|Posted by Randolph Castro on February 15, 2013 at 2:00 PM|
When you hear the phrase, “Be true to yourself,” be honest with me: what do you think that means? More to the point, is it even useful? Hasn’t it become just another cliché that we toss onto the heap of pointless platitudes that motivational speakers and self-help books toss around when they need to fill space or kill time and just can’t be bothered to come up with something original?
Sadly, it has. And that’s a problem, because as soon as a phrase becomes hackneyed like this, the meaning behind it becomes similarly disregarded. We stop thinking about what it means to be true to ourselves, because we start thinking of it as just some excuse to rip off our ties, toss on old battered sneakers and just let loose, man, or whatever hip new phrase you kids are using.
. . . Does anybody use the word “hip” anymore?
In the professional world, this just isn’t an option. You can’t just waltz into the office with sweats on, or those Velcro sandals people tend to wear with glaringly white socks. There are dress codes, and codes of conduct, and other codes. They stop us from letting our hair down (again with the clichés). So how, exactly, can the discerning young professional (such as yourself) be true, when there are so many rules in place that run counter to the very concept?
The answer is deceptively simple: change the concept.
Being true to yourself doesn’t have to mean being anti-establishment or fighting the system. It means being honest about your expectations. It means doing your research and making sure the path you’re leading is the one you want under your feet, whether they’re clad in those Velcro sandals or custom-made loafers. Being true to yourself means digging deep into your own personality, and tearing up from the woodwork your honest desires out of life. Keep in mind that there is a status quo in effect; if your honest desire is to strangle your neighbor’s cat, I can’t help you. We’re speaking strictly within the realm of law, here, because I’m pretty sure I’m obligated to do that.
Do you hate dressing up like a conformist? Slacks and button-downs and ties? An office environment isn’t going to accommodate you, and you have no one to blame but yourself if you end up stuck in that situation. If something as standard-issue as the dress code runs counter to being true to yourself, then you probably weren’t very true to yourself in the beginning, when you took the job.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice. Sometimes we have to jump at the bit, and take hold of the first offer for employment. That’s a part of life, and it’s a tough one. Some of us might have the golden luck of not ever being trapped like that, but say you’re not. Say you’re one late bill away from starving in an apartment with no light or heat. If you take that first offer, then you have to own that offer. You have to own the fact that you’re in this position now. If you don’t want to stay in an entry-level day job or some other sort of dead end, but you have to be there because you need to feed yourself or care for your family, that’s fine. It’s commendable. It’s heroic. But every journey starts with the first step (oh, you sneaky cliché; stop that), and being angry at that first step, or the second, or the sixty-fourth, because it isn’t long enough is worse than counterproductive; it’s outright self-destruction.
When I say “be true to yourself,” I mean a number of things, and none of them have to do with yoga or Chicken Soup for the Soul. Except if you like either or both of those things; then yes, those count.
I mean that you should find work that fulfills you, or else find something that fulfills you about your work. If you’re not in a position to chase your dream job, start working toward it while finding little things in your current position. Can’t doll up your cubicle because company policy says no? Find a wallpaper for your computer that’s special to you, like your favorite show or your favorite band. Have to wear the uniform while you ring up your customer’s order? Talk to them while you do it. Make your smile honest instead of wooden. Ask questions that pertain to your interests. Are they not interested in talking? Do the thing quick and move on. If there’s absolutely nothing you can do to salvage your day-to-day slog, then find something that speaks to you on your off-time.
Be honest with yourself; that’s what it means. Be honest about your faults, about your virtues, about what you like and what you hate. Want to watch My Little Pony even though you’re in your forties, and male? You watch it. You make it your mission in life to watch it. Want to make origami airplanes and hand them out on street-corners just because you can? Pour your heart and soul into those airplanes. Find something you can do that makes you think, “I’m glad I did that.”
Sing. Dance. Laugh. Skip. Play hopscotch if you want.
You know what makes YOLO such an annoying phrase? It’s so painfully obvious that you feel like you’re being smacked with a lead pipe whenever somebody says it. But, like so many ideas that tend to get annoying, there’s some truth to it. You do only live once, and that means taking hold of your existence and bending it to what you want, in whatever small or large ways you possibly can, instead of caving. This applies to work, play, and every little nuance in between.
Sure, I don’t like reading textbooks heavier than my cat (my cat’s pretty big). But I do it because it’s taking me one step closer to the path I want to take. It fulfills my desire, even if I have to force myself to do it sometimes. Being true to myself doesn’t mean tossing the book aside and dropping the class because it doesn’t “spark something” in me. I didn’t want to take a class called “Contemporary Critical Issues,” because it sounded twice as boring as weighing the merits of iPhone app loading screens. I took it because it was a step toward my dream. A heavy step, a begrudging step, but a step.
And do you know what I do when I’m done reading that cat-sized textbook? I watch cartoons. I write about characters that don’t belong to me and post the results online for free. I do things for me. I play. I lounge around the house. I do whatever my mood tells me I want to do, because I deserve that. I owe it to myself.
So do you.
Be a gentleman, have conviction and ambition, have tact. Behave professionally in public. Then, when you’re done doing that and it’s time to wind down, do whatever you can to reward yourself, because you’ve earned it.
Be true to yourself.
Categories: Culture: Alpha Framing