Don’t Try to Be Different, Simply Be Yourself

I yearn for a sense of identity. I guess most of us do. That’s why social media has been such a hit. The need to connect is secondary to the desire to see our identity reflect on the web. I remember one day in tenth grade, I walked in my class with a boy hair that I’d chopped off the night before by myself. As we stood up to greet our teacher, her glance swept through the class and stopped at my head, her eyebrows rose a notch, and she uttered “You…don’t look like any body!” I took great satisfaction out of that remark.

Being a teenager was like riding a roller coaster to chase an identity. As my yearning for identity grew, I was determine to achieve the “different” status symbol. I stopped listening to Coldplay because someone their music had become “mainstream”. I began to visit bars, clubs, and smoke because it was cool. I labored to be social, upbeat, and in the spotlight. And each time, took in the secret relish that I was one step ahead – or one step aside – from the crowd.


I had a deep and unsettling horror of being the same, like a grain of sand in Sahara dessert. I’m glad I have grown out of this phase and finally realized the nonsense of this all-too-human fear, that the threat never existed, that since the moment I was born, I was already different, to every single DNA. So are you. So is everyone of us.

There is a Buddhism word called suchness, which means “the essence or particular characteristics of a thing or a person, its true nature.” “How to be different?” is not a good question. We’d better ask ourselves “Are we letting our suchness – our true nature – shine forth?”

Mimicking the herd is tedious. Laboring to be different is superficial. Following our true nature is fighting the good fight.


Instead of chasing after a projected image, we claim our identity by simply being ourselves. We may ask: “What is my suchness?”, “How do I know when I’m being myself and when I’m not? No matter how ordinary or extraordinary it seems?”

We just know. It is that simple. I’ve learnt that if I pause for a moment and listen to my inner voice, she’ll eventually start telling if there’s something wrong. 

In The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin echoes the notion of suchness with so much simplicity that every one can relate to:

I love the idea of playing chess, going to a lecture on international markets, doing crossword puzzles, getting a pedicure, eating dinner at a hot new restaurant, or having a subscription to the opera or season tickets to the Knicks. I can see exactly why other people enjoy these activities. I wish I enjoyed them. But I don’t…

I needed to acknowledge to myself what I enjoyed, not what I wished I enjoyed. If something was really fun for me, it would pass this test: I looked forward to it; I found it energizing, not draining; and I didn’t feel guilty about it later.

I like photography because it can turn the most ordinary details to wonders, and I don’t care if every one in the whole world has a camera bigger than mine. I like reading books and write about life philosophies, and I don’t care if others think it is extremely nearly. They are a part of my suchness for they emanate joy.  

Bruce Lee once shared his own realization, which is both simple and profound: “I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized.”


I tell myself not to listen to the world when it tries to tell me who I am or who I should be, and more importantly, not to judge or label my suchness. Simply let it manifest. Simply live.

What about you?

Are you simply being different? or being yourself? – you know the answer.

Expand your read on authenticity with: The Difference between a Leader and a Lunatic: the Ability to Communicate, Jealousy, Candy, and the Futile in Comparison, or Want to be Real? Turn off the Spotlight!

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Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar, Carlos on Flickr