Why “Be Yourself” is So Hard

It seems I’m full of these personal development posts these days – it’s what I get to do in my day job teaching leadership and it informs my intentions with my bullet journal, my calligraphy, and my social media presence in general. Over the last year, the rising popularity of the bullet journal and handlettering has also given rise to a lot of really lovely messages about “you do you,” “bullet journal your way,” “find your unique style” and other cute sayings like, “Be a fruit loop in a bowl of Cheerios,” or “always be authentic to who you are.”  Although these are well-intentioned, positive, and encouraging – I want to talk about why “being yourself” is so freaking hard.

Why "being yourself" is much harder than people make it out to be.

People may not like you. When you commit to being authentic to yourself, whether that is using the bullet journal as a weekly, or using doodles, or lettering about things that matter to you, you are committing to gains and losses.  We paint “being yourself” as a noble endeavor, without also recognizing that sometimes people are not going to LIKE what that means.  That it may be messy, uncomfortable, or outside of expectation.  This can range from smaller preferences like using a lot of stickers in your planner, to admitting you don’t want to do the holiday gift exchange with your family, to sharing that you actually DO like Nickelback, to advocating for your true political views, to saying things like “Columbus Sucked.”

When you commit to being authentic to yourself, you have to believe that speaking your truth is going to outweigh the discomfort and pain of people disagreeing with you and disliking what you do or say.  It had to be OKAY with me that I would upset people and friends by saying Columbus sucked, and it has to be okay with you that people won’t think you’re a bullet journal purist, or think you’re weird because you track XYZ that less popular or mainstream. But it is SO LIMITING to believe we have to stay away from upsetting people – because alternative viewpoints are how we grow and change and evolve.  It’s how we get new ideas we’ve never considered, even if they are uncomfortable.

Sometimes when people say, “Oh be yourself!” they really mean, “be yourself… within these given parameters of what is comfortable for me.” When you commit to being authentic to yourself, you have to be okay with that ‘negative’ story of you, and feel enough peace with your own story to withstand that.

People might be disappointed. As a blogger that talks about planning and having an intentional life, it is sometimes hard for me to talk about how MESSY and chaotic my life can be at times – because that seems to go against the image that’s been created of me.  When you choose to be authentically yourself, it might mean pushing against the stories other people have created of you.  Once you admit things out loud, you might hear, “What? But you’ve always….” or “I have never heard you say that before,” or “Wait, you?” or “Why would you do that?”

As we change or decide to share more of our true selves, it is hard to bring everyone along. Or, sometimes we don’t, because we think they might be sad that you’re no longer the same (in a small way, people were disappointed when Kara decided to start using a Filofax Bullet Journal. In big ways, people are disappointed when your views on politics or religion change away from your family’s).  And the answer is, yes, they will be sad. But that is more about them than it is about you. People feel loss because it’s realizing they are losing someone they thought they knew and cared about. AND people also feel entitled to decisions and things that make sense to them when in reality, it only has to make sense to you and your truth. This is easy to say, and harder to push through when you might be disappointing people like your family, loved ones, long-time friends, your audience, etc.  It can feel like you are falling short of who they want you to be, which makes you feel like you’re not enough.  And that is freaking hard.  But so is swallowing your own evolving truth forever and ever. I have to believe that if they love you, they will try to allow you to change or be fully expressive of who you are.

It might feel lonely. To commit to being yourself in your fullest capacity can feel lonely.  Because you’re not adapting to what other people want of you or expect of you, it may feel like you are disconnected from people you’re usually connected to.  And that takes a lot of strength to push through. But know that your strength may open the doors for other people to do the same.

Why "being yourself" is much harder than people make it out to be.

We have a lot of fears around being fully ourselves.  Between not being liked, between upsetting those we love, underneath it is it is feeling like “I am not enough, I am not worthy.” Somehow, amidst all of this, we have to come to fiercely love and trust ourselves to be able to show up in our fullest capacity, regardless of some of the losses.  Because somehow, amidst all of this, we have come to believe it will be worth it – despite the haters and dissenters.

And as we endeavor to be fully human, fully ourselves, WHOLLY ourselves, we must also endeavor to make it as easy as possible for OTHERS to be fully human, fully themselves, wholly themselves.  And how do we do that? Turn all these things I just said on their head:

  • When you are met with ideas or actions you initially dislike or are confused by, ask questions rather than express distaste.  Ask about your friend’s intention, or what led them to this place – it opens up conversation and understanding rather than debate and defense.
  • Allow your long-time friends and family to be who they ARE, not who they used to be.  I would hope your high school friends are different NOW than they were back then.  Allow them that opportunity by asking different questions, not acting surprised when they show up differently, or make jokes about “oh of course you would.” Because maybe, now they wouldn’t.
  • Ask yourself where your reactions are coming from.  Are you placing your own judgment and expectations on someone else?  Is this more about you or about them?
  • Try to be with them on their journey.  Let go of the need for someone’s choices to make sense to you.

Our entire lives might be spent figuring out who we are, and who we want to be – and most importantly, endeavoring to live out who are want to be unapologetically.  I am on that journey right now and y’all, it is so effing HARD.  I second-guess myself and doubt myself all the time. What if people don’t like me? But what if I don’t myself? Will this be worth it? I sure as hell hope so. Because I am tired of shrinking myself and playing small to make other people comfortable. Perhaps you are too.

(This wasn’t 100% bullet journal or lettering related… but it is 100% human related – I hope it resonates with some of you – it is what is on my heart at the moment)


Some typos corrected thanks to the kindness of Lindsey 

13 thoughts on “Why “Be Yourself” is So Hard

  1. I can tell you how much I needed to hear this message this morning. I have been trying to work on allowing me to be me in the different circles in my life and it is NOT easy. I am also working on being able to listen more authentically, without judgement because that is what I want from others. Daily I try to focus of this statement, “I am enough!” Thank you for sharing this post. I am sure it will resonate with others as well.


  2. I try to be true to myself and like you said, it can be a lonely road and many people might not like what I have to say; however, it is SO liberating to say that I stand up for myself and what I believe in. I love your posts, bullet journal related or not! Thanks for the post!


  3. A friend recently called me out on this. We’ve been friends since kindergarten (27 years ago!) and she commented how she didn’t feel like she fits in my life anymore because of my new entrepreneurial endeavors. That made me feel like crap, and I asked her about it. It turns out that it was her own insecurities of not being where she wants to be personally that made her say those things, not because of what I’m doing to better myself.

    It is really hard to fully be yourself, especially when you have an audience online that has a perception of you!


  4. And by the way… Columbus DID suck.

    On Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 5:09 AM, Pretty Prints & Paper wrote:

    > PrettyPrintsAndPaper posted: “It seems I’m full of these personal > development posts these days – it’s what I get to do in my day job teaching > leadership and it informs my intentions with my bullet journal, my > calligraphy, and my social media presence in general. Over the last year, > th” >


  5. Jessica, thanks so much for sharing yourself the way that you do online! This post resonated with me a lot, both in terms of what you actually said and also because I feel there are similar struggles and concerns about sharing parts of the self like mental illness.

    You’ve given me a lot to thank about and as usual, I admire your commitment to compassion and empathy in interacting with people online. Thank you!


  6. I’m really new to the Bullet Journal community et al, but I’m so glad my friend sent me a link to you! The quote you shared literally brought tears to my eyes, it was a beautiful choice. Thank you for this lovely post, Happy belated Indigenous People’s Day, and I wish you all the best as you figure life and yourself out!


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