‘’Be yourself, everyone else is already taken’’ – the humorous words of Oscar Wilde make it sound simple, as if liking and accepting yourself could be the best (or the only) way to live your life. However, have you ever wondered what ‘’being yourself’’ truly means? It is difficult to describe ourselves and who we are in a few simple terms. After all, no human is uniform; depending on a situation, we all have different sides of our personalities winning over. Some situations might make us feel uncomfortable, where we reflect on our behavior, deeming it forced or unnatural. There are also situations when we enjoy the moment and it feels true to who we are. This poses a question – is there a part of yourself you could focus on to feel better in your own company?
Scandinavian researchers decided to investigate these questions, starting from the personality traits and going through self-efficacy: a belief in one’s capability to manage in a given task or situation. Self-efficacy is more than just feeling confident: you are certain of your capabilities to make it through. In contrast to personality, where many traits are believed to be stable and difficult to change (try asking an introvert to enjoy the party in a crowded club), self-efficacy can be increased through positive experience, confirming one’s inner resources to be sufficient enough.
The results of the study show that despite a direct relationship between personality factors (in particular, extraversion and neuroticism) and happiness, self-efficacy was determining the strength of this association. What does it mean to you? Your happiness is even more profound when you highly believe and rely on your capabilities! There are a few ways of boosting this confidence.
Firstly, try to challenge yourself in the domains that are important to you – whether it comes to picking up an interesting project, dedicating yourself to language studying or talking to a fellow plane passenger; going out of your comfort zone and watching yourself learn from these experiences is bound to make you feel empowered.
Secondly, take some time to record the experiences from which you learnt and grew. Reflect on what happened, how you approached the situation and what was the final outcome. Did you persevere despite the unfavorable circumstances? Or perhaps you made some new friends? Update your list of successes regularly and feel free to read through it whenever you need a confidence boost!
Thirdly, try to perceive every situation as an occasion to learn. Do not judge or overindulge in thinking about whether it is something you are familiar with or something you are capable of. Simply take the situation as it is and make the best out of it.
Lastly, remember to learn from others and with others. Ask for tips and feedback whenever you perform; do not shy away from asking for help if you feel you need it. At the same time, offer kindness and guidance to those who ask it of you, simply by treating others just the way you would like to be treated yourself.
Being yourself is sticking up to the person you are. Working on your self-efficacy will not only boost your happiness level, but also increase your resilience, the ability to adjust and strive no matter the conditions you find yourself in. Notice the change unfold as you work towards discovering who you truly are. I am sure as long as you give it a try and approach it with an open mind, you will only continue to grow and discover new sides of yourselves.
Bibliography: Strobel, M., Tumasjan, A. & Spörrle, M. (2011). Be yourself, believe in yourself, and be happy: Self‐efficacy as a mediator between personality factors and subjective well‐being. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 52, 43–48.
Gosia Cybulska is a Clinical Psychology Master student at Leiden University and an International Intern at Willingness. Besides her extensive love for Psychology manifested by volunteering at various facilities as well as pursuing a second degree, she also strives to learn more about what makes cats such adorable creatures.