Should You “Be Yourself”? (What Does That Even MEAN?)

I sometimes get this urge to strangle people who’s go-to advice is “Just be yourself”.

  • Should I just be myself even if that puts people off?
  • Should I be honest all the time, even if that makes people upset?
  • What if I become a different person around different people? Which “me” is the right one?

So, where do I find the balance between being “within the norm” and “being myself”?

When I read books on social success, I got the feeling that I was being molded into some generic person just to fit in. Luckily, there’s a better way than having to “put on a mask” and abandon your integrity.

What people really mean when they say “be yourself” is that you should act as natural as you are around close friends.

That’s good advice (even if it can be hard to follow).

The “self” changes all the time. And changing is a natural thing. You let different parts of your personality shine through in different situations. You act differently when you’re with your grandma than your friends, and that’s how it should be. Part of the beauty of being human is that we aren’t 1-dimensional creatures who can only be one thing.

Bringing forth different parts of our personality based on who we’re with is called building rapport. It’s something we all do without even thinking about it. Being able to change is something good – as long as you don’t change into someone you don’t WANT to be.

I have a friend who has different beliefs than most

He never shoves what he thinks in anyone’s face, and he never hides it if someone asks. He has no need to argue with anyone about it, and he has no problem discussing it if someone wants to. He’s never been defensive about it, and he never judged anyone for believing something else.

But how can my friend “get away” with being who he wants to be when others can’t?

Because he has all the traits of a likable person:

  • He’s confident.
  • He’s warm towards people
  • He’s a good listener.
  • He shows different qualities of himself depending on the moment; calm, excited or serious. In other words, he’s good at building rapport.  

These four traits are what actually makes someone likable.

People who haven’t grown these skills often try the “bad” road to feel liked instead – changing what they DON’T want to change. Their beliefs, their values, parts of their personality they cherish. Ironically, that makes them look insecure, and therefore LESS likable.

Another friend of mine felt like she had to be this overly positive and happy person for people to like her. She later realized that she didn’t need to be that 1-dimensional. It was OK to be a calm, low energy person when that fit the situation. When she started to meet people’s social energy level instead of trying to top it, socializing gave her energy instead of taking it.

4 steps to combine “being genuine” with “being likable”

  • Showing different sides of your personality is good as long as you’re comfortable with who you become
  • Don’t hide – and don’t flaunt – your opinions and beliefs
  • Be accepting of other’s opinions and beliefs
  • A person who is confident, warm, a good listener, and builds rapport, is likable without having to put on a mask

P.S. As I’ve become more socially skilled, I’ve been able to get away with being who I want to be.

I don’t have to hide that I’m a rather weird guy who enjoys doing nerdy stuff. My friends like me and respect me for it. I can be comfortable doing things I couldn’t before.

Here’s a gingerbread castle I built


Here’s my wrecking ball crane (it gets weirder)


Here’s my hamster Wilma


Here’s a minimalist hamster skyscraper I built her

Minimalist Hamster Skyscraper

Well, you get the point.

To me, being socially skilled isn’t about trying to be like everyone else. It’s about getting away with being who you want to be.

P.P.S. We all got unique qualities or interests that’s sometimes hard to share without seeming kind of weird.

Tell me about one of those qualities you’ve got that you’d never want to change about yourself. Write about it in a comment below. I read everything! 🙂

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David Morin

I'm David Morin. I'm a social life expert. I'm featured in more than 20 self improvement and career sites and newspapers, among those Business Insider, Lifehacker and Thought Catalog. I live in Gothenburg, Sweden.