To Be Or Not To Be (Yourself)

It is a truth universally agreed on Rotten Tomatoes that The Emoji Movie hot trash that’s not to be touched with a ten-foot pole. Yet, I rated it quite highly. Perhaps I did so because I was in a vulnerable part of my life.

As my brother’s high school English professor famously said, all art is about identity. And right now, I’m struggling—yet again—with identity. The Emoji Movie resonated with me because of the positive message that it sent. In a nutshell, it encourages people to just be themselves. In fact, the main character Gene has a love interest who tells him very directly that she likes him the way he is. It strikes a chord with me because, for my entire life thus far, I haven’t had the satisfaction of finding romance and acceptance from a woman for just being myself.

The cynic in me, of course, scoffs at that idea. After all, the only time that I’ve ever gotten anything in life was because of my willingness and ability to become something other than what I truly am. At many points in life I merely shapeshifted into the most expedient character that the situation demanded. As such, I never really quite knew who I was because I was capable of being so many different kinds of people—the positive cheerleader, the stern boss, the witty charmer, the outgoing schmoozer. I did so because I didn’t figure that I’d be accepted for just being me.  In order to get dates, I had to become a playful, winking flirt. In order to get a job, I had to transform into an outgoing, charismatic man with a broad beaming smile.

Of course, the truth is that I am none of these things. To be frank, I find it tiresome to socialize with others. Describing myself as an exciting man who knows how to have fun would be a complete fiction. I am neither witty nor flirty. Being seductive and sexy is completely foreign to me. I’m a steady, simple, and honest man—a pleasant and mellow person for most of my waking hours. Can I get passionate? Certainly I’m no milquetoast. Can I be charismatic? Yes, at times, under the right conditions. Get me in a conversation about management and leadership or writing, and I’ll talk your ear off with enormous exuberance. But none of these are qualities that attract women, at least it hasn’t so far.

I’m particularly sensitive to The Emoji Movie’s progressive message of acceptance because I’ve yet to find my place. I think that it’s important to be yourself. I’m living proof that if you bend yourself to suit the situation too much, you end up not knowing who exactly you are and you end up not carving out a life that takes advantage of your strengths. Instead, you’ll end up living a draining life in which every day is a lie.