I’ve said it myself dozens of times: to a friend interviewing for a job, a bestie going on a first date or to a client going to speak before a new group, “Just be You.”
One of my friends called me on it recently.
“What the F does that MEAN?!” he cried.
“Well, uh,” and I was floored.
He was right. Should he show up to his job interview as the nerdy, snarky guy that permeates his social media feed? Or perhaps he should be the him that is the favored child in nearly every family setting? Maybe he’d do well to be the fashion icon we all know him to be? Or perhaps he should be the super smart, highly efficient, number-crunching savant with a side of humor that we all know and love in the office?
This call to “just be you” is a good idea, in practice it can be another useless cliche without substance.
Like my friend, I have many sides to ME. I’m a nerdy know-it-all when it comes to useless information. I’m a former cheerleader and a sorority girl. I’m a leader with a lot of compassion but little patience for people who lack initiative. I’m an outdoorsy girl who loves room service. I’m a loyal friend and have been called out-going but need to have large swaths of space in my calendar for doing nothing. I’m a workaholic. I’m a person who loves deeply but trusts slowly. I’m an adoptee who loves her family but still wants to know my biological family. I avoid conflict as much as possible but will get on my soapbox and call out systems and people that I see as abusing power.
There’s so much more too!
I’ll bet you’re the same way.
With all these diverse parts of our personalities, what does it mean when we’re told to “Just be you”?
What I ended up saying to my friend before his big interview was”Bring the best version of you that makes the most sense for this gig to the job interview. Don’t forget all the parts of you, but if they’re not germane, don’t feel pressure to tell them all those side of you in the first meeting.”
That’s what I mean when I tell myself, “Just be you.”
That’s what I mean when I ask you to be yourself. Be the version of yourself that makes the most sense where you are. Be open and honest. Resist the urge to force feed every one of your beliefs in the first meeting. Let who you are unfold in your relationships.
When you’re speaking to a group for the first time, you can put them at east by being totally you. If you’re nervous, let them know. If it’s the first time you’re giving that talk, let them know. Pull your audience into the moment with you and let the relationship unfold from there.
As I began to read hands, I learned to remind people that when they learn more about who they are, they have the choice to always present the best version of themselves in every setting. It’s up to them to determine what “best” means at any given time. However, in our pursuit of more happy in life, it’s easy to lean into the pieces of ourselves that make us feel most at home. That’s a great place to start!