Be Yourself Essay
On Being Yourself in College Essays
Don’t be completely yourself in your college essays. Seriously.
You hear the old refrain a lot in life: Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. They say it’s true on job interviews. They say it’s true in dating. And there are many within the college admissions community who say it’s also true in college essays. Want to know what we at Ivy Coach say? These people couldn’t be more wrong. On a job interview, it might be very “you” to show up in red flip-flops. But Ernst & Young is not going to give you a good evaluation on your case interview if you show up in red flip-flops. Neither will McKinsey. On a first date, it might be “you” to chew your food with your mouth open. It might be “you” to talk about all of your previous relationships. Wearing flip-flops won’t land you the coveted job. Chewing with your mouth open and talking about previous relationships won’t land you a mate.
So how does this relate to college essays? Well, most high school students aren’t all that interesting. That’s right. We said it. There are too many kids out there who are doing the same things. Sure, many of them get great grades and great SAT scores. But that doesn’t make one interesting. Neither does being a member of Key Club or doing a service trip to Guam. Boring, boring, boring. More of the same. If it’s you to be boring, to write about the same thing that just about every other applicant to highly selective colleges is writing about in their college essays, then you should absolutely not be you.
Be someone else. Be another version of you. A better version. A more interesting version. A version of “you” that someone — namely an admissions officer at a highly selective college — might actually enjoy reading about. We’re not saying to write untruths. Don’t do that. That’s bad. Just figure out a way to showcase “you” without being 100% entirely yourself. Think of your college essay as a job interview in this way. Or a first date.
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~Alan Watts
I’ve heard the statement “just be yourself” so much. It sounds like an amazing thing to do, and I have wished many times that I could just do that. What I’ve wondered, though, is what in the world does that mean?
What if someone is a jerk to other people? Is it okay for them to just be themselves and go on being a jerk to everyone? How about people who are fearful of being around others and live a hermit-like life, avoiding people?
In my quest for answers I've found that it is very much possible to just be yourself. The person who is a jerk to others and the person who is afraid of social situations are, in actuality, not being themselves. Their real self is just being covered up with conditioned, fear-based thinking.
Our true self is who we really are when we let go of all of the stories, labels, and judgments that we have placed upon ourselves. It is who we naturally are without the masks and pretentiousness.
It is who we really are when we let fall to the floor the cloak of other people’s stuff that we have taken on.
Everything else that we claim to be when we say, “This is who I am!” is only a story.
Below are some steps that have helped me in uncovering my real nature, which is that being outside of the accumulated thoughts and beliefs that I have collected over a lifetime.
1. Get in touch with your inner child.
If you ever watch small children, you will notice just how free they are and how little they care about what other people think of them. They are happy and in the moment.
They are their true natures. They have not yet been socialized to “fit in” to a society that squashes that. They don’t care if people think that they are silly while they dance in the front yard for all of the neighbors to see.
Children are just pure love and light. If you really want to get in touch with your inner child, become freer. Play, have fun, enjoy the moment, do cartwheels in the front yard.
My son has taught me this more than anything. He has helped me to see just how stiff and serious I can be. Thanks to him, I have tapped back into something that was forgotten.
We play roles to fit into society and we suppress our true nature out of fear of what others think. If you find yourself worrying about being judged, remember that is merely just the socialized you, not the real you.
2. Become more aware of your thoughts.
You may be shocked by the number of negative thoughts that run through your mind on any given day. After so long, our reality begins to take shape based on all of these conditioned thinking patterns.
Become more aware of the quality of your thinking. Allow yourself to sit quietly every morning before starting your day for just five to ten minutes.
Yes, thoughts will come and go, but just allow them to do that without getting attached to them. Just observe them. When you are finished, continue observing the mind throughout your day.
We have so many unconscious beliefs that we have taken on over the years that were probably handed down to us from somebody else, and that we believed to be who we are. Becoming more aware of the quality of your thoughts, letting go of the old beliefs, and becoming more present can help in revealing your true nature.
We are all so much more than those old negative thinking patterns would ever allow us to believe.
3. Follow your intuition.
This is probably one of the most important factors in being yourself. I ignored my intuition for the longest time because I felt so obligated to others. Their happiness was more important than my own.
I lived at home until I was twenty-five, ignored my urges to move to a new city, and stayed in unfulfilling jobs because I was so afraid of what other people would think of me, of failing, and of stepping out of my comfort zone. Because of this, I was incredibly unhappy.
I will tell you this, from my own personal experience: When you start following the little nudges and urges that you get, you will have hopped onto the magic carpet ride of awesomeness.
It doesn’t mean that you will never have bumps in the road again, but when you are in alignment with your soul, you will always be steered in the best possible direction.
For me, it started when I followed my intuition out of a job where I was miserable, which was way out of character for me. I had nothing lined up, but thanks to my intuition, I landed back on my feet within a few months in an awesome new job.
Now, before you go quit your job, you can begin with small things, such as following through when you feel the urge to make a phone call, send an email, or take a different route to work. When you get into the habit of doing this with small things, it will make it easier to say yes to the big things, and to trust.
How do any of these things help you to just be yourself? Because they help you to be in alignment with your true nature.
Your authentic self is the real you that is beyond all of those conditioned beliefs and thinking patterns that you have accumulated throughout your life.
I was once a shy, reclusive, depressed, angry person—but I wasn’t “being myself.” While it is important to love and accept ourselves for where we are at the moment, looking back now, I see that I suppressed my true nature in order to please others and to fit in.
I began going within and doing spiritual study and practice in my late twenties, and have since become more aware of how much I was identified with my victim story, how I would play roles depending on who I was with, and just how much I cared about other people’s perceptions of me.
I had lost touch with my natural self and stuffed it away in a box. Whenever I would notice myself getting attached to the stories and labels in my head or would catch myself playing roles with others, I would just breathe and relax into the moment without any labels or judgments.
It was a challenge because I cared so much about being accepted by others. So I would ask myself, “How would I act right now if I had no cares of what others thought of me?” I realized that who I naturally am without anything else added is perfectly okay.
When you let go of the old ways of thinking, follow your bliss, and do what you love, you begin to align with happiness and peace. These are all indicators that you are connected with your true nature. You are then allowing your real self to shine forth in all its glory.
About Victoria Ayres
Victoria Ayres is a Certified Life Coach and writer. For inspiration on living a life of presence, passion, and purpose, please visit www.VictoriaAyres.com. Check out her newest blog that is all about empowerment after tragedy at www.TheVictoriousYou.com. Look her up on Facebook and Twitter, too.