I recently finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a chronicle of Gretchen’s life as she spends a year following the advice of happiness gurus and researchers alike, attempting to make herself happier.
As part of the project, Gretchen made a list of Twelve Commandments, or overarching principles, that she would use as a guide during her year of improved happiness. The first of these commandments was: Be Gretchen.
At first glance, this particular commandment didn’t stand out to me. You’ve probably heard this advice innumerable times — from your mom, your dad, a teacher, a friend.
Just be yourself.
I always took this advice to mean to act like yourself. Such as, if you’re in a new social situation or meeting new people, just act like yourself and people will like you.
But here’s what I’ve come to realize: there’s more to that advice than simply acting like yourself. Be yourself also encompasses accepting yourself. Be proud of who you are; don’t apologize for what you like and what you don’t like. Embrace the personality traits that make you unique, that make you you.
For instance, I’ve never been one to get really excited about going out to bars or clubs, especially late at night. Sure, I’ve had some fun times on the dance floor until the wee hours. But, in general, I enjoy going to sleep early. I like waking up when the sun rises, not stumbling in from a night on the town and heading to bed.
For years, I felt bad about this tendency. I had many friends that liked staying up late and going out at night. In an effort to not seem boring, I attempted to make myself enjoy those things too. When I did go out with them, I usually had a great time — so I took that as a sign that obviously I did enjoy being awake at 2:00 AM, mingling with other night owls at the bar.
But here’s the thing — though I may enjoy that scenario on occasion, I can honestly say that if I followed that routine every weekend, I would collapse. My body, my personality — I’m simply not made for it.
I’ve known for years that I’m an introvert. I enjoy alone time. Baking cupcakes, reading a good book or spending a weekend on an art project — that’s my idea of a good time. And yet, it has taken me years to accept these things in myself, to stop trying to change myself in an effort to fit some mythical mold of what society deems appropriate.
Are you an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between? Embrace the person that you are. Don’t force yourself to be something that you’re not, simply because you think that’s the way you should be.
Don’t force yourself to like things just because you think you should enjoy them.
If you’re surrounded by a bunch of books worms and academics but what you really love is karaoke and rock climbing, then by all means, honor what you love. Stand out from the crowd. Be bold. Be different. Don’t attempt to squeeze yourself into a mold that simply doesn’t fit. Find the things that you enjoy — the things that make you feel like jumping out of bed in the morning and rushing off to do seize the day.
In the end, those are the things that will make you happy.
A happy person brings more joy to those around them than an unhappy person. Thus, you owe it to the world to be yourself.