Lauren Claire wrote a great post recently about trying to make yourself in imitation of other people. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, as I deal with meeting tons of new people and trying to figure out where I fit into the flow of things at my new job.
I have a bad habit of assuming that other people's personalities are superior to my own. All during high school, I tried on personas like they were dresses, trying to find the one that people would like the best. I would do this (especially cringe-worthy) thing where I would quote clever lines from movies or books--but not make it clear that they were quotes and not my own words! It was like I thought that if I could memorize little quips, I would somehow develop a sparkling wit that was all my own. I did, eventually, develop my own sense of humour, but it took a while for me to figure out that being disingenuous was actually making it harder to relate to people. It caused loads of anxiety that really just made it worse.
Inevitably, I would always find that when under pressure, my own personality is the one that would take center stage.
This is a nerdy analogy, but I was watching X-Men: First Class with my roommate the other day, and there is a scene where Magneto tries to prove that Mystique is using half of her energy and abilities on trying to look "normal". He drops a weight on her, and and in order to catch it, she switches into her normal form.
When I'm concentrating on maintaining a facade, my focus is not on what I'm supposed to be doing. And as soon as things get stressful, the first thing to go are whatever pretences I'm trying to maintain. It's kind of like going to the gym. I might look great when I get there, but if I'm really giving it my all, I look like hell when I walk out--and I don't care, because I feel great.
The absolute weirdest thing about this is exactly what Lauren Claire points out, which is that the best personality I've ever had is the one that is the most me. I might have a moment of regret when I blurt out exactly what I'm thinking, but more frequently I'm rewarded by someone saying "I feel exactly the same way." I might feel tragically uncool because I can't help but laugh at my own jokes, but I would so much rather be a sincere dork than be coolly cynical and unable to laugh at silly puns.
I think I will always strive for self-improvement, and I'll use others as models for how I would like to be (see: my post on "What would Tami Taylor do?"). At the end of the day, however, it takes much less energy to develop and hone the traits I already possess, rather than try to superimpose another personality on top of my own.