Be Yourself

Mike McGough
September 2016

Although brief, the wisdom behind this two-word bit of counsel is massive both in intent and potential applications. This is an old piece of advice that never seems to be diminished by its age. It is universally applicable, and there is little or no credible evidence to disprove its timeless virtue. As a tool for simplifying your life and enhancing the genuineness of your interpersonal relationships, it holds great power and may well have no equal.

Consider the example of a candidate for a job who demonstrated his genuineness in an interview.

Following the interview, one of the interviewers who knew the candidate personally said, "With him, what you see is exactly what you get. If you know him one place you'll know him everywhere. He is who he is."

"That's great if you like what you know," another member of the interview team added. "But even if you don't," she continued, “at least you know who and what you are dealing with."

In recounting and further discussing the interview, those involved made comments like, "His answers seemed genuine and sincere." Someone else said, "When I asked questions he gave careful answers that seemed to be based on what he wanted to say rather than what he thought we wanted to hear." Another added, "Twice he asked for some time to think about his response before he offered it, and once he responded with an honest, 'I don't know’. And frankly, I really respect that answer." Ultimately he got the job, and proved to be a good hire.

Such a candid, forward and honest style may not be comfortable for everyone, because there are some potential pitfalls with such an approach. For example, complete honesty can sometimes be seen as rudeness. Frankness in the eyes of some folks can easily be viewed as arrogance by others, and a "this-is-who-I-am" attitude can be mistaken for "who-does-he-think-he-is" assertiveness.

Folks who are open with their feelings and tend to greet life face on can easily intimidate less open individuals. They expose themselves to others for who and what they are, and when they interact with someone who doesn't, they can easily become confused. They can also come away from such encounters feeling cheated and used.

Another disadvantage lies in the perceptions genuine people leave with certain power-overs.

(Power-overs are people who have some power over you. It could be your boss, a more influential member of a group, someone to whom you are indebted, or someone who just thinks they’re a tad better than you.) Power-overs often expect and even demand special treatment. They assume that you should and will behave a certain way around them. And when they don't get the treatment or see the behavior they expect, they often react negatively and respond offensively.

On the other hand the advantages of genuineness are numerous. If you are who you are, genuine and true, you don't have to plot and plan your interpersonal relations. There is no need to keep a running index of the characteristics associated with each of the many relationships you have. You have the privilege of just being yourself regardless of who you're with.

Another advantage of being yourself is that you don't have to worry about which of your many characters to cast for the various situations in which you find yourself. When you encounter a new and different person or set of conditions, there is no need to think about who you should or will be. You’ll be you, just you, plain and simple. It makes life much easier.

This doesn’t suggest in any way that you should greet life with an insensitive and abrupt truth that is cruel and unkind. Nor does it suggest that there is any wisdom in thinking only of your own feelings, needs, and desires. Knowing how to work with and get along with others is unquestionably an important personal attribute. Understanding that there are times when it is necessary to adjust your reactions to people and situations is common sense. Such adjustments are all part of getting along.

There are and always should be reasonable limits on how much of you, you are willing to give up or trade away, just for the sake of getting along. For example, when daily efforts to get along cause dramatic changes in who you are, and when you find yourselves acting, for whatever reason or reasons, you have probably gone too far. When you lose yourselves in interpersonal relations, what's the point of having them? If you are only getting along for who you can pretend to be, are you really getting along at all?

Maybe we'd all be a little happier if we gave ourselves an open invitation to greet life as a come-as-you-are party!