To be, or not to be, yourself

To be, or not to be, yourself

Occasionally, I see advice on G@G to "just be yourself". I have given that advice from time to time. But I only give it in certain contexts. It's not particularly good advice in many social settings. For example, few teachers will tolerate students who regularly act according to how they see themselves. Likewise, being yourself is not appropriate in most working situations Usually, you are hired to be who they want you to be, not who you actually are. So when is it good advice to be yourself?

First, let me define what I mean by being yourself. I don't see it as being selfish, rude or hurtful. Some people say awful things to others, and then attempt to justify this by claiming they are just being honest or expressing themselves. That's just an excuse; it was never about themselves. Instead, I see being yourself as being open, in word and deed, about who you are with another person. The question I see is how open should you be with someone who doesn't know you?

On this site, the question most often comes up in dating. It also applies to job interviews. I admit that I don't have a lot of dating experience. I do have a great deal of interview experience, especially as the interviewer. They are very similar. What do you bring out and how much do you expose? In both dating and interviewing, it's crucial to make a good impression since you rarely have a second chance. Being yourself does not fully overlap with making a good first impression.

However, this is not an excuse for dishonesty. I strongly discourage dishonesty of any kind. Trying to appear as the person they want you to be often backfires. For one thing, you might be wrong about who you think they are looking for. More seriously, when your true self does come out, and it inevitably will, you will be pegged as the dishonest person that you were. And if you are caught in dishonesty early on, then it's game over.

What sort of things are dishonest in dates and interviews? Exaggerating anything to the point where the other person has heard a lie. Claiming a talent that is at best an interest. Pretending to care about some that you don't, such as laughing at unfunny jokes, or dishonestly claiming to share an interest with your date. The worst form of dishonesty is to pretend to care about the person, or in an interview, faking passion for a company or position. People seem to be unaware that they are caught out as pretenders more often than not.

Back to being yourself, when and how can you be honest in a date or interview? The obvious first thing is to highlight your strengths. That's sort of a given. There is no point in hiding the good stuff. But you have to be careful about how you do this, or it will come off as bragging or exaggeration. And if your strengths don't match what the other person is looking for, it's best to learn that early on. Too many people see acceptance as the goal rather than finding a good match. This is, or at least will look like, dating just to have sex with her, or trying to get a job you're not qualified for because the money is good.

Needless to say, you don't spill your darkest secrets on an interview or an early date. This will not only make you look bad, it will make you look self-obsessed. But you should point out early on something that the other person has the right to know, especially things outside of your control. This includes things like a disability or the fact that your divorce is still pending.
For example, I pointed out on a first date that I had just been laid off the week before. I figured that if things worked out she would find out soon enough. And I wanted to know if this was especially important to her. To my surprise, this became the first thing that attracted her to me: she had a history with dishonest men and she was specifically looking for an honest one. Now, she is my wife.

Another critical but overlooked point is to enable the other person to be themselves. How often do women complain about dates with men who spend the entire evening talking about themselves? I'm sure plenty of men have had to endure this too. Who wants to be with someone like that? Likewise in job interviews, I tend to be suspicious of candidates who ask no questions other than about the benefits. If they are incurious, do they even care? Do they want this job or will any job do?

And so it is with dates. Ask relevant questions. Don't ask about their secrets but do probe a bit into what they are telling you about. Not only will you learn more about them, you may learn if they are being truthful. If you care about who they are, show that in what you ask and how you respond to what they say about themselves. If you don't care, then why are you on the date in the first place?

Feel free to respectfully disagree or contrast your thinking with theirs. Do not put them down, but don't pretend to agree either. Feel free to point out that his jokes are corny. Admit that you know noting about her interests, or have never done her favorite activities. Find ways to make being different a positive thing.

In short, you should be yourself as much as you feel safe to do so, but you should never be someone else.

To be, or not to be, yourself
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Most Helpful Girls

  • stardust101
    I’m usually always myself whether that be a good thing or bad thing to other people, but most times I’ve gotten positive feedback. You have to be somewhat interested in people in order to do a good job at work when working in customer service or any job that requires interacting with people. And it’s not just the manager you have to make a good impression on, it’s coworkers too and clientele.
    at job interviews, there’s always that one question interviewers ask, “what is your biggest weakness?” If you say, “I don’t have any weaknesses,” well, that’s a lie in itself and managers will look on you. But, if you actually do admit your biggest weakness, that also could be a deal breaker, so I’m going to tell a half truth instead. Nobody wants to hear all your skeletons that are in the closet even if they should ask.
    whether on first dates or even second dates and at job interviewers, I believe it’s the candidate’s chance to shine in the brightest light possible while staying humble and non exaggerative. Eventually, your true colors will peak if you keep trying to stuff whatever it is you’re hiding about yourself under a false facade. And, whether anyone realizes or not, when you don’t accept parts about yourself, even your ugly parts (and you don’t necessarily have to spill your guts out to people to do this,) other people will start to reject you also. It’s the energy you carry that determines how people treat you.
    Is this still revelant?
    • talloak

      Excellent thoughts. My experience as an interviewer was that people who tried to misrepresent themselves usually got caught (not always, though, but those were really good liars). I did not ask the "greatest weakness" question for the sorts of reasons you mention. It's not fair and the informed do the "pretend to have a weakness that's really a strength" thing ("I work too hard" or "I care too much about my job"). When asked that, I use it to describe the kind of work environment and management styles I respond badly to, and then contrast it with what I respond well to. If they are put off by that, I know the job is a bad fit. Interviewers never pursue it further.

      I tend to ask questions about what they say about themselves (or in their resumes) to see if they can support their claims. You can catch pretenders quickly, while honest people who are quick on their feet do quite well with that line of questioning.

    • I like your interview process. You sound like you know what you’re doing by weeding out the liars and building a good team. The thing is our biggest weaknesses CAN be our biggest strengths but not in every circumstance. My biggest weakness that I don’t tell managers is I hate being interrupted. The reason being is because it’s a HUGE trigger that I’ve been working on for several years. It just for some reason makes me feel like what I’m doing is unimportant but I know that’s more my issue than anything else. AND I noticed that my trigger about that gets me in trouble at work. But, that’s pretty much the only trigger I really have left, and it’s so funny because I try so hard to hide it, BECAUSE I don’t want to have a talking to. My other biggest weakness is working with lazy and unproductive coworkers but I don’t know how to say that without sounding impatient or intolerant. I think most managers tolerate too much BS from Employees. They usually have a 90 day trial period but they should shorten that trial period.

    • talloak

      Getting upset over being interrupted is a weakness. It might be partly because you're a woman you're interrupted more often than would be the men around you. And they would see interrupting women as normal. They would also see women reacting to it as abnormal. So, you're kind of stuck in a no-win situation. I don't see your reaction to lazy and incompetent workers as a weakness. But it is exposing the weakness of management when they fail to do anything about it (which seems to be the case more often than not, in my experience). I have the same problem and it's gotten me into trouble when I acted on this. Most managers are more tolerant of bad workers than of good workers who expect them to take action on the bad workers. Again, we are stuck in a no-win situation. I stopped saying anything to management but I did refuse to do others' work for them because they were too lazy or incompetent to do it. If managers refuse to deal with the problems, then the lack of productivity is their problem too.

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  • mindNsoul
    I totally agree. Thank you for the very insightful article 👍
    Is this still revelant?
    • mindNsoul

      If I may add, the belief that you should always be yourself and it is up to others to like you is also a dangerous trap if you ask me. Just hear me out, over the years you will lack the skills necessary for you to survive as a social being in this world. because you will not learn how to adapt and take positive feedback. Any feedback/ opinion if its different than yours is going to be disregarded. So you will tend to only surround yourself with people who tell you you are perfect and amazing the way you are and that your opinion is correct. So tell me how would you grow if your opinion and character at 20 is the exact same at 40 or 50? and then everyone else is just a hater! so partisan is another problem arising from this delusion. You see to survive, to love, to be in any relationship you need to learn when to change yourself and when not. how to compromise. learning how to not lose your values in the process but grow. I believe yes be yourself and frank about your core values and ethics but otherwise learn the skill and grow. Don't isolate yourself and shorten your circle of people. listen, evaluate and challenge yourself every day.

    • talloak

      A very good point. @AmandaYVR wrote a take about this very idea:
      In Defence of Change: An Antithetical to the Idea "You Should Accept Me As I Am" ↗
      Her message was that the "don't expect me to change" no excuse to avoid compromising and adapting to new situations. People who choose not compromise are at a huge disadvantage in life and will get no sympathy for the trouble it brings them. I would further argue that compromise does not contradict being oneself, unless that self is pretty self-centered. And I see the extreme partisanism that's so common now as extreme self-centeredness ("Only my opinion matters! Only my tribe deserves representation!") I wonder how well these solipsists will fare in a rapidly changing world and an even more rapidly deteriorating planet.

    • AmandaYVR

      Appreciate it, @talloak. I agree with both of you.
      A good discussion.

Most Helpful Guy

  • Robertcw
    This is the question of the 21st century. It has implications in all aspects of modern society in my opinion.

    Be well liked, secret to riches. Be disliked, and you're really in trouble because everyone else has everything and can choose not to sell to you.

    This is why I believe capitalism, at it's very core, is all about social skills. No joke. Be a hermit, and good luck because you're not going to make it.

    Even support systems built into corporations and businesses, even debt collection agencies and so forth, are willing to negotiate terms to resolve problems. But only if the accused reaches out in a polite way and makes an effort to earn favor and participate. If you reach out and call, they can set up a deal. If you freak out and never answer their calls or return their calls you'll be sued in court. 🤷🏻‍♂️

    That said, from my deep thinking I think being two-faced is most beneficial. Have a superficial front for socializing and an authentic self for private relationships. That's how to function in a society, in my view.

    Funny, I should take my own advice.
    Is this still revelant?
    • Robertcw

      This way you don't have to change your real self (which I think is impossible). But you can put on a show and be someone else. That really is the solution I think.

    • talloak

      Good points. What you're saying is not so far removed from what I said. The term "two-faced" usually implies deception, but we (almost) all maintain the public and private personas you mention. It's too much effort and too many bad reactions to do otherwise. But as you say, the spirit of civility is breaking down and people act surprised that ignoring this is causing them so many problems. I expect this to get worse and their lives will be that much worse as well.

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • soleil2666
    No - just be a DECENT/gentlemanly version/edition of yourself.
    Don't be your bratty, annoying or aggressive/angry self - especially not to the kind.
    We were sold on this outrage culture where abusing by rage was permitted, and many indulged it - now we'll get back to two things:
    - Being NICE is PRICELESS (and sorry, but no more hating on the nice guys or gals (and no more abusing or using either of them))
    - Aborting on reverse Dunning-Kruger (it used to be the case that considering yourself somewhat below the authority/doubting yourself a tad was a positive/highly praised trait - this, in Dunning-Kruger terms, equates to favoring the intelligent who are naturally that way. That got changed into favoring the dumb, the loud ones, who are always convinced they know best, in the late 90s (the Clintons) - and favoring extrovertedness the 3's are more often at ease with)

    Both will revert to the longer term mean - being polite (but emotionally present, including with sexual interest shown through gestures, body position/location/posture and touches) - in essence, being a gentleman

    And women will welcome it (the hating types who get jealous at the beautiful ones because they are treated with gentle and kind interest will eventually become a niche, outside of the mainstream/pop culture just as they were)

    That being said, all of the pop culture is likely to be transformed into being a human culture first (in its good meaning) - and being 'popular' becoming a very distant fourteenth as a priority. Some people have substance to offer in addition to looks, as opposed to those with none and with fabricated looks, but abusively loud voices and easily given self-permission to terrorise others by being domineering)
    • talloak

      I am definitely in agreement with men being gentlemen and women being ladies in non-intimate social contexts. This does not require someone to be untrue to themselves (unless their selves are very unlikable!). The scene in "Blast from the Past" where gentleman is defined (https://www. youtube. com/watch? v=eP-rXX6MICE) is memorable both by how appealing the definition is and how surprised the other characters are to hear it.

    • It has been pop-culture changed into being cocky and rude as an expression of confidence - but I just don't buy it - confidence leads to being gentle in approach, with no detrimental effect on being able to also go wild when it comes to passion/sex.
      I cannot see another model of behaviour that covers both loving and passion - cocky isn't bad per se, but rude always makes SOMEONE suffer (which means it provokes a societal push-back that will arrive sooner or later - perhaps that is the mechanism that beings narcissists to collapse eventually).

    • talloak

      I see a big difference between acting confident (as in cocky) and being confident (as in being secure enough to express yourself with dignity). A lot of seemingly confident people are insecure inside and they attempt to compensate by being overly-confident. Secure people do not need to prove themselves to others. They also have no need to be rude to others to make themselves feel superior.

    • Show All
  • chris0977
    If a musician, movie maker, author, or anyone creates content, such as junk food, few care to choose audiobooks, documentaries, and broccoli, because value and use are the factor behind choice, what's best won't magically be chosen because it's "genuine" or "kind", what feels best wins, benefit and authenticity are often irrelevant. Between honest, courageous firefighter, and asshole celebrity, all know who gets money, power, and status.
    • talloak

      I'm not talking about success here. The most famous celebrities tend to have short and messy relationships. They often don't work again with the same directors either. And I would argue that they are a lot less happy than ordinary honest and sincere people.

  • Manuel2
    That is true.
    Women who wear make up. People who judge others by race than truth.
    I once told a woman that even to she hated black people, all the white men hated her and on black people treated her nice.
    It took 30 years for her to see the light
    • talloak

      I can't speak from experience, but women here claim men don't like when they don't wear any makeup. They just don't want them wearing too much. The trick, they say, is to wear just enough so that it doesn't look like they're wearing it.

  • taleets
    I’m always myself and some people love me for it yet some people judge me for it. I’m the quirky one
    • talloak

      It's great that you can be yourself and still be loved. Many of us can't afford to do that. I don't alter my behavior often but I frequently hold my tongue. Speaking my mind is too much for all but a few people.

  • Gedaria
    It's not , a opinion , it means not to hide your self, trying to please others, instead of being how you feel...
  • October808
    Being yourself doesn't mean acting out. I don't know how you reached that correlation not Yoda.
  • mike125800
    I would always be myself
    • talloak

      Is that to say that you behave the same and say the same sorts of things when on a job interview or a first date than when hanging out with friends?

  • KaraAyna
    Good take