You quirky individual you.
The message holds truth: There is no one like you (Thank god?). Well, hey, what if you don’t like being you? Painfully quiet? Thrill seeker playing it safe? Anxious? Depressed? Who are you anyways? Maybe you’re still figuring that out.
Sure, you’re more complex than that. I know “be yourself” is supposed to be a positive message, but I can’t stop thinking about that other stuff. Maybe some of you do to.
I am reading through Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” now and I can’t help but recall some of the tools I used together with clients in my past work in the field of Mental Health. Turns out that being someone else (at least for a little while) might be just what you need.
I remember trying to help someone think of ways to handle a situation differently. We could come up with a few answers, but it felt like we hit a roadblock, until I asked this person to try and imagine what a friend might do in their place. By imagining things from a different perspective, this person was free to explore different options, options that suddenly were possibilities for them.
We come will all kinds of beliefs about ourselves, how we should behave, who we might be and where we are headed. If you have a hard time thinking about that, try thinking of how you wouldn’t behave, who you are not and where you’re not headed. It’s a little easier and illustrates bit more that box we put ourselves in.
To be sure, what makes us unique should be embraced. It could indeed be foolish to spend time on something you don’t like or is a distraction from what you’ve already gained some expertise in. It might be a waste of time to do something out of character… but it might not be.
In de Bono’s thinking hats, he advocates we practice putting on different kinds of hats to allow us to be more open in specific ways. For example, when we put on a yellow hat, it gives us license to be optimistic about possible outcomes. It asks that we rack our brains for positive results. A parallel here might be that instead of putting on a hat, you might ask yourself, what would your friend Ryan say about a certain subject, as he is more optimistic than you. Being Ryan for a while helps you open up.
It’s been shown to be helpful when some are depressed, they benefit from practicing small smiles. Smiling even though they don’t feel like it. Believe it or not, the act of doing that repetitively has increased some people’s mood.
Consider how some big screen actors find that acting a certain role has an impact on their mood when they are off screen.
When you’re looking to break a pattern, being someone else might give you the license to do just that. Think of it as an experiment. While you should be careful about labeling your first set of outcomes as conclusive, you could find that the preliminary results are surprisingly positive. Maybe people reacted a little differently than you imagined when you spoke your mind, while harnessing aunt Marie’s outspoken dinner table antiques. Maybe kickboxing was fun when you channeled your outgoing friend Donnie.
So the next time you are looking for an answer or wanting to broaden your horizons, use the tool of pretend. Be someone else. It could help you find out more about yourself.