Be Better Than “Just Yourself”
“Just be yourself” is useless advice. First, it’s not “just” that easy to be yourself. Second, yourself is what you make it, not what you’re born with. And third, it’s inherently selfish.
Here’s better advice from psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman:
Harness all that you are in the service of realizing the best version of yourself so you can help raise the bar for humanity.
Unlike “just being yourself,” being your best self as Kaufman prescribes is not easy, never-ending, and simultaneously selfish and selfless.
To inspire us to do so and show us how, I’ve compiled my favorite quotes about being your best self for the good of society into a manifesto-like structure.
Be Your Best Self Quotes
No One Says It’ll Be Easy
“When you sign up to run a marathon, you don’t want a taxi to take you to the finish line.”Derek Sivers, Anything You Want
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”E.E. Cummings
“Men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.”William James
“Anyone, not everyone, can succeed.”Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas, Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment
“Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
You Have No Other Choice
“What a man can be, he must be. He must be true to his own nature.”Abraham Maslow
“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.”Abraham Maslow
“For a human being, the greatest unhappiness is not being able to like oneself.”Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, The Courage to Be Disliked
“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”Oscar Wilde
You Have It Within You
“No one else in the entire world has as much potential to become you than you.”Scott Barry Kaufman, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization
“I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away.”Abraham Maslow
“A genius is the one most like himself.”Thelonious Monk
Quit Thinking, Start Acting
“Thinking and introspection should follow experience—not vice versa.”Herminia Ibarra
“We learn who we are by living, and not before.”David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
“A person doesn’t know what he can do unless he tries. Trying things is the answer to find our talent.”Howard Finster
“There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!”Friedrich Nietzsche
“A trail is for one. But one has to make it.”Oliver Sacks
Say “No” to the Status Quo
“The status quo for a first-world human being is to die with most of one’s gifts unwrapped.”David Cain
“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”Rita Mae Brown
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous amounts of energy merely to be normal.”Albert Camus
“There’s a benefit to being naive about the norms of the world—deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.”Derek Sivers, Anything You Want
“The beginning of greatness is to be different, and the beginning of failure is to be the same.”Roy Whittier
Don’t Worry About Other People
“Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.”Scott Stratten
“Almost nothing you’re socially scared of is actually scary.”Tim Urban, Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think
“Act as if you were not anxious, drop your safety behaviors, and not only will you feel better; you’ll also get a better response. And guess what? No one can tell you’re acting. Guess what else? Eventually, you won’t be.”Ellen Hendriksen, How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”Lao Tzu
“When one is trying to be oneself, competition will inevitably get in the way.”Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, The Courage to Be Disliked
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”Max Ehrmann
“Escape competition through authenticity. When you’re competing with people it’s because you’re copying them. The more authentic you are, the less competition you’re going to have.”Naval Ravikant, The Naval Podcast
“Someone told me I was delusional. I almost fell off my unicorn.”Unknown
“The greatest of faults… is to be conscious of none.”Thomas Carlyle
“Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often people know what they are not good at—and even then more people are wrong than right.”Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself: The Key to Success
“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”Benjamin Franklin
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”Carl Rogers
“When we’re looking to change our game, a too rigid self-concept becomes an anchor that keeps us from sailing forth.”Herminia Ibarra
“The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”Muhammed Ali
“People can change at any time, regardless of the environments they are in. You are only unable to change because you are making the decision not to.”Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, The Courage to Be Disliked
“The important thing is not what one is born with, but what use one makes of that equipment.”Alfred Adler
“Genes don’t determine your destiny. They determine your areas of opportunity.”James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad One
“You are the only one who can change yourself.”Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, The Courage to Be Disliked
Be Your Best Self: The Manifesto
No one says it’s easy to be your best self, but you have no other choice, and you have it within you.
So quick thinking and start acting. Say “no” to the status quo and don’t worry about other people, but be self-aware.
And, most importantly, keep evolving.
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