Dating Tropes Explained – Part V – Just Be Yourself

“Just be yourself!”

My heart warms whenever I come across this particular gem. Mostly due to all the radiation from the atomic explosion of rage that happens in my brain.

Here’s my short version of what it should be, followed by a long-winded explanation:

“Just be the best version of yourself, minus all your little hang-ups and childish habits.”

Telling someone to “Just be yourself” sounds pretty good on paper, and fails miserably in the field. Everyone interprets it differently, and some guys (and girls) even use it as a license to be a huge douche on someone else’s dime.

In that way, “just be yourself” is like the Buddhist koan of dating advice. It’s simultaneously the best and worst piece of advice you can give someone, and it all depends on who you give it to, and what mental state they’re in when they act on it.

I mean, if you say “just be yourself,” to a genuinely nice guy who is interesting in some way, is not super high-strung, has cool things going on for himself, isn’t desperate for a relationship, and doesn’t have any MAJOR personality defects that can be fixed, then yeah, awesome advice. He will be interesting and attractive to all the ladies that best suit him (and also a lot that don’t suit him at all), and will only need minor pieces of advice, like “don’t monopolize the conversation,” or “don’t blast your man juice in her face unless she totally agrees to it.”

But, those guys rarely need dating advice. Whenever they ask me, I tell them “you’re over-thinking it,” and “just play it easy and slow.”

That’s the problem right there. The guys most likely to receive “just be yourself” as advice are inexperienced and shy with women. They haven’t had a ton of success with women, are desperate for companionship (usually because they aren’t doing anything fulfilling in their careers or free-time), and doubt themselves. They start to believe that their failures with women (and possibly life) are just part of who they are.

Frustrations I’ve heard:

  • “I’m not good with women.”
  • “I’m not a popular guy.”
  • “I’m not interesting.”
  • “I don’t have what it takes to do the things that other people do.”
  • “I want to meet more people but I’m too shy.”

After a while, these feelings begin to manifest themselves into a complex. It becomes what Average Joe thinks of himself. And so, you can’t tell him to “be himself” and expect that he will automatically start being successful in the ways that matter to him.

Even worse, if Average Joe is the way he is because of a small set of easily recognizable bad habits, this advice is a drum of kerosene in a towering inferno of failure.

Worst case scenario – and this happens far more often than you’d like to know – if you say “just be yourself” to a lazy, immature dickbag (like me), such a person will likely use it as an excuse to continue being a lazy, immature dickbag. Which means by giving that person this advice, you’re unintentionally condoning the following:

  • Sitting at home all day eating Cheetos
  • Spending all of my free time watching TV, or playing video games
  • Not showering for a whole day, because “hey, I don’t have any plans today”
  • Dressing like a bum, because “all that matters is what’s on the inside (we’ll talk about this one another time)”
  • For that matter, never having any plans
  • Every bad habit your can think of that the person says is “part of who he is”

I have shocking news – not every little habit, especially the unhealthy ones, is part of your identity as a person. Some of the stuff is just whatever you do that keep you up and running and alive, some that you’re maybe not doing as well as you could. They don’t define YOU so much as they define the base level of every functional human being on earth. And if you’re not performing those actions (hygiene/health, having enough money to provide your own food and shelter) at an acceptable level, why the hell are you even in the dating game, and how are you wondering why you’re not getting any tail?

I’ve heard the following cop-outs when telling guys to change such bad habits to improve their dating life (and life in general):

  • Why don’t you dress a little nicer? Iron your shirts, wear something besides sneakers. All she knows about you in the beginning is how you look.
    “But Vichet, that’s not my STYLE! Dressing to impress just isn’t who I am.
  • Why don’t you get back in shape? Less gut, more ladies. It’s kind of unfair to expect ladies to be fit if you’re pushing a 40 inch waistline.
    “But Vichet, I’m not a fitness nut – it’s not a priority for me!”
  • You used to have some really cool hobbies – guitar, rock climbing, etc – why don’t you pick them back up?
    “But Vichet, I don’t have time for that now! I’m too old for that stuff anymore!”
  • Maybe you don’t have to talk about your love of Gundam figurines so much on a first outing.

I mean, really, if you conduct your life this way – finding reasons that you can’t make a positive change, and then chalking it all up to “being yourself” – here is the only thing someone would be able to say about you when you die:

Here lies John Doe, who did some things for a while, and had a job, and rarely maligned anyone.

Now don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with surviving. If you’re surviving, you’re already halfway there. Shoot, there are some people who start out in such a crappy place in life, that surviving is all they can realistically hope to accomplish in their lifetime – if you are not one of these people, and you still don’t use the resources and opportunities around you to make something of yourself, I think you deserve to be alone. You can’t demand more out of life if you’re not going to demand more out of yourself.

Surviving is step 0 – remember what I said about having and achieving goals?

So, to recap, the following annoying habits are NOT part of your identity and aren’t immune to criticism just because you say “it’s just who I am.” It’s not who you are as much as it is a bunch of bad habits:

  • Having nothing to talk about because you don’t do anything interesting (Cop-out line: “I’m just shy/an introvert” – you can be an introvert and have stuff to talk about)
  • Having little sense of personal style or hygiene (Cop-out line: “People who dress to impress are just fake.” Yeah, thousands of years of cultural evolution where people extend the courtesy of putting effort into their appearance, and you’re the enlightened one in your week-old sweats and birkenstocks.)
  • Wasting all of your free time doing nothing (Cop-out line: “I’m so tired from work.” If that’s really the case, girls are not your problem. You need to find a different job.)
  • Putting people down, hatin’, being negative to put yourself above others (Cop-out line: “I’m just an aggressive personality, and I think those people are being fake because they’re not being a slob like me!” No, you’re a tumbling dickweed. Stop putting others down and bring yourself up)
  • On the flip side, being a doormat for women because you’re putting up the facade of being “chivalrous” (Cop-out line: “I’m just being nice.” There’s a big difference between being nice and being nice to try to get a woman to sleep with you. The difference is called “not being a pussy.”)
  • Anything that you do to that involves you making a choice to continue feeding your weaknesses. That stuff is just sad.

If you have one of these habits, changing them would not be “compromising your identity” or a “personal ethical failure.”

If you think you can’t change these habits, you’re wrong, because thousands of other people with two arms, two legs, and a semi-regularly functioning brain have done what you want to do. More likely, you’re just too afraid to try because it would mean that your personal success is your responsibility.

Rarely are any of these things – all of them day-to-day lifestyle changes – a question of ability. This isn’t training to be an astronaut. This isn’t inventing the next longer lasting light bulb. This isn’t becoming a world-renowned artist. It’s just making small, concrete, positive changes – like being in shape, having hobbies that make you happy on your own, being financially secure – that affect how you operate EVERY day. That make you feel good about being you. Things that you might have told yourself before are unchangeable because “that’s just who you are.” Things that would make “being yourself” become good advice.

When it comes down to it, I’m asking you to brush your teeth, be interesting, and to impress yourself instead of faking something to impress others. I’m not asking you to lie to anyone, take up interests you’re not interested in, or be fake. Then when you have those good things going on, you can be confident in your everyday life, because you are COMPETENT at being happy and alive. You won’t have to “act cool” or “act confident” because you will just BE those things. And naturally, women will be curious about that confidence, and wonder about what things you’ve got going on in your life to make you so much happier than the Average Joe.

So, the best advice I can give you about “being yourself” is to imagine the best version of yourself and strive toward that. Even if you don’t get there, you’ll be better than you were yesterday, and you’ll never find out how far you can go if you don’t start taking the steps.

This isn’t a two step program. This isn’t something you do for a few months. This is a journey of discovery called being alive, and it theoretically lasts up until you die.

I guarantee you that you’ll surprise yourself. I know a bunch of people who have done this. None of them knew at the beginning exactly how it would turn out when they finally told themselves “enough is enough” and decided to stop being angry, to lose the weight, to restart their passion, to FIND a passion.

But, looking back, all of them are happy they did it, and most say they wish they’d taken the steps sooner.

Stop finding excuses not to be happy. After you become the version of yourself (which is always changing for better or worse) that you’d be proud to wake up and see in the mirror every morning – THEN you can “be yourself.”