In 2006, I wrote the following post on an old blog. I was reminded of it today when I saw a video from the excellent Ze Frank (embedded below). It all seemed rather apropos considering my post yesterday.
I really like the Ben Folds’s song “Give Judy My Notice”. It’s about a guy who has been pursuing this chick, Judy, for a long time and she finally gives in (“I knew if I made it easy for you, you’d settle for me. Yeah, eventually”). But the guy starts to see that “it’s way too hard, being loved by default”. The line that really sticks with me, though, is this:
I can’t be myself anymore.
This is a realization that I’ve come to more than once, and I’ll come to it again. It doesn’t just apply to relationships, either. The guy in the song—in his pandering to this woman—isn’t changing himself. He’s doing exactly what comes naturally. The clichéd advice, “just be yourself”, isn’t necessary here; he is being himself. It’s completely in character for him to behave this way: “I come running when you want me here, and when you want me to I disappear.” It’s his natural inclination to cater to someone else’s whims. (My mom would call this guy codependent.) So it’s a stark recognition when he discovers that being himself is his problem.
A lot of people, I think, are trying to be something they aren’t. And this causes problems. But I think a lot of other people are not trying to be something other than they are: shallow, self-defeating, perfectionistic, pessimistic, optimistic, masochistic, whatever. And this can cause problems, too. I know it does for me.
Ze Frank explores this further:
“Make yours a good self.”