Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Be Yourself" May Not Be For Everyone

Editor and author Thomas Masson once said, "Be yourself is the worst advice to give to some people."

He has a point. But the anonymous quote makes sense too. So now what?

Well, Masson did say just "some" people.

While I remain a strong advocate of being true to yourself when it comes to pitching business and serving clients, Masson notes clearly that being yourself may not be the best course of action for everyone. The question is: Are you one of those "some," or are you one of the rest of us? ; - )


  1. I love this thought. Like you, I really think it's best to just be who you are. Of course, I'd like to think I'm not one of the "some" people.

    But, if you're actually better off to not be yourself because that is not a good thing, could you then be any better acting like something you're not?
    You would have to know that your true self is not cutting it and then also understand what to do to hide that fact. Impossible I think.

    So, in the end, no matter who you are, it's always better to be yourself, even if those around you don't think so.

  2. Agreed. I think about the story of Oedipus Rex. Here's a guy who spends his whole life doing everything possible to avoid his fate, only to be walking into it the entire time. It's a relevant lesson when it comes to the importance of just being ourselves, as it's likely the best approach. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Leo, what a great conversation starter. This is why I love your blog, because you are yourself and pepper in great life wisdom like this amongst the client service and agency leadership stuff. Bravo.

    As for being myself, I started out my career trying to be ultra professional and not letting the "real me" out 9-5. Fortunately that didn't last long and little by little, I've learned that clients and colleagues appreciate the real me - playful and goofy at times, fun loving and positive to a fault - not just the professional me. I've also landed at an agency where quirkiness is an asset, which is wonderful.

    This reminds me of another good quote - "Be memorable" - from Peter Shankman. There's got to be a good balance between being professional, being ourselves, and being memorable. I'm striving to attain that.

  4. Lara, I hope it's another 20 years before I'm old enough to impart wisdom, but I do appreciate the sentiment. Actually, the story you offered in your comments about losing power during your presentation and how it inspired greater authenticity among your team members served to influence the direction of this conversation. As always, thanks for weighing in.

  5. It's apropos to ask, "What is self?" "What defines me as me?" Is me the being that is? And, "How does that change, if it does change?"

    Do we rely on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to define who we are, what we are and how we act? Or what about any of the other bizillion type-indicating psycho-social tools used to understand self? Or do we need to dig deeper? Weight nature against nurture -- how does one affect the other? Or, is one more of a dominate "person shaper?"

    I venture to say many of us have no idea "who we really are," because it's such a metaphysical and existential question. It encompasses all that being is. And knowing who we are, can, if we are not careful become our raison d'etre. Or maybe it is that too.

    We think of Oedipus Rex and these questions become very central to the discussion of self. More importantly, defining self can be more like building one's house on sand. The foundation of self always changes, it's always in flux.

    While I say this, one thing has been constant. I've taken several Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; my "type" has always stayed the same. I'm an ENTP. But I question whether myself can be whittled into for letters.



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