By Shari Levine
Have you ever been given this advice? I used to hear this all the time when I was struggling to deal with friendship feuds, or when I wondered how to get my crush to like me. But what exactly does it mean to "just be yourself?" And, if just being myself was good enough, then I wouldn't have these problems, right?
Let's face it, the messages are confusing. They say: fit in with your friends, dress right, be cool, like the right music. but also be yourself. It seems like there are certain "rules" that girls follow to fit in and be popular. A lot of these rules depend on your school, your age, and your family. but there are always things that will make you more likeable, and other things that will make you stand out in a bad way.
Some friendships come naturally, and these are the people who you can really be yourself with. Other friends may expect you to act a certain way, and if you don't, they make fun of you or make you feel badly about yourself. You may need to act fake around these people, cover yourself up with plastic coating and pretend to be just like them so that they won't make your life miserable.
Let's figure out what it means to "just be yourself" so that you can make this advice work for you.
Start by understanding who you are and what you like, which can be hard to do because you will change as you get older. But for right now, answer the following questions honestly:
- What are the things you like to do the most?
- Do you like going to school, playing sports, doing art, listening to music, playing board games, dancing, going to church/temple, family time, etc?
- What music do you like to listen to when you are alone?
- What makes you feel most happy?
- Who are you most comfortable being with?
- What makes you feel proud of yourself?
Once you have answered these questions, think about the people you hang out with. Are you and your friends compatible?
For a long time I became friends with a girl if I liked the way they looked, if they were popular at school, and if they were cool. Once I got close to these girls I realized that we didn't have a lot in common, and I felt self-conscious and out of place. Eventually, I became one of the popular kids, but inside I was lonely and felt like a fake.
Looking back, I wish that I had surrounded myself with people because I liked who they were on the inside; girls would laugh at my jokes, take long bike rides after school, and talk for hours about anything that came up.
The problem is that most people are pretending to be something they're not so that they can fit in. It's hard to find other kids who are true to themselves since it seems like everyone is trying so hard to follow the "rules" of popularity.
Think about the time you spend with your friends. Do they really care about you? Here are some ways you can tell if they do:
- They want you to be happy.
- They listen and care about what you have to say.
- They are happy for you when you do well.
- They say they are sorry when they make a mistake.
- They don't expect you to be perfect.
- They give you advice in a caring way.
- They keep personal things between the two of you.
It's a great feeling when you can "just be yourself" with a friend or a boyfriend. I encourage you to be around people who like the person you truly are, not the person you pretend to be. Do you know the difference?