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‘Be Yourself’ – Bad Advice?

Today’s video I’ve been wanting to share with you for a while.

There’s a piece of advice you’ve heard hundreds of times before that could be really holding you back.

‘Be yourself’. Seems like good advice right?

That’s what makes this line so insidious.

On the surface we feel it’s helpful, but the truth is it rarely serves us.

When someone says ‘be yourself’ all it does is give us validation for staying the same and not taking risks.

It’s a polite way of saying, ‘be who you are now, don’t explore being more evolved, advanced, or daring.’

It implies you know who you are, but do you really?

Many of us when asked this look in the rear-view mirror, looking at who we’ve been in the past.

I don’t think that our behaviours and habits are who we are. We should never confuse who we are at our core with the behaviours we’ve adopted over time.

There are parts of ourselves we won’t have experienced in a long time, or that we’ve never experienced because we haven’t pushed ourselves in certain directions.

We find out who we are by having new experiences, adventures, by trying things, figuring out what we like and don’t like, and by judging our actions upon reflection.

But we only know all this when we take chances.

If I had followed the advice ‘be yourself’ I never would have stepped up on stage to start public speaking. I was terrified of it growing up and thought I didn’t enjoy it. But once I began to get good at it, I began to adopt it as part of ‘me’.

We always have to be questioning who we think we are.

When did you decide you were any one thing? And how do you know it’s really true?

Stop trying to sit there ‘discovering’ who you are, and start DESIGNING who you want to be.

Figure out who you want to be and the goals you want to have.

–What type of person do you have to be to achieve these goals?

This is a much more practical question than trying to discover who we are.

Are you choosing the route you’re choosing because it’s really who you are, or are you saying this is who you are to avoid something you’re afraid of?

Keep taking risks, mess around with who you are, try new things, and dabble in different ideas and with different personality traits to come to a conclusion yourself from the experiences you have in your life.

If you want to hear more about this type of stuff, my Retreat program is the place where I really get into this. It’s where I go deep, helping you figure out what you really want from your life. I have one program left this year that’s not sold out in Florida in November. To check out more about it, click here.

Question of the day…

What’s one new personality trait you can try on for size this week? How can you shake things up and do something you wouldn’t normally? Let me know in the comments below!

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89 Replies to “‘Be Yourself’ – Bad Advice?”

  • Great video.
    After my divorce my life fell apart a bit. I dropped my MPH and also experienced medical malpractice with my thyroid. Two weeks ago I garnered the courage to inquire about my eligibility to go to Med school as originally planned. The answer was yes but I have to take MCATS. I’ve been debating with myself if I can do it or if I should try. It means 4 months of studying full-time like a job plus I didn’t graduate yesterday …. on the other hand there are other fields I like such as genetics. So the bottom line is deciding what to go for and how. Maybe I’ll do something more holistic instead. At least I finally verified that the doors aren’t shut.

  • Hi Matthew Husky (it definitely fits, don’t you think :D),
    I’m in my last year of high school but this summer I started a relationship with a classmate. It’s sometimes awkward at school when we can’t be very close. The personality trait I would try for this week is to be more expressive with him in public places.

  • Matthew, you certainly “you hit the nail on the head”. Be myself is like saying to me, “Don’t change, love yourself just the way you are”. That doesn’t resonate with me well. At 64 widow for 35 years, I’m still “growing up” so to speak. My goal each day is to learn something new regardless how small it is. To explore things I’ve never done, not limit the capacity to learn. I’m about to lose my job, I’m a Clinical Laboratory Scientist, the laboratory where I work was bought out by another company. There’s about 500 hundred of us will be unemployed soon. Instead of looking at it as a crisis I looked at it as a confirmation, for me do do something I’ve always been passionate about. I’m going back to school and become Life Nutritional Coach. No one is too old to go back to school. We should always strive to improve ourselves, or we might as well be dead. Not literally but intellectually, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. Thanks for the video.

    1. Hi Julianna

      I love the fact that you’re in your sixties and still living the life and believing in love. It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how old a woman is, we all want to be treasured, loved and respected.

      When I’m ‘big’ I want to be like you :)


  • Hmm…to me, this phrase “Be Yourself” is the advice that others give when they have nothing constructive to input.
    If you ask them “how”, I bet they don’t know the answer either.

    Being “Yourself” now doesn’t mean this is the person you want to be in the future. Everyone can have the ability to achieve what they desire, but it’s just sad to hear most of us are not courageous enough to go for it.

    So a more appropriate phrase should be, “Be who you want to be”

    Meditating is not a bad idea ‘cos when we are in stillness, we can hear our own inner voice, a voice that has grown faint after years of competing, comparing and wanting. If we follow the inner voice or in a more layman terms, “Follow our heart”, we will find happiness and bliss.

    Most of the successful people like Oprah Winfrey operates at the gut level.

    And Matthew you are one of them too. I love your sincerity in helping women have great relationships and life.
    And I love your unconventional outlook and ideas.

    Whenever I’m about to give up on something, your message will always give me new inspirations! :)

    Keep doing what you are doing ‘cos you are just brilliant!

  • So I have totally been thinking about this and came to the conclusion, If I’m not myself who should I be? As human beings we should constantly be exploring and growing but if I’m out with someone I’m going to worry about the moment and how I’m going to make it great.

  • i have to tell you matthew , you are so amazing . you are making me think , change , chalenging me every time. and you always talk about the mistakes i made in the past and how to fix them . after listening to your videos i have grown mentaly so much , and also i have a better personality today ,and in every way you make me better my self. and today i love boys and understand them even more, i am more bold and risk taker than i was before, and my life have changed for the better. so thank you dear man…..:)

  • Funny thing, right before watching this video, I was just telling my girl friends, that I want to work on pushing myself beyond my comfort zone aka “the familiar” . I want to meet people outside my circles, who don’t necessarily shares my values, ambitions , and career path. I think there is something there , which will make this journey a tad more exciting.

    I guess its a sign huh

  • This video was just what I needed to hear Matthew! Everything you said was right on the money, and it was great to hear! Love your advice Matthew, and yourself as well! :)

  • Hi Mat,

    This is what I was always thinking. If I be myself I will never take risks and do things right and innovative way. Thank you. :)

  • ‘Be yourself’ is usually said in response to a relationship, be you, not a facade.Hurrah. Freedom!? As per anything else,I find ill-health and no money terribly relevant to ‘being myself’. Like thousands of others. Regarding the former definition I gave, I find some men are incapable of reality. As I vomited down the loo at six weeks pregnant my beloved said – “Well, this isn’t what I signed up for!” I was without the full-combat make-up and tight black leather trousers. Ergo – The YOU I want is not the YOU you are. I am already aware of ME and I like me. I have had a very interesting life. But some things prevent the me I am turning into a ME they might like. And that is another issue.

  • Everything you said makes so much sense. I’ve heard “be yourself” so many times when seeking advice, and I’ve wondered what does that mean and why would I want to continue what I’m already doing if that’s not working. I really can’t thank you enough for your realistic and concrete advice in your blog and your book. This whole business of “being yourself” and living as the person you want to be and finding someone to share it with sure ain’t easy but you make it seem possible. I think I’ll try “assertive” as a new personality trait this week. Thanks! :)

  • This isn’t so true Matthew. If I ever told someone to “be yourself” around a guy than I’m pretty much telling them not to try and be someone else I.e make yourself uncomfortable. The guy went out with you because of who you are not who you try to be. I understand where your coming from, and I totally agree take risks. Go for what you believe in or go for what your passionate about. Love the hat BTW it looks good on you

  • here in brazil there is a singer how sang: ” Prefiro ser Essa metamorfose ambulante Do que ter aquela velha opinião Formada sobre tudo, sobre o que é o amor sobre o que eu nem sei quem sou”
    witch means: i rather be this ambulant metamorphoses then to have that old opinion made up about every thing, about what its love about what i even not know what am i
    what you said and he said its quite alike means you dont have to stop been you, but you dont have to be afraid to change, to search deeper for yourself on the lil things or the big ones dont be headstrong just for been it take risks and dont be afraid not knowing how is it going to be because nothing is certain you have to make it work for yourself, you can change your mind but your essence is there any way. be yourself doesnt mean dont try, dont grow, means keep you way, heading were you want to be.

    got me?


  • Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to make these videos, and encourage people like myself to dig a little deeper into themselves so we may be better people than we were yesterday. I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of your videos I have watched, and I have learned a lot about myself, and how I behave in relationships because of them. Because of this, I am not “being myself”, I am striving to be a better version of myself and for that, again, I thank you.

  • omg Matthew you are incredible! thank you so much for sharing this.
    before i found you i was so interested about relationships and i wanted to know more about the psychology of people especially couples and i always had certain ideas but wasn’t so sure about it so i looked online and books for guidance some were good some were bad but than i found your videos and i was finally pleased because what i thought how things should be you said the same only in a more deeper level, since than i only read and see what you say!
    thank you for everything :))

  • Matt
    The video is great it made me think, but i disagree being who you are doesn’t mean to shut your self down and do nothing, do whatever you want but if you are not you it’s pointless and fake. Being unique, to do the things at your one way that’s the thing that make us different. I understand your point to expand our mind, to change and try different things but if we are not our self we will be lost. That is what i think. How ever i like you Matt you and thank you :)

  • I hardly leave a response, however I read some of the remarks on this
    page Be Yourself – Bad Advice?. I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay.

    Is it just me or does it give the impression like some of the remarks appear as if
    they are left by brain dead people? :-P And, if you are writing
    at additional places, I’d like to keep up with anything
    new you have to post. Would you list of every one of all your shared pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  • Dear Mat,

    Thank you for the video and thank you for addressing that topic, for two reasons:

    Firstly, you pointed out the problem of bad advice.
    That is very important as we do receive bad advice constantly, but too often we don’t see it or can’t distinguish the one from the other. Especially in situations when we are lost, vulnerable and very receptive for any kind of advice. You pointed out the silly aspects of the “Be yourself!” imperative, but I think you missed out one aspect, that is also a good guidance to detect bad advice in general. “Be yourself!” directs the focus to the end result of an action, not the action or the process to get there. Similar commands are “Work smart, not hard!” or “Be more effective”. Nobody ever tell you HOW on earth you are supposed to be yourself, just that you are supposed to be.

    When receiving or looking for advice, we should keep certain questions in mind, such as:

    – Does that give me guidance on what to do as a next step, or is it just pointing out a desirable result?
    – Does that advice reflect any personal issues or experience of the advisor, which potentially have little to do with my own situation?

    I am sure you could think of a few more. Maybe you could do an article or a video on that topic: How to receive advice in general. That would be incredibly helpful. In any case it is important not to completely guard yourself against outside influences, but filter them according to your own quality standards.

    Secondly, you are completely right.

    “Be yourself!” assumes that people have a static and well defined personality that they should not alter in order to mask insecurity. That is, as you already explained complete bollocks, because it prevents the idea of a diverse character.

    Personally, I never specifically tried to adhere to the “Be yourself!” rule, but it kept creeping in the back of my mind, especially because a “genuine” character is valued in our society. Even though, people are altering their behaviour all the time automatically depending on the situation. (Naturally you can’t treat your boss the same way as your husband) We magnify certain character traits in certain times, due to necessity. Surely we all have an individual personality, but by trying to pin it to a certain set of very specific traits, we exclude others. Defining myself as shy and introvert prevents me from raising my voice. Defining myself as uncreative prevents me from pursuing certain activities. If we stick to a profile we limit ourselves.

    I took it a step further and consciously abandoned that imperative and actively tried to diversify my personality. It improved my life, my interactions with people and my confidence. Suddenly I realised that I could be whoever I want to be, which was incredibly liberating. It freed me from the guilt and frustration of my past and current weaknesses, because I know that it does not fully determine who I am or will be. It also takes away the fear of “not being enough” as a person in the future. Now I know that there are a million aspects to my personality, which can differ greatly or even contradict each other. Like a piano player, I combine different keys of my personality and create different melodies. There is no limit to myself, so I will always be enough!

    That still does not make me phony or opportunistic, because I do not try to please the expectations of others. As long as I am the one who determines myself and not others, I will always be myself.

    Most recently that change of heart was very evident, as I met a special someone who values exactly that. As you mentioned so often throughout your work, men love multidimensional women. He is no exception. He keeps expressing his admiration for my diverse character. The fact that I don’t need anyone, but can still ask for help; that I can dress very innocent, but act very sexual; be playful and childish, but discuss politics and war at the dinner table; that I make him feel like I need his shoulder and protection, but have no fear to jump down a cliff sky diving. He says he does not miss anything, because he feels like there is always more to discover.

    The best part is there is not only more to discover for him, but mainly for me! I do this for myself, so I don’t have any expectations to limit me. I am much more likely to leave my comfort zone, when that zone does not have clear borders. Without great changes of the circumstances in my life, but a little change in my mind, the future seems like a great place to be.

    Therefore, instead of “Be yourself!” we should tell people, “Be only whoever YOU want to be, not who others want or expect you to be!”

    Thank you for teaching me that!

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