Does the Bible say to be yourself?
Have you ever been in a situation where you need a little advice or encouragement? Maybe you're preparing for a job interview, going on a first date, or meeting up with a new friend. A quick encouragement we've all received and probably given is just be yourself.
Does the Bible say to be yourself? The short answer is no. God has a greater vision for us and that includes becoming the best versions of ourselves. "Being your best self" is another thing you might be familiar with in our current cultural narrative, but what does God's best look like for us?
Many of us tell our testimonies and stop when we met Jesus. Whenever someone gets to that part of their story and ends with, "then I became a Christian." I can't help but lean in and ask, "then what?"
This isn't the end of the story, it's the beginning.
You are a new creation
When you accept Christ, you become a new creation. These are the death to life, dark to light, transformation moments. Jesus said, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again" (John 3:3). The moment you accept Jesus into your life, you are a new creation. These are the stories where we see Saul transformed into Paul. We have our own stories where someone moves from living separated from God, to pursuing a life with God.
This is the part of your testimony where you meet Jesus and you're introduced to the vision God has for your life. Living out of this new identity takes time, practice, and the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no self-reliance on "being yourself" from this point on–instead, every aspect of your personality is renewed and transformed for the kingdom of God.
Living from your new identity
When you start living from your new identity as a son or daughter of God, you enter into the process of sanctification and live out a transformation. Instead of settling for a life of "being yourself," you continually ask and invite God's vision for your life instead.
One way this has happened for me personally is through writing. I always knew I wanted to write. But I never imagined this is how I would be doing it. My personal dream was to be a published writer. In my renewed identity, my first published project was a Bible. This was never how I imagined it happening before I was living my life with God, but now I can't imagine it any other way.
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
The reason I love talking about our God-given dreams so much is rooted in this verse. As we live from our new identity, we are continually transformed and our dreams coincide with this.
"he urges us to learn how to look at life with a new question: What does God want for me? What is truly a good, acceptable, and perfect use of my life for His purposes and not just for my own?"
Your new identity is not living in response to being yourself. It is living in response to these new questions. "What does God want for me?" leads us into asking, "Who does God want me to be?"
Your best self is Spirit-led
Being yourself or being your best self in our culture is often presented to us as if we get to magically give into all our wants and needs with some sense of indulgence and if you're a twenty-something it apparently has to do with drinking green juice and wearing matching work out sets.
But the picture the Bible gives us is very different. Romans 8:5-6 shares the difference between someone living from their flesh and someone living out of a relationship with the Spirit. I love this passage in the message translation:
"Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored."
Living a Spirit-led life starts with simply paying attention. When we are attentive to God instead of thinking of ourselves, we are invited into a "spacious, free life."
To "just be yourself" is bad advice. God made you for something more, it starts with salvation and invites us into a Spirit-led life. Living from a new identity allows us to "trust God's action in us, and find His Spirit in us."
This is so much more powerful than dependence on yourself in hopes of finding some sense of inner strength there; instead you'll find the Spirit of God and truly feel like your best self.