It’s one of the most contentious commands out there when it comes to advice. I’ve often thought it strange – one person commanding another person what to be, and commanding the other person to be what the other person is. I suppose it’s shorthand for “behave like yourself” or “act without social filters”.
Today I read this letter by the 22 year-old Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (I’ve seen the film but not read the book, I’m sad to say!) He’s light years ahead of his time and speaks with the wisdom of someone far more advanced in years.
One part leaped out at me:
to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
The caps lock is his, not mine, and with good reason – he really wanted the reader to take that bit in. Part of the growth that comes from many activities including daygame is a rediscovering of yourself. You try on new behaviours different from the dysfunctional set you have grown up with and you begin to learn that you are not your behaviours.
When a repressed, self-righteous, yet anally retentive, middle-class skinny uncool white kid like me who looked at the guys successful with women and thought “they-are-them-I-am-me-I-just-got-the-short-straw” finds himself smouldering sexual intent and connection with a girl in a way he didn’t thought possible, he can only conclude:
“So I used to be the repressed, self-righteous, yet anally retentive, middle-class skinny uncool white kid and now I’m the suave, confident, open, less-judgemental, dynamic, sexually communicative and slightly less skinny white man five years later…
So which is me? Am I both? Am I neither? Did I used to be one and now I’m the other?”
And so you begin to find out that these are just like different clothes you wear – you thought you were allocated one set of clothes and that’s that. But – as it turns out – you learn that you just developed this particular set because of your circumstances, your upbringing and – quite by accident – a series of events which created a bunch of associations in your developing mind. Turns out you can wear another set of clothes. You just have to put them on.
And so this brings me back to the caps lock: WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
Well there’s no truer word when it comes to daygame. The techniques, the routines, the behaviours, the clothes (both metaphorical and literal). We use them because it shows us that we can behave differently, we can choose different clothes. That in itself is a revelation.
But learning to put on different clothes only points you to the ultimate direction – learning to be naked. And this is the hardest but best bit of all. The clothes analogy stands because that’s what you really feel when you strip back and be yourself – naked, vulnerable, open to attack, to hurt, without pretenses and second-guesses, without the walls you slowly built up around yourself to cope with the world you found yourself in.
We live in an extremely unnatural world – at all stages we are unprepared by our evolution to handle what this society throws at us. So the prevalence of neurosis and a large stack of social defenses doesn’t surprise me in the least. In fact, I expect far more than I see, and I see it everywhere.
But underneath all this we love the things that make us human – that’s why everyone flocks to the grass in summer, why everyone is relieved when someone brave speaks the truth, why everyone deep down wants to love and be loved.
Being yourself only means rediscovering yourself, because under the layers and layers of clothing there you are, all along. So don’t spend all your time putting on yet more clothes – layer after layer… at some point you’ll need to throw them all off to see who you are. And that’s no easy task. Actually it’s the easiest task there is, but it seems difficult, and so it is. In the words of Morpheus: “Your mind makes it real.” And boy, I see this everyday.
This is what “be yourself” really means – to be open, naked, vulnerable, honest, natural and free. There is no way for anyone to teach you this – you were born with it. The way to be yourself is to strip away the layers, bit by bit, and find out what’s underneath. You won’t be disappointed, no one ever is!
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