New Year’s Resolution #27118: Be yourself.
I can tell you from personal experience that this mantra has been around forever, or at least since 2003, when I was in the seventh grade. Introduced to me by either a mentor or an inspirational wall hanging, this resolution became the bastion of hope to which I clung in a world where rubber bands on braces were the epitome of self-expression and boys in starter jackets turned my brain into butter.
In 2003, to obtain a boyfriend was one of my greatest desires. Lizzie McGuire really wants a boyfriend, and so shall I! Certain that boyfriend-getting was the measure of one’s true success in life, I was met by only one obstacle: I was inept at everything required to get one. Instead of Limited Too and butterfly clips, I wore BabyGap and scrunchies. I refused to shave my armpit hair on the grounds that it was the worst. Counter-productively, I chose to project an attitude of general disdain toward anyone with a penis. I remained boyfriend-less.
And I despaired.
That is, until I heard the two most magical words in the art of boyfriend-getting, words that called to mind beautiful high school girls with nice skin, breezy independence, and a decided lack of braces… “Be yourself.”
Well, good. Yes. That’s interesting. Cool. I will be myself. Great. Wow. This is so much easier than I thought. How silly I’ve been. How silly to let society tell me who to be!! I’ve been misinformed, socially fettered, emotionally restricted, elementally repressed!!! From this day forward, now and forevermore, in every circumstance, I resolve to be myself!!!!! Now… just exactly who am I?
Clearly, the undertaking of self-actualization was more complicated than I had originally thought and required a good deal of intellectual consideration before action could be taken. There were a number of “selves” that I presented to a number of people, depending on my context; I was a domineering tyrant when dealing with my younger siblings and a hyped-up sugar megalomaniac with my twelve-year-old girlfriends. Based upon the assumption that my interaction with my family was the most long-standing and therefore natural environment, I reasoned that my most pleasant social behavior in the comfort of my own home should be the basis for my understanding of social mores in cross-gendered interaction. “Any boy worth having will like you if you just be yourself,” some nebulous, Hilary-Duff-like character kept whispering in my ear.
So you can imagine my confusion when boys neglected to be dazzled by my still un-shaved armpits and my attempts to engage them in witty repartee by repeatedly quoting Muppet Treasure Island.
But Lauren, you might say, everyone had these problems in seventh grade, with the exception of the “pretty girls.” It’s actually not bad advice; everyone (except the pretty girls) just has to wait a few years to learn that it’s true.
And Lauren, you might add, that’s exactly how you got your current boyfriend.
That’s entirely unfair; it had a lot more to do with the Muppet Treasure Island thing than the armpit hair.
Lauren, still others of you would like to add, the point of life is not to get a boyfriend. And please, for the love of everything, never mention body hair again.
Well, you’ve got me there.
But, in recent years of indecision, future-induced paranoia, and being a millennial, I have found that this resolution mantra has resurfaced. That little Hilary Duff is back! It’s cool to “be yourself” again!! Say what you need to say! Live while we’re young!! It’s now or never!!! It’s your thing, do what you wanna do!!!! Haters gonna hate!!!!!
And I am very confused.
Once, I was ashamed that I could accurately recall the surnames of even the most obscure Harry Potter characters; now, that’s a venerable skill.
I like all kinds of beer and I’m not supposed to because I’m a girl. Yeah, I’m the coolest because I just happen to love the stuff. Thanks, taste buds. Keep it real.
I’m a little proud that I know all the lyrics to every song from the Pocahontas soundtrack because I’M QUIRKY AND I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE ELSE THINKS. I’M ADORKABLE.
So, now our job is to embrace our weirdness because it makes us “adorkable” but to keep our eye out for those posers who are suddenly embracing dorkiness as their own. When we find them, we must tackle them and berate them and explain to them that “Being Yourself” is a philosophy that serves to help uncool people topple the dynasty from within!
And if we aren’t actually dorks now, are we supposed to pretend to be?
I’m a closeted member of a society called Girls Who Love Joss Whedon, Comic Books, and Star Trek, but Have Seen Three Episodes of Doctor Who and Didn’t See What All the Fuss Was About.
I agree with people who tell me that it is “refreshing” that I don’t wear makeup because I’m “comfortable with my physical appearance” when the real reasons are
1. Because I am lazy and
2. Because make-up makes me look weird
(For those of you who think I’m compliment-fishing, I assure you I am not. There is something strange about the genetic composition of my eyes that causes the slightest application of eyeliner to make me look like an elderly raccoon empress).
I really like Christina Perri, but I pretend I don’t, because people who like Christina Perri are too mainstream. And mainstream people are trashy because they care what other people think too much.
Somehow, the definition of “be yourself” has become “try to be the opposite of everybody else.” But when everybody is trying to be the opposite of everyone else, we’re madly sprinting back and forth from conformity to its antithesis. Metaphorically speaking, I imagine us as the pirates in that one scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 3, where they hurtle from one side of the ship to the other. Remember that scene? Remember it? …Never mind.
The pendulum swings from “I’m going to be the opposite of what everyone wants and expects because I’m being myself” to “I’m going to be exactly what everyone wants and expects” when maybe it should be along the lines of “I’m going to do things that I enjoy regardless of popular opinion while remaining considerate of others.”
I’m sick of living in a world where I do things because of how I think they’ll be perceived by other people. Have I really progressed much since seventh grade? Sometimes I actually plan to do something simply because I want others to see it. Oohh I want to bake cookies with my boyfriend and then take pictures of it so other people can see that I have a totally adorable boyfriend that I do totally adorable things with. Look, our relationship is perfect probably!! And look, the cookies are in the shape of characters from Game of Thrones because look, we’re BEING OURSELVES.
Whether I’m seeking approval or disapproval, so much of what I do is for the benefit of other people. Look at me! I wear scuffed up boots, which means I’m trendy. I got them from Goodwill, which means I’m not trying too hard. I biked to Goodwill to buy them, which means that I’m conscientious and eco-friendly. Never mind the fact that the boots hurt my feet, I have two dollars left in my checking account, and biking gives me shin splints.
Maybe we need to stop doing things for the benefit of others and stop letting other people do things for our benefit. So I don’t wear makeup. So she does. Neither of us is inherently better because of either decision. So surfing isn’t as cool as it was in the early 2000s. So you still like to surf. So I don’t know the lineage of the Kings of Gondor. So he doesn’t like drinking alcohol. So they prefer to use disposable diapers. So I want to get married. So she really doesn’t right now.
EXISTENTIALISM, you cry! RELATIVISM!! WITCHCRAFT!!!
I’m not trying to negate the existence of right and wrong, good and evil, or healthy discussions about any of these things. Maybe we should just pick our battles a little more wisely and, in the meantime, live our own lives.
And, anyway, don’t hate.
I’m just being myself.
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.