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Being (True to) Yourself, What Does It Actually Mean?

by Lutger Brenninkmeijer in Columns & Opinions , 21 August 2019

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

At the beginning of August, it was that time of the year again: a colorful collection of boats during Pride Amsterdam set sail. With a new set of rules. These were controversial: the general opinion seemed to be that it would be the end of Pride. I totally agree with the new approach: in recent years, the Pride has increasingly become a party for the spectators.

It seemed like a competition to make the loudest music heard. This had less and less to do with the message of Pride. Last year, I was on one of the boats. It was great, but when I asked those present about the reason for the Pride, only a few people could say why.

It is comparable to Remembrance Day. After more than sixty years, the discussion also pops up about the necessity to pay attention to the victims, since most people from the war have died. Then these people have not understood its goal: to share with the new generations how terrible a war is and say: never again! See how Afghanistan changes in no time. In the 1970s, it was a western and modern country. A generation later, nothing is left of that.

I got a microphone from TV broadcaster AvroTros under my nose. Whether I could always be myself. I thought so. Thought? I saw the interviewer frown. Yes, thought, because you always adapt in the presence of others.

It made me think. What does “being (true to) yourself” really mean? How can we judge that? What is the norm? Do you decide for yourself or do you reflect on the current set of social rules?

Twenty years ago, it was normal to sunbathe topless on the Dutch beaches, and now almost no woman is doing it any more. At my high school it was compulsory to take a shower after the sports lesson, and in those days, you really wouldn’t get into the shower while wearing your shorts. Now they think it is perfectly normal. Are we less true to ourselves? The older generation will probably confirm this, but the young people have a completely different context to which they reflect. Who is right?

Is it no longer about the shared values of a group or society? By sharing and expressing those values you can be yourself. It is not so much about primarily your own values but the preferences that you share with others or like-minded people. Because if, for example, you like to get undressed and still wear clothes on the street, you aren’t true to yourself?

I want to argue for solidarity, togetherness, tolerance, understanding and interest in each other, openness and appreciating each other for who you are without immediately judging the other. This way, you can connect and become closer to one another. It is this mutual appreciation that determines whether someone is happy or feels good about who they are. In short, say hello to each other again and get to know each other better. More understanding and appreciation will follow!



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