I think it’s very important to be yourself.
We live in a fast-paced society where opinions fly by us, we are constantly told how to think and act, and the mass media has a huge affect on what people believe.
Fashion is ephemeral . Coolness is transient. Styles, gadgets, technology, and words, change constantly. The politically-correct crowd stalk us like Big Brother.
There is enormous peer pressure to conform, or to do what is expected of us.
This is because humans have evolved as social creatures, and the ability to fit in and be assimilated by society is not only preferable, but in many ways necessary. But it’s easy to go through the motions, and be a sheep.
Being aware of other people’s opinions is very important. It’s also a very good idea to understand how people see you. However this isn’t something that we’re generally very good at. I think most people just act how they think they are and hope that it comes across.
Unfortunately, as I’ve recently written, how we perceive ourselves is not always how other people see us. Who we really are as people only has any validity when we interact with others anyway, so no one can be an island. If you were the last human on earth then honesty, confidence, etiquette, attraction, and sociability would be meaningless, so you cannot pretend these things aren’t important. And you can’t pretend that other people’s opinions aren’t important. They are.
The other extreme is to think “the hell with everyone, I’m me and you can like it or get lost!” Well, if that is how you want to be then fine, but don’t expect to be very popular. I am not saying that you should change to please people, but it’s simply common sense for instance to be more polite around certain people than others; to flirt around someone you like than someone you don’t; you make the effort to talk to people at times even when you don’t really want to; to bite your lip when you really want to snap someone’s head off; to think before you speak; to wait your turn in line, etc. You aren’t “selling out” or being a different person, you are just showing different attitudes where necessary; you’re the same person. People who say they have a “fuck it” attitude very rarely do in actuality. People who are genuinely like this and say whatever they want, and do whatever they want, and whenever they want, with no regard to the feelings and well-being of others, very rarely succeed at anything, very rarely have friends, and very often end up in prison.
Other people serve as a benchmark for who we really are. That’s important to remember.
On the other hand, you should try to know who are you. Better yet, have an idea who you want to be; what kind of person would you like to be? If you want to be an unpopular hermit then act that way, and you will probably get your wish. There is anything right or wrong in this as you’re not hurting anyone, so you can be whatever person you want! If you want to be a popular confident person then you should act that way. Now the secret is to not change your vision of yourself to match other people’s: don’t be ashamed of your interests; don’t be afraid of having opinions and expressing them; don’t be afraid to go against the tide and question the status quo; don’t be swept along with the crowd; don’t be a sheep. Know what you want, and know what you like. Know what you agree with and believe, and stick to your principles.
People who are intent on being “in” with the latest everything and are determined to be like their peers are insecure. Ironically, these people brand people who “think outside the box” and don’t always go along with the crowd as uncool. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing “cooler” than being yourself and liking what you like. If these likes are what everyone else likes, great. If not, that’s ok too. What makes something “ok” is not how many go along with it.
We all need other people. But you are just an “other” in everyone else’s world. This means that other people need you of course, but it also means that you’re not the star of your own show. You’re just another person on the planet.
We’re dependant on each other. Humans form complex interrelated networks of relationships. Just as losing one plexus in your link would probably drastically affect your life, so too you are such a plexus in someone else’s life. Humanity is a sphere of connections; there is no centre and there are no boundaries. If one accepts this view, it’s easy to see that ultimately we’re all connected.
I’ll leave the closing words with some poet from a few centuries ago:
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!”