going to sound new-age-y hippy-drippy crap but hear me out. I’m going somewhere with this.
While you’re seeking out who you are and who you want to be, start developing your avatar. Your icon, if you will. The ultimate ideal of who it is you want to be. Base it off a real person, if you can… your celebrity spirit-animal if you will. Don’t just automatically decide to base yourself off Ben Affleck or Brad Pitt; make sure it’s someone who models what you really do, deep down, wish you were like. If you decide it’s David Duchoveny, figure out exactly what it is about him that you want to learn and emulate. Don’t just mindlessly become your avatar; learn from the people who most represent what you want to become and learn to adapt it to who you are.
You’ll be surprised at how difficult it can be, especially when you’re starting to change from your previously defined roles. There will be a lot of people who won’t initially accept that you’re not who you used to be, and they’ll pressure you to fall back into the old roles, the old identity. This isn’t necessarily out of maliciousness; change can be disturbing, especially when someone starts to grow out of who they had been for years. Don’t give in.
Figure out who you are. Then you’re not just “being yourself”. You’re being your best self.
A little something for you to think about as we go into the weekend.