Why We Cannot ‘Just Be Ourselves’, and Why We Can

The following quotes are taken from interviews I carried out with mental health advocates. I asked each of them, “Often, you hear advice telling you to “just be yourself”. Why is it so hard? How can we just be ourselves?” Here are their responses:

“Still learning this. It’s hard because we want to be included. We want to be liked, and so often when we share some of who we really are we are ridiculed. For example, I am still a little embarrassed that I enjoy writing poetry and do not tell many people because I don’t want to be made fun of.” – August Pfizenmayer, Survival is a Talent

“When you don’t feel yourself, it can be very difficult to hear someone say ‘just be yourself’. The most important thing is to remember that wherever you are at that moment is not where you will stay, and each day can bring new developments. This is when a journal can be helpful as you can keep track of each day and your ups and downs.” – Breaking the Stigma

“Because the problem with mental illness is that it makes it impossible to know who you actually are.” – Charlotte Underwood, Author of ‘After Suicide’

“It’s hard because we lack self esteem… so we need to look for ways to boost that.  Spend time doing hobbies you love, and spend time with people who love and appreciate you.  Don’t waste time on people who are nasty or influence you in a negative way.  Confidence can grow over time and also as you get older and come to know yourself better.” – Jemima Powell, Olive Branch Consultancy

“Maybe you don’t know who you are. It’s hard to be yourself if you haven’t taken the time to find yourself yet.” – Josephine Mwanvua, Above the Storm

“It’s actually easier than you think. Stop listening to all the haters – especially the ones inside your head – and love yourself boldly and bravely and live like you’ve never lived before. Everybody has their own sparkle, and everyone deserves to thrive in and own it. I hope you find yours and let yourself live the powerful life you deserve!” – Patrick A. Roland, Author of ‘Unpacked Sparkle’

“I think there are many different manifestations of oneself, and we present each of these depending on the group we’re around or the situation we’re in. I think everyone monitors their behaviour to an extent (you wouldn’t go to a job interview and immediately start cracking jokes or swearing, even if that’s how you act at home), and for people with social anxiety this is exaggerated. Every social situation is a job interview. The interaction with the woman selling you baked beans, and the way you come across to her, is as important as the interaction your average Joe would have applying for a new job.” – @Social_Anx

“Personally, I think it is hard to be ourselves because there we will always have expectations and reality. Oftentimes, we set our expectations too high that it creates a huge gap from reality. This is where feelings of anxiety and depression and sadness come in. We can just be ourselves by aligning our expectations from what is really happening.” – Mari, Tayo; Tayo Project

“Because as human, we always compare. We always see others, but forget to see our selves. Then when we compare, we feel bad if we are not enough, but feel good if we are. Comparison has always been the enemy of being yourself, because you are lacking confidence every time you compare. It is always hard, because it is the easier process and way out of a stressful event.” – Timothy, Tayo; Tayo Project

Under what circumstances can you just be yourself?

3 thoughts on “Why We Cannot ‘Just Be Ourselves’, and Why We Can

  1. This is fantastic. Thanks for compiling this. I find there is freedom in being myself in few circumstances. Usually only in a small group with close friends or family. Even then, unhealthy comparison, insecurity, depression, and anxiety can make authenticity incredibly challenging.


  2. I used to feel comfortable showing my true self in most situations, but I’ve become much more guarded, partly because of my illness and partly because of traumatic experiences.


  3. I lost who I was as I allowed myself to be defined by what I did for someone else or my relationship to another person. Then I had a role. Learning to be myself happens as I relax with safe people and allow myself to be flawed and human and vulnerable with those who don’t judge me.


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