Emotional HealthPsychology

The art of being yourself in a sea of pretenders.

8 Mins read
the art of being yourself

Lao Tzu, a Chinese Philosopher and writer said, “Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength but mastering yourself is true power.” This in its own sense shows the importance of being yourself.

The society has conditioned most of us to believe that being ourselves is a sure fire way to failure. You have heard people say that, “you can’t take that degree, you won’t get a good job, you will be poor.”

Or “You can’t date so and so, you will definitely be unhappy.”, “Don’t date for love, date for loyalty and security.”, ” Don’t work for passion, work for security and assured success.”, “You can’t behave like that, just do this and this.”

This is apparent in lots of YouTube videos, which in my opinion are always hilarious for starters but also misleading af. The titles are always catchy with phrases like , “10 things you shouldn’t do if you want to be successful.”, “5 sure fire ways to make it today.”,”100 things to avoid if you want a boyfriend.”, “69 ways to spice up your sex life, stop being lame in bed.”, “90 things to do to make your relationship successful.”

Some of these videos may be helpful, I guess, but come on, why would you want to do those 1 million plus things if they have nothing to do with who you are or what you really want, you will find yourself struggling to make someone else happy at your own expense, that is a recipe for disaster.

The art of being yourself helps you focus on showcasing who you are as an individual, your likes, your wants, desires and dreams. And in so doing, it will help you attract what is solely good for you, whether its something or someone.

the art of being yourself in a sea of pretenders

The meaning of being yourself

Being yourself simply means that you stop pretending being something that you are not. It means prioritizing being who you are above all else.

This doesn’t mean that you stop doing things to please other people or impress them, no, it means that you stop changing who you are just to do those things.

You can be yourself and still accommodate others – which is a huge sign of emotional maturity. Being yourself doesn’t mean that other people’s opinions become useless, hell nah! People’s opinions matter, unlike what most people think.

Its through people’s opinions that you will get to discover your authentic self. Its through people’s judgement and comments that your flaws, shortcomings, strength and weakness will show. So don’t lie to yourself that people’s opinions don’t matter, they are what makes us whole.

There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”

(Acts 20:35)

These words were meant to show that helping others is way more important and fulfilling than anything else. It also shows how humans feed off gratitude and acknowledgement as a source of accomplishment and fulfillment.

What people say and appreciate in what we do is way more important than anything. If no one appreciated your work or criticized it then you would never feel satisfied with what you do, or even recognize the importance or demerits of your work.

Most of us get lost in this idea that people won’t like us if we act a certain type of way. The reality is, people don’t really care that much about what you do anyway, we are all human and what affects you directly is of more importance than what is happening to someone else. That is why I’m a cynic (I believe all humans are driven by self-centered beliefs and wants)

Learn to enjoy yourself and what you do without needing acknowledgement but also be grateful when you get noticed, that is important too.

The terrible effects of being a pretender

The worst thing about not being yourself is that you never see the effects till its too late. Most pretenders find themselves in this nasty loop of lies after lies – lies which are hard to keep up with by the way.

This loop results in a change in your character and behaviors. What you used to like may turn into what you hate just to fit into a crowd. At first glance it will seem harmless but as the web keeps winding, the lie becomes bigger and thicker to a point where you can’t unwind it back, and so you get stuck in this facade character that you just created.

Don’t lose sight of who you are and what is in store for you by pretending to be something you are not.

In his book, The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho talks about the importance of finding yourself, because it is only after you have found yourself, what you want, and want it bad enough, that everything in your life will fall into place. He says:

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it

Paulo Coelho,The Alchemist

He goes on to say, “People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them” Which always surely kills the spirit and potential in each and every one of us.

But he also assures us, “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense,” meaning that the “treasure” you are after has to be something important to you.

This quote explains how to get the most advantage out of pursuing a dream.  If you go on a journey to find a treasure and your heart is not in it, it will not mean anything to you and you will not learn anything about yourself.  Santiago (the main character of the story), goes on a journey to find a treasure of gold but he gets a bigger treasure of love and knowledge because his whole heart is in it. He is not just doing it for the money.

Why people become pretenders

Just to fit in

I remember when I was in high school, most of the guys I knew then used to have these awesome amazing stories of how they get girls and the dozens of numbers they had on their phones, the kind of crazy wild stuff they would get into and stuff like that.

Personally, I had lots of fun in high school. Drama was my forte and “funkies” used to be the bomb. I loved it. But like most guys, I never had any of those crazy wild stories.

So one day when we were out during a drama festival, me and my friends started chatting up these girls from a neighboring school. As expected, the guys started bragging about their wild escapades and adventures, but all I could do was stare at them and wonder how they did all of those things.

As you can guess, when it was my turn to tell my stories, I had nothing to say. So what did I do? I lied of course. I have always been good at making up stories because of that day. I started forming this awesome story in my head that even made me jealous of myself.

By the end of the day, I was labeled that “cool” guy. And it was amazing, for a while, until I had to keep making appearances in situations I didn’t feel comfortable in, with people I didn’t like that much and even agree to decisions that made my stomach sick.

I had tangled myself in my own web.


Very few of us would ever admit to failure. We sometimes want to be seen as these perfect beings even when we know we are not.

It is okay to show a certain strength to people so as to command respect and power, but it is wrong if it means that you will never admit when you are wrong. This is more so in relationships.

There is these meme I saw the other day that cracked me up,”He online, she online, but no one texted, ego wins.” Most people in relationships will never want to admit when they are wrong even when they know they aren’t, no wonder the divorce rates are going up. Learn how to deal with emotions people – be highly emotionally intelligent.

It’s normal to want to be the best in one area of your life or another, but when you’re obsessed with the idea of being perfect in everything: as a parent, in a relationship, at work, you expose yourself to a strong and continuous stress that affects your well-being. Psychologists argue that perfectionism is rather a dark side of the personality that can generate frustrations.1

Perfectionism can be good when it’s about the desire to make everything right, but bad when it’s about the desire to make everything perfect. This perfectionism can become an obsession. So ask yourself, does it really worth it?

Insecurities and weaknesses

This one is a biggie. Very few people ever admit to their insecurities.

We are all human, we all have fears, we all have failures and we all have that thing that makes us feel less than. It might be beauty, riches, family background, job, spouse, health…..the list is endless.

Our insecurities are nothing to run away from. A recent study proved that most of the insecurities that people have contribute greatly to their strengths and fortes.

Which is hard to deny, because, most of the success stories you hear come from people who faced a certain level of adversity in a given area that eventually propelled them to greatness.

Use your insecurities and weaknesses as strength and not your downfall. Your insecurities might be the things that lead you to the success you have always wanted.

What people say about you

We have all had people say something negative about us. sometimes its something so bad or annoying that you have to do the opposite just to prove them wrong.

Its even worse when people say positive things about you. Just imagine if word goes around that,”He is so passionate”, “He is not like other men”,”He is more mature and brilliant.” You see where am going with this?

People saying positive things about you is worse because you will make it your mission to make sure you never disappoint them. This is apparent when it comes to parenting and teaching kids.

Parents, be careful of the praises you give to your kids. They love you and are inclined to please you even if it costs them. They will do it for you. Don’t define your child, let them define the course of the lives.


How to be yourself in a sea of pretenders

Lie less and less – strive to be honest

Its hard to become a pretender when you rarely lie. Honesty and being more truthful is a sign of emotional maturity and self confident. Most people who pretend suffer from certain insecurities that they would rather hide than let the world see and accept them.

When I used to lie about being awesome in high school, my life was a nightmare, I had to constantly keep track of all the lies I had told so that I could never be caught. I actually remember writing them down in a book (all the writings were in a secret code I had “invented”, but more on that later).

In short, I was so miserable. But when I reached my final year, I decided to cut down on the acting. To my surprise, I came to find out how much everyone used to lie and make up stories just like I did. It was such a relief.

In the end I realized how unnecessary lying is sometimes, it just wastes you up and gives you a small doze of happiness that will only eat you up eventually.

Know yourself and make it your mission to be you.

One of the easiest way to know yourself is through a simple personality test. You can take one at 16personalities.com.

Being yourself entails knowing who you are – your character, your values, your principles, your goals, your dreams, your culture and your desires. After which, you will have to adhere to them by keeping a journal and being mindful at all times.

I’d love to hear from you. Would you say you are a self-aware person, that you are not a pretender? How do you see the role of self-awareness and being yourself in your professional and personal life?

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts.


  1. Did you know that perfectionism is a risk factor to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? – Retrieved from Psychologytoday.com.
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About author
I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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