This little nugget of wisdom I got off from Sophie, the protagonist in my book. However odd or deranged it may be, I learn with my characters and from my characters.
This is what goes down in the story.
“Wait. Wait a minute.” I catch up to her and grab her elbow. “I don’t know if I should do this. I mean…what am I supposed to say, ‘Hi, I look pretty in a dress’?”
“You’re supposed to just be you—”
I cut her off. “Please don’t say yourself.”
“It’s the worst advice you can give people. What if I’m a backbiter or a serial killer? That’s not going to work, is it?”
There you have it. So I gave my character’s words some further thought. I’m right there with you Sophie, “be yourself” is insidious advice.
Don’t be yourself. Be better. This needn’t apply solely to backbiters or serial killers; “be yourself”, is often coined as helpful and cheery advice, but in truth, is highly limiting to your potential for growth. Humans are meant to evolve, otherwise it wouldn’t feel so good when we do. If there’s something I frequently say on this site is that change is the only constant. Don’t take my word for it: Greek philosopher Heraclitus said over 2000 years ago that it is in changing that one finds purpose.
It’s hard to change, we operate from a set of predisposed ideas. Take chances. Take risks. Don’t go with the flow. This is all easier said than done, I know.
By the same token, “stay true to who you are” is all about accepting and loving ourselves, and who we are is a choice we make. You are not your parents, your sister, your brother, your friends; you are you, and if you don’t like who you are right now — that’s okay — you can always reinvent yourself anytime you decide being yourself isn’t getting you where you want to be. It doesn’t mean you have to go out, buy a whole new wardrobe, and start dressing as some chick you saw in a magazine. It doesn’t mean you have to put on a mask. You don’t have to be someone else, or think like someone else, or perform like someone else. You just have to be you, at its top.
Who am I? Alas, the million dollar question. I’m sure every single one of us has asked ourselves this at some point of our lives. There’s this pressure to figure out who we are, and if we don’t figure it out, we’ll somehow go mad and get lost in the turmoil around us. You don’t figure out who you are, you create who you are. People aren’t just born with a predestined personality they have no control over. You don’t have to peel through layers and layers to find your unmovable root of self. You’re not an onion! All this talk about who we are, it’s just potential. Who am I? Wrong question. Who do I want to be? Good question. If you don’t know the latter, then by all means figure that out. Do stuff, and see what happens! We are built to do the impossible.
I tend to not like when people say “this is how I’ll always be,” or “I’m not going to change who I am,” as an excuse to stay within their comfort zones and cling to the easiness of what they know.
This is what Oliver, my other protagonist, has to say about comfort.
“Well, if you ask me, it’s a good thing to push at the edges of your experience. I suppose we’re all predisposed to do the things we’re comfortable with. It’s easy, you’re not worrying, but you’re also not out there exploring. Security isn’t always a good thing.”
A square is a prison of coziness. You’ve gotta open yourself up to a cube, man. That’s a different dimension. A dimension beyond your knowing. You deserve a kick-ass life (unless you’re a serial killer). Your cake is not yet baked. Your turkey is still in the oven. Who knows what is waiting there for you on the other side.
Copyright © 2015 Elisa Marie Hopkins.