“Be yourself.” You hear it all the time. But are we really meant to be ourselves, all of the time? What about on a first date? A job interview? When you have a meeting with an intimidating manager or client, or lunch with your in-laws?
Being yourself can get confusing—and it’s not always possible. As an energetic extrovert, I love new social encounters but have to tweak my style often. I have to gauge when I can truly “be myself” versus when I need to tone it down and show a more conservative side.
On the other hand, I coach a lot of introverts on how to dial their personality up and how to decide exactly when they need to. (If you’re more of a quiet type, check out the introvert’s guide to owning any social situation before your next big event.)
However, there’s no rule book for figuring out how much of your true self to reveal on a day-to-day basis (if only!). We only have our common sense to judge which version to present in any scenario.
Below are five tips for putting this popular yet fuzzy advice into action.
1. Get to know the many facets of your “self.”
Some days you will be more upbeat than others. Some days you will feel more confident than others. Some days more subdued, and others more excitable. This is a good thing: It gives us great flexibility to amp up certain elements of ourselves when appropriate—like letting our fun-loving side out at a bar with more exuberant colleagues, then dialing it down at a dinner party with the boss.
You are a beautifully unique, complex individual with many different aspects to your personality. Allowing your full spectrum to exist matters. This is what makes the world is so interesting and colorful.
2. Accept your personality traits.
Most people know if they are introverted, extroverted, or an ambivert (which is a blend of the two). Give yourself permission to own this and know when you either need alone time, or more time with other people, to fuel your soul. No one way of being is superior to another.
Knowing who you are simply puts you in a position to make choices that complement your preferences. While an extrovert may thrive by filling up their social calendar, an introvert might benefit from prioritizing some nights in to Netflix and chill. Both are awesome!
3. Being yourself also means being appropriate and respectful.
Don’t let your personality type be an excuse for not making an effort. Maturity means taking stock of the situation you are in and making others around you feel comfortable. For example, if an introvert is at an important networking event, speaking to the one person they know in the corner all evening may appear rude to the host or planner. An extrovert may piss people off by being the loudest or most outspoken person at a gathering where the focus is on someone else’s birthday or engagement. If you are unsure, ask yourself, “Which is the coolest and kindest version of myself to be right now?”
4. Never be who you’re not.
As mentioned in point one, everyone’s personality contains a variety of aspects. However, you should never have to try to be someone you’re not or go against your personal values or authentic self.
So you don’t want to smoke, go skiing, or hit up a nightclub this weekend? Then don’t. You don’t have to do something just because that’s what your friends are doing. People respect those who are authentic to who they are. And you should appreciate yourself for making your desires the priority that they deserve to be.
5. Give yourself a break!
Life is a journey of becoming the highest version of who you are, and no one gets it right every time. We all have bratty moments. We all have generous moments. We all go through ups and downs and experience scary new encounters.
But you can always come back to who you are, because your true essence never wavers. In moments of fear or uncertainty, give yourself a gentle nudge and say, “I’m enough no matter what. So which ‘myself’ is the most suitable and loving to be right now?”
And rock being that.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest column!