Let me first start by saying there are many times that “just be yourself” is the best advice. For example – going on a date or a job interview. In these situations, who you are is important for the other person to know right at the very beginning.
But “just being yourself” is not an excuse either. Here’s what I mean.
I’m selfish. I always have been. I came out of my momma crying for a blanket and some milk. That’s part of who I am. Does that give me freedom to be rude to you for the sake of “just being myself”? Of course not.
Our world today is extremely individualistic. We’re told at a very young age that we can be or do anything if we just put our mind to it. I remember PBS programs as a child encouraging me to “Be original” and to think for myself. I don’t have qualms with that.
But that same thought taken to the extreme leads to the increasingly common thought, “I’m proud of who I am, and I won’t change for anybody.” A popular song by Imagine Dragons celebrates this individuality with the hook, “I’m never changing who I am!”
Seriously? What about if you’re a slob, a jerk, shy to the point of avoiding any human interaction, overbearing, hurtful, abusive, or just plain rude? You’re happy with that? You’re proud of who you are and are unwilling to change for anybody?
It can be really difficult to see this in ourselves. For example, as an extrovert, I am inclined to rudely dominate conversations and be a little obnoxious. I can’t help that I’m an extrovert, but I can control my behaviors. So although I’ll never change that I’m an extrovert, I DO want to change my level of obnoxiousness! I shouldn’t use my extroverted temperament (who I am) as an excuse to be offensive to others.
Let’s have enough humility to recognize that we are all incomplete and be open to the positive influences of those around us (for the Christian, those influences may come from the Holy Spirit). We are who we are – but we can always be a better “us.”