What It Really Means to Just Be Yourself
One of the most common pieces of dating advice given to men is “Just be yourself!” I have mixed feelings about such recommendations. On one hand, it’s genuine, simple, and 100% true (in theory). On the other hand, how do you justify it to a guy who’s always been himself, but has been rejected by every girl he’s ever been interested in?
Why it’s horrible advice
I’ve found that if someone recommends to a person, “Just be yourself,” they usually can’t empathize with that person’s situation, whether it’s a woman who is unaware of the things that she’s attracted to in a man (or scared to admit them) or a man who is naturally good with women and unable to explain what he says or does to attract them. Men who are naturals with women just have to act the way they’ve always acted, without thinking about it, since whatever they’ve been doing has always worked for them.
Guys who are struggling to meet and attract women often interpret “Just be yourself” to mean that they should continue to think and act the way they always have, and in the end it’ll pay off. Then, when things don’t work out with a girl, they’ll frequently make what I like to call “fairy tale” excuses, such as, “She just wasn’t right for me,” or “I’ll meet someone eventually.” Over time, these excuses become darker as guys tell themselves consolations like “She’s obviously not good enough for me.”
The reality is that men in these situations need to be doing something different, but they seldom know what to change. Being themselves isn’t going to get them there, and thinking that it will only makes them frustrated and resentful.
I struggled with this paradigm for a long time. When I was younger, I often thought that I was being myself, when in fact, I wasn’t. If I met a girl that I liked, I would hold back my opinions, or change them to either align with hers, or what I thought she would like, hoping that she would like me back. I believed that if I was overly nice to her, she would simply reciprocate my feelings. If you’re guilty of this, then you’re probably suffering from what Dr. Robert Glover refers to as Nice Guy Syndrome. If you’re not familiar with him, I highly recommend that you listen to this podcast and check out his book “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”
For a guy who has never been successful with women, telling him “Just be yourself” will only confuse him, because it does nothing to clarify what he’s doing wrong, nor does it tell him what he needs to do to improve his social interactions so he can make things go right.
Even though the premise of this message is great, it takes a shifting of beliefs and perceptions, a greater understanding of social dynamics, and more social experiences to truly grasp what it means to “Just be yourself” and be able to apply it.
Why it’s great advice
Essentially, just being yourself means being authentic, which is one of the most magnetic character traits that a person can possess. By being authentic, you elicit a sense of trust and comfort in those with whom you interact. Think back to a time when you were speaking with someone who seemed inauthentic, like they weren’t being completely honest, like they were hiding something, or like they were trying to manipulate you. How did it make you feel?
Inauthenticity puts an emotional barrier between people, and prevents them from building a human connection. This is a game-changer, because if you can’t connect emotionally with a girl that you’re interested in, how can you expect it to lead to anything more?
Being yourself means taking care of yourself first. This includes putting your needs ahead of others (not in a selfish way, but in a self-sufficient way). It also entails that you not change your values, beliefs, opinions or actions for fear of judgement, especially for a girl that you’re trying to date. When you’re being yourself you have the mental and physical freedom to express yourself.
As an aside, some people turn “being yourself” into a constraint. They will argue that it’s inauthentic to try new activities and discover new passions, or adjust your body language, voice, language patterns, style, image, grooming, etc. But I would beg to differ, and warn you not to fall into this trap. Being yourself is ultimately much deeper than those surface level attributes; it’s about following your values and beliefs, and striving and growing to become the person you want to be.
The truth is, as you let go of your inhibitions, anxieties, negative thinking, bad habits, behaviors, then you’re really being yourself. It’s quite a liberating feeling.