“Be authentic,” “unleash your true self,” and “don’t worry what others think of you” are all maxims we hear to push us to be ourselves. In actuality, fewer people than the fingers on your hands have even met and learned to tolerate your true self.

What does “being yourself” actually mean?

The mantra suggests behaving in a more uncensored, natural way. Almost like when you have a drink, and your social inhibitions are slightly down, and you’re more likely to say what you think, express how you feel, and do things that your inner voice usually wouldn’t let you do.

However, this isn’t the best thing to do in certain situations. Imagine being in a work meeting where your coworker suggests something that you think is stupid, and you believe they are generally incompetent. If you’re acting as your unadulterated self, what’s to stop you from telling them? Although we’ve probably imagined doing this, we’re quite aware of the consequences and don’t do it.

Don’t get it twisted: there are fantastic reasons for nonconforming and having a mind of your own. For example, your morals or principles that prompt resistance of irrational and oppressive rules and norms. But there’s a difference between doing that and assuming praise for doing what you like, what feels right to you, or represented a completely unfiltered version of yourself.

Why “just be yourself” when you have the option to try to be the “best possible version” of yourself?