Professor Adam Grant wrote this essay “Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.”
But it seems this professor misrepresents, and misunderstands this advice, taking it in the most literal possible meaning.
What the professor doesn’t understand is being authentic doesn’t mean saying every sarcastic feeling, or every detail of one’s thoughts. Being authentic means that you – yourself – are capable of being mindful of all the minutia of your own feelings and thoughts, as well as being mindful of your surroundings, and the interactions between them. Being authentic or “being yourself” is really just another word for being fully present, in both mind and body, of all that is happening in any given moment.
The fact is, we are never only feeling, thinking or saying only one thing. This means you have a choice of which feeling, thought or words you choose to say. In fact, some of the most authentic people I know say very little and choose their words wisely and precisely because they are giving careful attention to all the details of the moments.
My clown classes were the best training in “being yourself”, as it was a place where I had permission to be in my body and within my full range of emotions. My teacher, David McMurray Smith, taught that every clown has a “ring master”, and that the ring master is always present and in control of all impulses and behaviours. This ring master always ensure that you did not hurt anyone, including yourself, no matter what your clown was doing. If you clown was stomping on the floor, your ring master ensured it was not with full force, not to hurt your feet. If you were using an audience member, you ensured their emotional and physical safety throughout the show.
Being authentic doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be narcissistic asshole who doesn’t consider how you make others feel and saying or doing everything in your head. In fact, being authentic is knowing yourself, feeling it fully, owning it, taking responsibility for every piece of those feelings, not projecting it on others and choosing your behaviour from within that base of knowledge. Being yourself also includes witnessing others deeply and intuitively (not assuming anything but giving true attention to their process) and listening to their ideas, feelings and boundaries and considering their world as real and as valid as your own.