Guest Post: Is Being Yourself The Enemy Of Growth? by Kegomoditswe Magobe
Photo Cred: Stage 2 Planning
“Always be yourself, unless you suck” said Joss Whedon, an American screenwriter, film and television director, who co-wrote the Pixar film ‘Toy Story’. When I was doing some personal research on relationships in 2015, I realised that I did not know as much as I thought I did about interacting with the opposite sex. The idea was to equip myself with conversational and body language skills, thus in essence with the aim to improve myself, I was changing. What I was doing was against conventional dating advice to just be myself and be confident. Yes, but being myself was not working so well, because I was struggling to develop promising friendships with males and the advice that I was getting wasn’t really helping me. So could Whedon be correct, “Always be yourself, unless you suck.”?
What does it really mean to be yourself and to be authentic? If people really knew everything about you, and I mean everything – every good and nasty thought, habit and character trait – I would imagine that for instance the divorce rate would probably increase. Secondly, we cannot deny that we are influenced by our surroundings to a large extent. Our culture; religion; lifestyle; even our preferences in food, music and clothes are taught to us and acquired. In my personal opinion, I have even noticed that due to the increased popularity of stand-up comedy in the last 10 years, teenagers and young adults tend to have the same type of playful, insult-humour with a dash of sarcasm and innuendos. Therefore, (with strict interpretation) being authentic cannot completely be about being original, because there is usually nothing new under the sun – whatever you do has probably been done before or whoever you become has been.
In my view, being yourself is about freedom – having the freedom to choose who you want to be and living out that choice. For example, if there are ten people you know and you like a trait from all of them, if you copy each trait and incorporate it in your life, then you are being yourself. So remember, it’s not necessarily about being original but it’s about the liberty to choose. To a certain extent that is what my religion encourages: freely select to simulate the good characteristics of the Creator until they eventually become your own natural impulses.
So what is the point of this article? Well, I have a slight problem with the notion or belief that there is complete virtue in being yourself. For example, check out this quote by anonymous, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” Think about it, this suggests that it does not matter what others think of who you are or what the consequences of your actions may be, as long as you are being yourself and think (or ‘feel’) it is right, then its fine. This is also known as Moral Subjectivism.
Now, do we really believe this? I doubt it – well not fully. So I’m going to borrow a view from Utilitarianism, where right and wrong is determined by the overall goodness (utility) of the consequences of the action. Thus for instance, if a person’s true self is being a serial killer and deriving pleasure from seeing the death of other people, then the “being myself” excuse will not cut it in court. Granted, I am using an extreme example, but I have to in order to bring across the following principle: if you think yourself to be perfect you will never improve, and that is kind of what a lot of these “be yourself’ advocates are trying to allude – that you are fine just the way you are.
No, you are probably not; and if you know yourself to not be perfect, and do not want to improve, then that is just sad. Fine, I am not a philosopher who can adequately expound on the different systems of morality to determine what is right or wrong, and even though I am clearly not a fan of moral subjectivism, I do believe that you should overall love yourself because you are human and every human being deserves love. However you are not expected to love or approve every single “bad” or “unproductive” character trait, and thus persisting with such on the basis that you are “being yourself” can definitely be the enemy of growth.
In view of the above, I am not saying that you should be a relentless people-pleaser, or a self-help junkie that reads all the books and goes to every seminar but never becomes better. What I am saying is that you should not be too proud to learn from others and apply it – these are the winners in life (and in dating as I hear… lol). Being yourself and the current version of you is not always worth it, and I am assuming that we all want to be “great”. So continue to be a free and honest person – be yourself, but let it be your better self (Karl G. Maeser). The better self that considers the consequences of their actions and always desires to improve. The better self that treats other people the way that they want to be treated; and if you believe in a Creator, the better self that adheres to its guidance for your good and the greater good of the people around you. Therefore I agree with Whedon and I will conclude with his words, “Always be yourself, unless you suck.”
Kego is a sister-friend of mine from Sandton SDA Church in Johannesburg. She is in her late twenties and grew up in Roodepoort, in the West Rand of Joburg. She has been a Christian all her life and is from a conservative Christian family – she grew up watching her mother preach.
An SDA singing group came to her church and that is how she was introduced to the Sabbath – by becoming friends with the members of this singing group. She joined the SDA Church in high school and got baptised, and has been an Adventist for just over 10 years now.
Kego is also a University of Johannesburg alumni and a semi-colporteur. She is an aspiring writer and preacher, and she is growing her personal ministry little by little. Kego is an introvert who is trying to be a people’s person.