It’s a good idea to be yourself, not only because everybody else is taken, but because trying to be anything else doesn’t usually get you very far.
But how do you do it?
First, you have to understand what you have unlearned about yourself. This process can be disheartening, as you remember past decisions where you had the chance to be yourself but instead chose to be something different.
Since trying to be anyone other than yourself is usually ineffective, why not begin by deciding to do only what is true to your own inner compass? If you did it for just one day, what would that day look like?
There are a few schools of thought that say you are incapable of making good decisions on your own; that you are inherently evil and must continuously struggle against your true nature. You are destined to lose without some kind of intervention.
But what if your true nature were good? Sure, you’ve screwed up with the best of them, but that doesn’t mean you are destined to make bad decisions. Aren’t you capable of being true to what you believe in? Aren’t you capable of being a good self?
We all know at least one bitter, negative person. My theory is that most bitter people are not being true to themselves. My guess is that somewhere along the way, they took a wrong turn they’ve always regretted, and they take out their disappointment on others. You know how there’s always ONE GUY who tells you you’re stupid for not knowing how to do something? To be yourself, you have to be able to ignore that guy.
The last thing you want is to be bitter, but the second-last thing you want is regret. To avoid regret, you have to make active decisions. I think moving forward is better than remaining stationary. And I also think you have to show people you care about them—merely thinking nice things doesn’t help anyone.
Being yourself is risky. Something could go wrong, and then whose fault would it be? (This is another reason why it can be easier to let other people make your decisions—then you can blame them when it doesn’t work out.)
But in the long-run, you know you’re capable of being a good self. You know you’re capable of taking the risk. Even if some people don’t understand, you can find a way to pursue the life and work you’ve always wanted.
And you can be yourself, whoever you are, today.
A version of this post originally appeared on Chris Guillebeau’s blog where he writes about work, travel, and the lessons he learns along the way.