Friday, 20 January 2017

The Problem With "Just Be Yourself"

Loving life in the sunshine atop the Altare Della Patria in Rome. The easiest instance of self-love that I can remember.

Today's post was originally published for The Odyssey, when I was a writer for them. It was one of my favourite pieces to work on, and one of the issues I was most passionate about, so I thought I would share it again here. I hope you like it...

These days, it feels like women (and sometimes men, too) are bombarded by the media with advice on how to improve our hair/body/eyebrows, because apparently these things are all inherently linked to our self-worth and value as human beings. In the last few years however, many media outlets have begun changing this message to "just be yourself" as if this is somehow a whole lot easier than looking a certain way. I do think that the idea behind this message has a lot of value, it still has many problems that come along with it.
Trying to "be yourself" can be a little problematic because most, if not all of us, can find that it is incredibly difficult to embrace ourselves as one unchanging being. The concept of "be yourself" is tough because everyone's identity is so fluid and always changing, even for those who are consciously struggling to define themselves. And don't even get me started on the idea of "real women" holding certain qualities. What exactly makes a "real woman?" These messages are so contradictory and hard to grapple with.
The "be yourself" message is, I think, synonymous with the notion that women must always be authentic: but what happens if the authentic you doesn't line up with the image of the happy, energetic and self-loving woman that we are told to aspire to be? In my opinion, aspiring to "be yourself" in today's world is a hell of a lot harder than aspiring to be the physically perfect women plastered on magazine covers. I can laugh at those images, and understand that there is no way I'm ever going to look like a VS model. It's so much harder to embrace the difficulty of being ourselves, totally authentic and self-loving. You can't just go out and get your teeth whitened, pay for plastic surgery or get a haircut. To "be yourself" you need to push aside the societal message that some parts of yourself are "unattractive" or "flaws."
In my experience, we are different people in every situation. In one average day, I can be many different versions of myself. I don't want to just be "myself" because I haven't got a clue who that is yet. I'm still learning, and growing, and trying to figure out who I really am. I think better advice to young people would be something like "be human to the fullest" or "you are enough as you are." Ultimately, I think the big problem with the message "be yourself" is that not a whole lot has changed. There is still the notion that we need to change in order to be valued by society, rather than the notion that society needs to change in order to value us.
x B


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