Following common, chirpy advice to “Do what you love!” or “Seize the day!” seems to come easily to some, but I find myself unable to relate—they seem more like chores than motivating challenges. There are some spectacularly bad pieces of advice out there. “Be yourself” is one of the worst offenders. First of all, it doesn’t really mean anything. It is based on the faulty assumption that there is a “true you,” some mythical entity buried deep inside you that has all the answers.
I would argue that there isn’t a fixed self, but that there are many versions of ourselves—our best selves, our worst selves, and everything in between. I know this firsthand. I used to get nervous whenever I had to speak publicly. “Be yourself,” advised my well- meaning boss. Had I been my true self, I would have either collapsed at the podium or escaped through the back door. I learned that the most effective way to become the best version of myself wasn’t to focus on myself at all. By thinking about someone I admire—Barbara Walters—I was able to channel my inner orator. Now, whenever I give a speech, I just think to myself, What would Barbara do?
Article originally appeared on Marie Claire