Who are you? If you have to think about the answer, you’re screwed.
There’s a staggering amount of content written every day about the behavior and habits of the rich and famous. How to be successful and happy. Who you should be, what you should think, what you should do and how you should do it. There’s enormous pressure to contort your personality and conform to those cultural norms.
Nothing could be more misguided, more foolish and more damaging.
The worst thing you can do is to construct a phony façade or try to mold yourself into something you’re not. Whether you’re trying to emulate somebody else’s behavior or some image of how you think you should be, it will end badly. Here’s why.
At best you’ll come across as disingenuous; at worst you become a psychopath. Over time your carefully constructed personae will crack under the strain of reality. The more you fight it, the more the cracks will show. Eventually it will break. And that’s never a good thing.
You also risk losing whatever it is that makes you special. What makes us unique is the sum total of all our qualities and experiences. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s why you can have odd features and strange quirks and still look beautiful or have a powerful presence. Don’t mess with it.
Besides, it won’t work. Your true personae – what makes you, well, you – goes way deeper than you think. Besides your own unique DNA and upbringing, your emotions, thoughts and behavior are dictated by years of accumulated knowledge and experience. You really can’t change who you are.
To empower you to be the real you and nobody else’s image of what you should be, I’m going to show you that someone can live almost exactly the opposite of all the popular nonsense you read every day and still be successful, fulfilled and happy. Here goes:
I don’t network, believe in self-improvement, think about productivity, manage my time, organize my days, make lists, delegate tasks, get anything out of inspirational quotes or speakers, or put much faith in studies and research.
I am not an optimist, a positive thinker, a morning person, a particularly nice guy, a spiritual person, politically correct or much of a team player.
I am a workaholic, a multitasker, a neurotic micromanaging control freak and my own worst enemy.
I think social networks, crowds and collectives breed conformity and groupthink, sustain the status quo, and suppress innovation and diversity.
I question everything, believe nothing I hear and only half of what I see, trust nobody’s judgment but my own (and my wife’s) and don’t really follow anyone. And I don’t read business or self-help books and blogs.
I do not see myself as an entrepreneur, a CEO, a business leader or an expert on anything.
I never take naps and rarely take vacations.
I don’t buy lots of stuff and have never lived beyond my means.
I live a sustainable lifestyle (solar powered home, compost, recycle) but I think today’s green movement is a fad, not a cause.
I drink a lot of booze and caffeine. That said I do exercise, sleep and eat right.
I attribute most of my success to climbing the corporate ladder, meeting my commitments and getting the job done right through simple qualities that nobody ever talks about anymore: discipline, prioritization and work ethic.
By all the conventional wisdom of the day I’m doing everything completely wrong. My life should have been a total disaster — my career nonexistent. Of course you know none of that’s true.
Whatever your makeup, whatever qualities you have or don’t have, however you behave, you can and should have the self-confidence to go with it and make it work for you.
Don’t try to be what you’re not. Just strive to be the best version of you. It works.
Image credit Brainstorm Health via Flickr
A version of this originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.