Previous Page An Issue 73.
People often give the following advice: Be yourself. Follow your instincts and behave in a way that feels natural. Question
Do you think that, in general, this is good advice? Why or why not? Develop your point of view by giving reasons and / or examples from your own experience, observations or reading. Analysis
The advice to act naturally or follow one's instincts can, admittedly, be helpful. The advice to act naturally or follow one's own advice is for someone torn between difficult career or personal choices in life. In most situations, however, following this advice would neither be wise nor sensible. Following one's own instincts should be tempered by codes of behaviour appropriate to the situation at hand.
First of all, doing what comes naturally often amounts to impulsive overreaction and irrational behaviour based on emotion. Everyone experiences impulses from time to time, such as hitting another person, quitting one's job, having an extramarital affair and so forth. People who act however they please or say whatever is on their mind without thinking about consequences, especially without regard to social situation, may often and alienate others. At the workplace, engaging in petty gossip, sexual harassment or back-stabbing might be considered natural. Yet such behaviours can be destructive for the individuals at the receiving end as well as for the company. And in dealings with foreign business associates, what an American might find natural or instinctive, even if socially acceptable here, might be deeply insulting or confusing to somebody from another culture.
Second, doing what comes naturally is not necessarily in one's own best interests. The various behaviours cited above would also tend to be counterproductive for the person engaging in them. Natural behaviour could prove deadly to one's career, since people who give little thought before they act cannot be trusted in a job that requires effective relationships with important clients, colleagues and others.
Third, the speaker seems to suggest that you should be yourself and then act accordingly in that order. But we define ourselves in large measure by our actions. Young adults especially lack a clear sense of self. How can you be yourself if you don't know who you are? Even for mature adults, the process of evolving one's concept of self is a perpetual one. In this respect, then, the speaker's recommendation does not make much sense.
In sum, one should not follow the speaker's advice universally or too literally. For unless a person's instincts are to follow standard rules of social and business etiquette, natural behaviour can harm others as well as constrain one's own personal and professional growth.