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Be yourself

  1. 1. BE YOURSELF THE ELEVENTH FUNDAMENTAL In the last few Chapters we have examined some of the most basic traits of the happy personality. We have seen that they feel good about themselves - they like what they are as people. We have seen that they accept themselves -- they are comfortable with their shortcomings and at ease with their limitations. We also have found that happy people know themselves well: they're honest with themselves and have a great deal of insight into their personality. We've seen that happy people trust themselves and that they tend to be self-reliant, independent, and autonomously motivated. And lastly, we've learned that they are quite socially-comfortable, outgoing, and extroverted. When you tie all these strands together, you begin to see the picture of a person who is simply just being oneself. And that is exactly how happy people are! Fundamental Eleven, then, is "Be Yourself." It is based on the simple proposition that the more naturally and honestly you present yourself to others, the more happily life will go for you. Happy people are "real" people. As we've reviewed in both these Volumes, the research shows that happy individuals are typically more natural, self-assured, and at ease in social situations. They generally deal with others in a straightforward and candid manner. They tend to be uninhibited, spontaneous, and expressive. They are not afraid to share themselves, nor are they unduly concerned about people's reactions to them. As psychologist Everett Shostrom wrote, when describing healthy people, "...they are more concerned with being, than being pleasing. ...more concerned with expressing, than impressing." (POI manual) Happy people, apparently, are the same -- they are more concerned with being themselves than being anything else. But how does "being yourself" work to make one happier? Let's look at the theory... THE A's AND THE B's
  2. 2. The most elemental idea behind "Be Yourself" is: When you just let go and be yourself, everything in life works out effortlessly, easily, and more often in your best interest! To explain this elemental idea, I have developed a theory (or better put, an analogy) which I call "The A's and the B's." The "A's and the B's" theory is based upon five basic propositions: 1. People are different. 2. Because people differ, not everyone is going to like you. 3. If some people don't like you, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. 4. What we want to find in life are people who like us for what we really are. 5. The best way to find people who like us for what we really are is to be what we really are. PROPOSITION 1: PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT It doesn't take a doctorate in psychology to realize that people are different. Indeed, no two people are exactly the same. Each human being is unique and individual. The fact that each individual is unique and different, is obvious to all of us. No one doubts it. Yet somehow, when it come to our own popularity and social acceptance, we seem to overlook this natural fact. PROPOSITION 2: NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU Sadly, because of the differences between people, not everyone is going to like everyone else. Perhaps this is the greatest human failing of all. The differences and diversity of Humankind ought to be viewed as an enrichment to our social world -- as something which
  3. 3. adds interest and novelty to what would otherwise be a rather bland and boring sameness among people. Yet few people seem to welcome such individual diversity. Most seem threatened by it... On a global scale, religious, cultural, sexual, and racial differences seem to evoke only prejudice, discrimination, and friction. Differences between peoples have been the cause of war and conflict since time began. Yet even in the smallest of social networks (a neighborhood, a classroom, a club, etc.), differences tend to be shunned far more than accepted. Even among a group of close friends, sociologists find that some are considered more attractive and likable than others. It seems that the one human trait that is universal to us all -- individual uniqueness -- is the one human trait others can find the hardest to accept. Despite the backdrop of a bloody human history (and a contemporary world, equally filled with ethnic hatred, racial prejudice, and petty jealousy), most of us are still surprised when someone we contact doesn't seem to like us! Even though we know, full well, that not everybody gets along, it's always deflating when it happens to us personally. Social psychologists have long established that similarity among people leads to attraction and that differences among people lead to caution and avoidance. So why do we get so upset when someone quite different from us doesn't like us? In essence, the true enjoyment of another person can be seen as a ratio between compatibilities and conflicts. Every area of similarity between two individuals is an area of compatibility. Every area of dissimilarity, likewise, is an area of potential conflict and strife. It follows, then, that the more similar two people are, the better they'll get along -- the more differences between them, the less likely they'll get along. This is especially true in close love relationships... Marriage counselors know that a fundamental basis of lasting relationships is "compatibility." Compatibility, in turn, is based on similarity. (Differences between spouses [even slight ones], tend to lead to argument and negative feelings in the marriage. In fact, even the most successful couples have to admit that one of the significant "secrets" to their marital success is the ability to overlook the differences between them.)
  4. 4. Differences between people create most of the disharmony in the world. Major cultural, religious, and racial differences cause nations to go to war; minor personality incompatibilities cause couples to divorce and family members to hate one another. The world has become more aware of this insidious flaw in our human character. More and more we are coming to both understand and value such differences between peoples. And this is good. Still, on an individual level, even the slightest differences between us and others are hard to take. Even people we deal with daily may disapprove of our political views, our favorite sports team, and even our brand of tooth paste! Differences abound, even among the closest of friends. So why, if we understand all this, do we take it so personally when such minor differences muddy our day-to-day lives? PROPOSITION 3: IF PEOPLE DON'T LIKE YOU, IT DOESN'T MEAN THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH YOU As much as we intellectually understand why people don't always get along, we tend to take it rather personally when it happens to us. It's never fun when others ignore or rebuff us. It hurts when we hear that someone doesn't like us. It even bothers us when we say "hi" to an acquaintance and they just walk on by. One of the hardest "facts of life" we all have to face is that not everyone is going to like us! Certainly, most of us will find love in our lives. Most of us will find good and close friends. Many of us will be liked by our co-workers and associates. Some of us will end up being quite popular with others. But nobody goes through life without being rejected by some group or somebody sometime... Now, most people think that being rejected by others is the worst thing that could ever happen to them. Yet, this is not necessarily so... Rejection hurts. There's no doubt about it. It's painful to find ourselves spurned, especially when the person who rejects us was close to us. But the main reason rejection hurts us so badly is because we take it so personally. Especially in a close, love relationship...
  5. 5. There is a natural human tendency to turn rejection by others in on ourselves. Sadly, it is one of the most self-defeating tendencies we humans have. When love- relationships break up or friendships end, the average person starts blaming oneself: "What did I do wrong?" "Why doesn't she love me anymore?" "I'm a horrible person. Nobody likes me." "Maybe it's my breath?" Yes, when loved-ones reject us it seems to be the occasion for a great deal of self- criticism, self-pity, and a general "kick me, I deserve it!" attitude. We typically think there's something terribly wrong about us! We begin to doubt our true love-ability, we toss and turn at night recounting the mistakes we made, we painfully scrutinize every personal defect we possess, and we finally convince ourselves that we are so fully flawed that we would be better to "never love again." It's normal to blame ourselves when relationships don't work out favorably. But given what we know about human differences (and how they often breed disagreement and conflict), it is really fair to totally blame ourselves? No. In most situations, an objective view would show that no one is to blame. What was wrong was the "fit"! I'd like to think that some people "fit" together, and other people don't. Ideally, as we have said before, the better two people's needs, attitudes, personalities, and interests "fit" together, the more rewarding and long lasting the relationship between them will be. Unfortunately, not all relationships achieve a "good fit," and this lack of "fit" can often doom the relationship to failure. But, if such failure occurs, it doesn't mean that either partner is lacking or at fault, it simply means the "fit" wasn't good enough. When I was a child, my mother explained this principal to me by placing my hands together, palm to palm. "See how perfectly they fit together," she said, "how alike they both are? This is how your Father and I have always been." Like your own palms, the best relationships just "fit." They are an almost perfect matching of needs, interests, and desires.
  6. 6. In real life, however, no two people's hands are exactly alike, and sometimes the "fit" isn't good at all. The more dissimilar the hands, the worse the "fit." Still, if you look at each hand separately, there is nothing wrong with either of them. They are both perfectly good, functioning hands, by themselves. Each is a fine hand seen individually. Relationships are much like this. When relationships don't work-out happily there's more than enough blame to go around. Sometimes we blame our partner (i.e, "they were all bad, and we were all good"), but more typically we tend to blame ourselves ("I am so bad, and they were so wonderful"). In fact, neither person in the relationship was likely perfect; nor is this even the point. When relationships don't work, perhaps neither individual is at fault. What was wrong was the "fit!" Just as two perfectly fine hands may not match very well; two marvelous individuals may not match together either. Both are fine individually, it's the "fit" between them that's wrong. Regrettably, most of us tend to blame ourselves (or our partner) when it is the "fit" that should be blamed. And if we could learn to see relationships this way, we could spare ourselves a lot of emotional agony and not experience rejection in such a personal, self- depreciating way. Indeed, we might come to view rejection as a good thing! Rejection: a good thing? Maybe so, if we didn't take it so personally. If we could only take it for what it is -- the result of a bad "fit" -- much of the sting might be diminished. After all, being rejected in a relationship doesn't necessarily mean that you're a bad person; what was bad was only the match. Therefore, rejection can be seen as a good thing, if you can learn the lessons it's trying to teach you. The lesson is not a personal one, it's not a lesson in what's wrong with you. The lesson is one about relationships; and the kind of people that are best for you. Rejection is good because it is a learning experience about the kind of "fit" that doesn't work for you. As I wrote some time ago: "If people don't like you just the way you naturally are, they're the wrong people for you!" (xxx) Because people differ so much, not everyone is going to get along. If someone isn't wild about you, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with them. It only means that you're wrong for each other.
  7. 7. PROPOSITION 4: WE WANT TO FIND PEOPLE WHO LIKE US FOR WHAT WE REALLY ARE If you think it through, all we really we really need in life is a handful of people that truly accept us for what we are. Oh, popularity is nice. Most people would love to be universally admired and revered by our fellows. But I suspect most of us would trade all that for a few good friends who really liked us. No, I believe that what we want to find are people who like us for what we really are; people who like us for our real selves. The kind of people who can accept us just the way we come: unvarnished, natural, and completely open. How wonderful it is to be with a group of friends (or even just one person) where we can truly be ourselves: where we can express ourselves from the heart; where we can freely say what's on our mind; where we no longer have to keep up the pretenses and artificialities expected in the outside world. How special it is to be in a social situation where we needn't be insincere, placating, manipulating, agreeable, flattering, acquiescing, or deferring -- a situation where we can just be ourselves! Yes, that's what we really want to find. And, yes, it would be marvelous! But how do we do it? The answer is: "be yourself!" PROPOSITION 5: TO FIND PEOPLE WHO LIKE US FOR WHAT WE REALLY ARE IS TO BE WHAT WE REALLY ARE There are all kinds of people in the world, but to simplify matters, we could assume that they tend to fall into various types (represented by the letters of the alphabet). There are A-type people, there are B-type people, there are C-types, D-types, the E-types, and so on -- all the way through Z-types. Now let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're basically an "A-type" person.
  8. 8. Assuming the above propositions, we can also say, again for the sake of argument, that you will tend to "fit" best with letter-types more like you (e.g. the B's and C's) than you will with letter-types far away from you (like the X's, Y's, and Z's). However, more than any other type, the one kind of persons you will "fit" best with, is other A-types like yourself. How do you find them? Just "Be Yourself." If you can just be your old A-self wherever you go -- by being candidly honest, unaffectedly natural, and openly expressive -- you will tend to attract other A-types to you like a magnet. In other words, "it pays to advertise!" The more obvious an A-type you are, the more obvious it will be to other A-types (the people who are right for you) that you're around. Simply by "being yourself," you will tend to attract people who find you attractive for just what you are! But even better, when you "Be Yourself" you do yourself a double-service by actually detracting the many types of other people who won't "fit" well with you. Mr. "G" sees you around and thinks to himself, "Boy, there's an obvious A-type. I've got a few A acquaintances, but that's as far as it goes." Miss "T" meets you and thinks, "Nice A, but not my type." Ms. "Z" takes one look at you and mutters, "Not another A-type. When will I get a break around here?" But other A-type people find you quite attractive! "What an wonderful person," they think to themselves, "here's someone who really thinks the same way and likes the same things as I like I do. I bet we'll get along just fine." It's all so simple! If you just extrovert what you really are as a person, then you'll be more attractive to the kind of people who'd like you as you really are. And at the same time, you'll be detracting those who wouldn't "fit" well with you in the first place. In my mind, I believe it's just as important to be "de-tractive" as it is to be "attractive." Why, through insincerity and false pretense, need we attract those who wouldn't really like us? Isn't it better to just let them make their own decision, based on what we more
  9. 9. honestly are? Why subject ourselves to such compromise and indignity, just to win a superficial victory? Why waste time attracting people we have to be artificial around or appeal to people we can't be ourselves with? Perhaps it may be better to "detract" such people to begin with. After all, there's only so much time in a day -- why spend it with people we don't really enjoy? Maybe it's a bit of an asset to be "de-tractive." It certainly saves us a lot of time, and it may help us avoid the untold numbers of mis-matched relationships some people end-up enduring. Yes, it would all be so easy if we could just be ourselves! Unfortunately, however, many people simply can't -- or won't. The causes vary. Some people are just afraid. Because they are insecure, or because they lack self-confidence, or because they fear rejection, they're afraid to present themselves as they honestly are. Instead, they involve themselves in a "cover-up." It may be a partial cover-up; perhaps only a very slight cover-up; or it can be a complete facade. Whichever, the individual involved is not showing a completely natural face to the world. To some degree, everyone is guilty of this. It's the time honored "put your best foot forward" strategy. Most of us have been taught that if we modify our behavior just a little bit, if we hide or cover up the little negative things, if we don't say just exactly what's on our minds, if we acquiesce and placate -- a lot more people are going to like us and we'll be better accepted. And, to some extent, it's true. A lot more people will like us. But, as we discussed above, many of them will be the "wrong" types for us! What's worse, by masking and covering up and not being true to ourselves, we may also be "detracting" the very people that would really be best for us! Let's examine some particular cases to see how the process can backfire. "THE SHY PERSON" Shy, introverted people have the worst time in the "A's and B's" analogy. Because they are so inhibited and quiet, other people don't know how to read them at all. To the outside world, they are not seen as being an A-type, a B-type, or any type at all. They are, by in large, seen as a question mark ("?") -- only the exterior wrapper gives any clue as to what type of person they are.
  10. 10. Take a particular shy person, for example, and assume that this shy person is truly an A- type person on the inside. What kind of things can happen to this shy, A-type? We'll call her "Miss A"... Well, most of the time, sadly, they're just ignored... Mr. H, Miss U, and Mrs. K all just pass our shy, Miss A by. Seeing nothing more than a "?", there's little to spark any interest. Mr. G, on the other hand, has noticed our shy, Miss A on several occasions. He finds the outside wrapper appealing, and thinks to himself, "Is she a G-type like me? Maybe I should find out." But then he thinks better of it, knowing he'll do much better with some other G ladies he already knows, and passes by too. (Here, of course, nothing's lost; since she's an A and he's a G they wouldn't have matched well anyway.) But, what about Mr. Z? Well, this particular Z finds our shy Miss A most attractive indeed, and immediately strikes-up a relationship with her. He, unfortunately, never questions the fact that they will get along famously, because he assumes that she is a Z like himself. What have here is an obvious mismatch, but it may take quite a while before Mr. Z figures it out. Because shy, quiet individuals reveal so little about themselves, it takes a long time to ever get to know them. Sometimes it takes only a few days or weeks; yet it can take many, many months. In the meantime, our Mr. Z. is content with his illusion. But as time progresses, bit by bit our shy Miss A can't help but be uncovered -- and bit by bit the couple begins to see the insurmountable differences and incompatibilities between them. Eventually, both recognize the mismatch -- and both are hurt and disillusioned. "Why didn't you tell me you were an A?" he bitterly questions as he walks out the door. And Miss A asks herself sadly, "Where did I go wrong?" Shy people often wonder where they went wrong. Indeed, many of us who are not particularly shy ask the same question -- especially when our relationship history is filled with mismatch after mismatch. For the shy, introverted person, the answer is simple: they extrovert so little of themselves, others tend to mis-type them time after time. If you don't present your real self to others, others will be free to imagine whatever they wish to about you. And nine times out of ten, they will be wrong.
  11. 11. But our tragedy isn't over yet. What about Mr. A; the one person out there who would be the perfect match for our shy, Miss A? He's noticed her too, yet all he sees is the same "?" everyone else does. He debates introducing himself, but because he has so little to go on, he just walks on by (never knowing he passed-up a perfect A). Now, not all introverts have such sad stories to tell. Some will have good fortune and run into someone who "fits" well, just by sheer coincidence. Inevitably, some shy "Miss A's" will be sought-out and discovered by a "Mr. A." But, when this happens, luck is the primary factor. Shy, quiet people leave their social success completely up to luck. Because they show so little of themselves to others, they neither attract or detract anyone. The contacts they make in life, therefore, are purely hit or miss. Random chance dictates the relationships they have. The person who can "be themself," on the other hand, eliminates much of this luck-factor in the people they tend to attract. "THE FACADE" Here's another example... Mr. A is a young man who's not all that satisfied with himself. Basically, he's an A-type, but as he views his social situation, he senses that he's not particularly popular, and he blames it largely on being an A. It's clear to him that the popular crowd is the B-crowd. Wanting to become part of the "popular" group, our Mr. A decides that the best strategy is to re-shape himself in the more accepted B mold. He heads to the shopping mall and buys a whole new wardrobe of B-type clothes. He get his hair redone in the accepted B-style. He begins to mimic the B walk, starts talking the B talk, and frequents the B hangouts. What happens? Well our Mr. A succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. The other B's quickly notice, and drawn to him immediately. The word quickly spreads that "There's a new B in town!" In fact, a certain Miss B finds our young man quite a find, and moves-in to romance him. All is going fine for Mr. A, as long as he can maintain his facade. Yet, as time goes by, he finds it more and more difficult. Sometimes, he just slips up. His basic A attitudes and personality accidentally surface. Other times he just tires of the pretense, and tries to share his real A self with his newfound friends. Ultimately, the B-
  12. 12. crowd figures him out, and when they realize he's not really a B, they turn their backs on him. His new B girlfriend is especially angered... "You creep!" she exclaims indignantly, "You led me on! You're no B, and you'll never be!" She "dumps" him forthwith! Meanwhile, while all this is going on, how is Mr. A's act perceived by other types? Well, most other types (the D's, C's, E's, etc.) see only Mr. A's facade. To them, he's just another one of the B-crowd, someone they know they won't get along with. Thus, they just leave him alone. This result, by itself, is not all that bad, since our Mr. A wouldn't fit all that well with these other types anyway. But what about the other As out there -- the kind of folks our Mr. A would really match with? Well, all they see is the B facade. "Here comes another one of those snobby B-types," they think, "Maybe I'd better duck down the other way." Our Mr. A has created the worst of all worlds for himself. By pretending to be a B, he is attracting the wrong kind of people to him, while repelling the very people who would like him just the way he really is. VARIATIONS ON THE THEME It's rare to find a person sporting a complete "facade," but many of us are guilty of more subtle variations on this basic theme. Some of us had parents that wanted us to be "like that nice little G child down the street." Others had parents who pushed us to grow up to be a prominent D-type doctor, a L-type lawyer, or a S-type sports star -- or, even worse, a Z-type just like them! Perhaps we just wanted to be better accepted by the kids at school or the people we work with. The pressures to be something other than what we honestly feel we are are enormous. Out of a misplaced desire for love, to just fit in with the group, or a real fear of economic reprisal we feign any "type" circumstances demand. We try to be more like the person our spouse wants us to be. We compromise our opinions to please our employer. We sit quiet at the corner bar when the loudmouths dominate political debate.
  13. 13. In other situations, we simply get too tired to resist and just give up. "If the boss wants a C, I'll be a C." "If my spouse wants a T, that's what I'll be." We simply change our stripes rather than subject ourselves to strife. Usually, we compromise ourselves because we think it is more important to "be pleasing" than pleasing ourselves. Or, perhaps at a deeper, psychological level, we have a deep seated fear that "If people ever knew what I really feel, they'd never accept me." The excuses for a non-authentic presentation of one's self are limitless, yet the results are always the same. The more artificial your personality becomes, the more artificial your relationships with others are. IF YOU'RE AN "A", JUST BE AN "A" Life is short, and there's no sense in wasting it on poor-fitting relationships -- especially if you have to compromise yourself to remain in them! You can become much more efficient in the search for friends and lovers if you just "be yourself." If you're an A, just be that A -- it will all work out fine! The B's will look at you and say, "He's an obvious A and I don't want to have anything to do with him." The C's will look at you and say, "He's an obvious A and I don't want to have anything to do with him." And the D's will look at you and say, "He's an obvious A and I don't want anything to do with him, either." But, the A's will find you and immediately think "Wow! There's my kind of person!" Why waste your life with people that you're not going to be compatible with? Just be yourself. If people don't like you for what you really, honestly, are, then they're not the right people for you. Trust that there are people somewhere who will really like you for what you really, honestly, are, who will like you just for you. And, trust that being yourself is the most efficient way to find them. Realize that people will eventually find what you're really like. It's impossible to hide your real self forever, especially to the people who come to know you most intimately. They're going to discover that you're an A in the long run, so it's far wiser to extrovert that "A-ness" from the start. After all, the longer a relationship develops, the greater the hurt that occurs when it ends. You'd be much better off to reveal your true personality right from the beginning. You may find, in doing so, that your "rejection rate" increases, but, in the long run, your honest extroversion will save both you and the people you come in contact with a
  14. 14. lot of the grief and hurt that comes when people get emotionally involved first and reveal themselves later. JUST BE YOURSELF How can you get better at extroverting your personality? First, overcome your fears! Trust the principles above and let yourself be yourself. Understand how advantageous it can be to you to attract the "right" people and detract the "wrong" people. Let the benefits of this principle outweigh any fears you might have of expressing yourself authentically. Bear in mind: not everybody's going to like you and you make take some lumps along the way. So don't be so sensitive about other people's opinions of you. It doesn't really matter what other people think. What matters is finding people who will like you just the way you naturally are. A certain amount of "bad press" and rejection is sometimes part of the process. Second, be spontaneous! Just act the way you want to act and say what you feel like saying. Let whatever's inside come through to the outside without rehearsal or inhibition. Be more relaxed, natural, and free-flowing. But don't work at it. In fact, do just the opposite... Interestingly, a lot of folks believe that it takes a lot of work to become more spontaneous. Yet it's really quite easy! Actually, its being non-spontaneous that takes a lot of work. Non-spontaneous individuals work very hard, mentally, in an excruciating exercise of self- monitoring their every statement or behavior. Generally, their mind is usually preoccupied analyzing every move in advance. Every word they are say and every action they take is under constant review. "Should I say what I'm thinking?" "Should I apologize?" "Maybe I shouldn't have said that." "What would people think if I did that?" "They'll all disagree with me anyway, so I'll keep quiet about it." And so it goes. Because of this constant analysis, little spontaneous behavior ever emerges, and such people often appear stiff and constrained. The seem to be ill at ease, and often, therefore, make others around them feel the same way. Plus, it's such hard work!
  15. 15. Being spontaneous is so easy in comparison. Just stop the analyzing, the "second guessing," the self-monitoring, and the worrying. Instead, just let it happen naturally. Again, have faith that the more comfortable you are expressing yourself, the more comfortable others will feel when they're around you. It's easy when you DON'T think about it. And, interestingly, what eventually emerges when you are spontaneous is a more natural, real, and authentic you. Finally: be honest. The "A's and the B's" is based on the old adage that "honesty is the best policy." Honestly reflecting and extroverting your personality, your ideas, your feelings, and your opinions is the only way the "A's and B's" can work for you. So, don't hold back, speak up for yourself. What you honestly feel and think may not always make you popular, but it will help naturally and inexorably guide you toward the situations in life where you are going to be appreciated just the way you honestly are. So there you have it. If you practice, you too can "Be Yourself" to a much greater extent -- and like a lighthouse sending forth your beacon in the night, you'll tend to attract those people and situations in life that will be more comfortable and happy for you.