We’ve all heard “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so we think that imitating someone is a good thing. But we overlook the second half of the quote “…that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” The Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was being cynical. He also said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Or as I heard it once “I can always be myself, better than anybody else.”
So many forces try to make us conform. There are parents who want an athletic child who get an artistic one, or vice versa. There are fathers who want their children to follow in their line of work, be it law, medicine, a trade, or the family business. Then there is peer pressure—”everyone does it, why not you?” It can come from any direction, whatever is considered “cool”
And then there is the society in general where all sorts of standout figures are highlighted as the current favorite. There is subtle pressure to emulate them and bury ourselves beneath a veneer of appearance. While it is valuable to identify good role models and learn from the successes and failures of others, it is dangerous and short-sighted to try to imitate anyone else.
For one thing, to continue to try to be someone else is a lot of work. Any time that person changes some part of their image or actions there is a need to mimic the change. Not being flexible to change with reality but changing just because someone else did. And depending on who we are imitating there may come a time when we just can’t live up to their image because we don’t have their abilities.
It’s a little like lying. Lying is cumulative – one lie leads to another, building a house of cards. You have to remember so many false stories that it gets exhausting. If you only tell the truth that is all you have to remember. And the truth is you are special just as you are—you are one of a kind. So be the unique you that you were meant to be.
How do you do that? First of all stop comparing yourself to others. You don’t have to be the best—there’s always controversy about who is the best anyway. You just have to be the best YOU there is. Take stock of the uniqueness of you, enjoy being different, appreciate your unique strengths, and revel in the things you enjoy doing and being. Celebrate you!