Why ‘Be Yourself’ Is Both the Best and Worst Advice You Can Get

I utilized to Harvard’s doctoral program in training management (EdLD) on the encouragement of a pal; I figured I had nothing to lose.

To begin the method, I did what I normally do once I’m doing one thing that terrifies me: I reached out to individuals who had been already doing the terrifying factor to ask for his or her recommendation.

I used to be amazed at what number of present Harvard EdLD college students had been keen to assist me. I normally simply ask for a phrase of recommendation by way of e-mail, however most of them talked to me on the telephone and supplied to learn my essays and share suggestions. It seems they weren’t Elite-Snob-Approach-Smarter-Than-Me-Robots as I had maybe subconsciously imagined.

They had been good.

In a kind of preparation telephone calls, one present pupil gave me this last piece of recommendation: “I do know this will sound trite, however in the case of your utility, actually be your self.”

Be your self.

I’d heard it so many occasions. And truthfully? I assumed I knew what that meant. However this time, when he mentioned it, one thing clicked. I knew precisely what he was making an attempt to say: Don’t be what you assume Harvard desires you to be. Be you and see if Harvard desires that.

Simpler mentioned than finished.

And particularly arduous to do for a straight-A pupil who is sweet at enjoying the sport, studying the principles, getting the A. Oh, you want flowery language? Achieved. You like essays which can be extra succinct? I can do this. Oh, you want once I present my work on the mathematics take a look at? Obtained it. You like I simply write the solutions? Achieved.

In my first drafts of my utility essays, I used to be certainly making an attempt to be what I assumed a Harvard pupil was presupposed to be. Not as a result of I assumed that may work (it normally doesn’t), however as a result of the actual fact is that I didn’t assume I used to be adequate. I didn’t assume I used to be what a Harvard pupil needs to be.

However for the reason that man giving me this recommendation was in this system, I took his recommendation and rewrote my essays to mirror who I actually was, and I despatched in my Harvard utility with the actual me spilling out everywhere in the pages.

After which the strangest factor occurred.

I acquired an e-mail from Harvard inviting me to the interview section.

My utility had made it as one of many prime 50. Me and 49 different individuals can be flown out to Cambridge to interview in individual, after which a month later, 25 of these individuals can be accepted.

Being myself truly labored. I used to be going to Harvard for an interview. The Harvard!

I made a decision to maintain this entire “being myself” experiment going and take it a step additional for the interview.

I knew how interviews labored and the way the sport was performed. Even once you’re interviewing for a job and also you merely must pay your payments, you don’t say “I’ll significantly do something I simply want the cash,” even when that’s the reality. As a substitute you say “This firm is one of the best firm of all the businesses and I’d virtually do that job without cost, that is all I’ve ever wished to do with my life!”

Interviewing for Harvard isn’t fairly like interviewing for a job, however identical to a job I had a intestine sense of what I would must do to get previous this section. I knew this program, its targets and what they had been on the lookout for backwards and forwards. I knew it was a program meant to coach individuals who would remodel Ok-12 training at a methods stage. They had been on the lookout for individuals who would begin modern faculties and turn out to be high-level directors who might assist make massive, optimistic modifications within the public college system.

I didn’t ever think about getting requested to interview as a result of all my expertise was in the neighborhood school world, not Ok-12. And likewise, I didn’t have any profession targets of being in administration. My coronary heart was in writing, educating, storytelling—inspiring college students on a person stage.

However by some means my ardour for faculty entry acquired me to an interview.

I made a decision, although, to not faux that I wished the sorts of jobs I knew this system was making ready individuals for. I instructed the reality within the interview. I used to be myself in a method I in all probability by no means have been earlier than. And it felt nice within the second. I had a beautiful time. I made new pals. I felt like I had nailed it.

A number of weeks later I acquired an e-mail saying I didn’t get in.

It was not time. The half nobody tells you about being your self is that, whereas ultimately you’ll be able to say, See, it wasn’t the precise program for me, initially all you are feeling is: Yep, I used to be proper I’m an imposter and Harvard noticed me for who I actually am and possibly laughed their faces off—HA, she thought she was Harvard materials?! Now I do know the reality: Who I actually am shouldn’t be adequate.

My coronary heart was damaged into sharp little Ivy League crimson items. I wanted I’d by no means utilized. I wanted I’d by no means been requested to interview. I wanted I’d by no means stepped on the campus or purchased that silly Harvard T-shirt or imagined myself finding out in that library.

I had many present Harvard college students encourage me to use once more (one man mentioned he had a pal who utilized thrice earlier than he acquired in). A number of months later, I attended a Harvard Institute convention on The Achievement Hole and met the EdLD program director who additionally inspired me to use once more.

Deep down although, I knew it wasn’t proper for me; being a systems-level chief wasn’t actually my objective. Going to Harvard—the Harvard—would have been so superior for all the explanations you’d count on. However this system itself? It was shut, however not fairly me.

I made a decision to not apply once more.

However very lately I did begin making use of to different graduate packages, and one alumnus from a kind of packages—an creator and lecturer at Stanford College—mentioned this to me as parting utility recommendation: 

“Should you’re a rhino, be a rhino. Even if you happen to assume they’re giraffes, don’t be a giraffe, as a result of then you definately would possibly find yourself with a bunch of giraffes—and also you’re a rhino!”

Now, don’t get me unsuitable, the “giraffes” within the EdLD had been superior individuals. I’m nonetheless Fb pals with the present college students who helped me and the wonderful ones I met within the group interview. They rock and are doing wonderful issues to enhance Ok-12 training at a methods stage.

However if you happen to’re a rhino with rhino desires, being in a graduate program structured to assist giraffes attain their desires won’t enable you to all that a lot.

Making use of for graduate faculties and jobs has been brutal. In purposes you’re compelled to place your value to phrases and, for me not less than, it usually makes me begin to query how a lot value I’ve in any respect.

However by some means, I maintain making use of for issues. I maintain making an attempt, charging my massive cussed rhino horn towards all these doorways, hoping perhaps in the future I’ll crash by.

I nonetheless put on the Harvard T-shirt I purchased the day earlier than the interview. Oddly, I simply realized I’m sporting it proper now. I’ll admit, it nonetheless makes me unhappy. Nevertheless it additionally jogs my memory that I attempted. It jogs my memory that typically I’m courageous. And perhaps that’s adequate.

This text was printed in December 2015 and has been up to date. Picture by sergey causelove/Shutterstock

Isa Adney is an creator and TV host named by GOOD journal as one of many Prime 100 Individuals Transferring the World Ahead. She is presently writing a e book about desires. Observe her on Twitter or study extra at IsaAdney.com.

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