By Clay Thompson | Reporter
I think the last time someone told me to “Just be yourself,” I wanted to scream. I have heard that phrase uttered toward me so many times, it has become not only a cliche to me but also a constant reminder that I am somehow “fake” or “two-faced.” I understand it was unlikely anyone’s intention to make me feel bad or insecure, but since I never told them it bothers me, they have no way of knowing how painful it is to hear those words — that’s on me.
The separation between me wanting to scream in frustration and not doing so is because I choose not to express that part of myself in that moment. This is not only because it will be unhelpful or possibly even worsen the situation but also because I don’t want to upset or make the person who has spoken believe they have done something wrong, because they haven’t.
I have become a master of compartmentalizing my personality. Charming and humorous to some, calm, quiet and reserved to many others — I must seem like a completely different person to several different groups. This is because I have discovered that different parts of myself work better in different situations. For example, at work, when I talk to my coworkers, I try to be outgoing and crack plenty of jokes. This is a true part of myself that tries to find humor and fun in everything, and I feel it helps me grow closer with those I work with, so we can work together and be friends. However, when I am actually working with clients, I try to be more comforting and positive because it helps writers relax and open up, so I can better help them with their writing. I am different in these situations because while each fragment of personality I inhabit is a piece of myself, they are the ones most fit for the situation at hand.
I realize that this is likely common practice for others and not just myself. However, I have been surprised by some who tell me that I am either being “fake” or that what I do is an unhealthy way of life; I would have to politely disagree. Each part of my personality I utilize in my life as me being myself. If anything, I’m just not being all of myself. To do that, I would be not only humorous, positive and compassionate but also depressed, anxious and hugely insecure in all situations.
Let me make this clear, though: I do not ignore my mental health, nor do I just bottle up true feelings and let them rot me from the inside out. I have trusted people. I talk to friends and family who help me express the parts of myself that need to be expressed, but would not be helpful to me in my daily life to show others.
Overall, I would say to never ignore your mental health or try to push down parts of yourself you don’t like or don’t feel are helpful. Instead, find healthy ways to express those parts of yourself, and in the meantime, learn to be OK with being different in various social groups or situations if that’s something that is supportive to you. Acting differently when the time and situation calls for it does not necessarily mean you are not “being yourself.”