...because everyone else is taken.
Be Yourself is a popular trope, especially in shows aimed at children. One character tries to persuade another character to change their image and not be a loser, geek, etc. After the change goes amiss, "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome almost always ensues, and An Aesop is delivered about how it is better to be true to one's own nature rather than putting on a facade to impress others. Usually, that means being unfashionable, out of shape, overweight, uncool, a complete and utter failure, socially inept and that especially means being "that guy".
If this trope is played well, it can carry the message that you can be worthy of love and acceptance without sacrificing the things that make you who you are, and to value your unique traits rather than hide them to fit in. But if done poorly or too often, the message can imply that any kind of personal growth is bad and you must never try a new look, pick up new interests, or make new friends. Bonus points if a Subculture of the Week is featured to try to sway our hero to their side.
In real life, this is one of the important tenets of Existentialism: one's purpose in life should not be judged or determined by society, but rather one should shape one's own purpose. Of course, this is a great oversimplification, and it doesn't account for how existentialism usually plays with this trope more than just rendering it straight (Nietzsche, for example, would have probably disapproved the way this trope is commonly executed in modern media), but it remains as a popular way to explain it.
- One of the last "Erin E-Surance" commercials, right before the campaign was pulled.
- Being beautiful and being yourself are mutually exclusive according to this Converse All Stars commercial
- Averted in the Mandalay Bay commercials. Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas isn't the place to be yourself as Mitchell Bernstien C.P.A and Suzanna Jones, a 5th grade teacher and mother of 3 demonstrate.
- An early-1980s cinema advert for National Westminster Bank, starring Adrian Edmondson as a character not unlike Vyvyan Basterd, played this trope for laughs. In his quest to open a bank account, pseudo-Vyv dons an ill-fitting three-piece suit, buzzes his mohawk, and has the metal stars on his forehead removed (apparently, they are piercings). After this, and overcompensating with his RP at NatWest, he is granted an account ... and moments later, the punked-out guy behind him in line opens his own account without a hitch. Our hero doesnt take this well.
- In this Heinz commercial this woman's being herself through her crude table manners.
- Inverted by all those "above the influence" commercials telling teenagers not to do drugs.
- Early on in Kare Kano Yukino is Ms. Perfect at school and a Slacker at home who likes to wear sweat clothes and be comfy. She learns to "Be Herself". She put so much work into faking perfection that she's constantly exhausted and burnt out when she's at home.
- Ouran High School Host Club does this with Nekozawa and, even more memorably, Kasanoda. Also done with Honey; in his case "being himself" includes being a hedonist who values sweets and toys above people (even his own family). Haruhi even notes that "himself" isn't that great of a person. This is used for Haruhi herself, as a sort of subversion. She says that she'll "Be herself from now on," meaning she would leave the host club. Haruhi eventually decides to pursue her dreams and become a lawyer, moving away to America.
- A theme in the final episodes of Princess Tutu. Ahiru has trouble giving up her pendant, which contains the final shards needed to complete Mytho's heart, because that will end the story and turn her back into a duck. In the end, with Fakir's help, she is able to realize that her true self is a duck, and that's all right.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Listen Simon, never forget. Just believe in yourself. Not in the Simon that I believe in; not in the Kamina that you belive in... Have faith in the Simon who believes in you...
- This is the big life lesson of Kimi ni Todoke. Sawako uses her gifts to make friends and isn't forced to change her innate nature.
- Subverted in Gokinjo Monogatari, where the author obviously considers daring to be your eccentric self and going against the current in a society as stiff and homogeneous as the Japanese a sign of bravery and something admirable, but at the same she doesn't gloss over the hardships that being an oddball is likely to bring you. Like being bullied and expelled from school and having close to no friends until you find more kindred spirits.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!: Nagi (in Alberio's pactio): You should be yourself.
- All Might in My Hero Academia gives this advice to Endeavor. Telling him that the reason he's always been second best is because he was copying someone else, rather than following his own beliefs.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Alphonse Elric once sent Sheska a message telling her not to be discouraged that her best asset was reading, and that he respected her for having a unique talent.
- In ...Virgin Love, Daigo has to reassure Kaoru that it's okay to be a Crazy Jealous Guy and that he shouldn't run from relationships because of self-hatred. In turn in ...Junai no Seinen, Kaoru tells Daigo he doesn't have to try so hard to live up to Kaoru's expectations because Kaoru wouldn't date him if he wasn't already what he wanted.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion plays this in a horribly cynical way. The whole plot probably wouldn't have gone as insane as it did if Shinji had just been honest with himself and others from the start.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 1 has this present during Judai's duel vs. Kaiser in the graduation duel. Judai tried dueling like Kaiser or Misawa would and it nearly cost him the duel. After some food and some advice from Kaiser to be himself, he went back to normal to try and win, making a huge comeback. He didn't win, but neither did Kaiser as he forced the duel into a draw.
- Mikoto teaches Ritsuko this in the A Certain Scientific Railgun manga. Considering Mikoto is a tsundere who is always hiding her feelings for the guy she likes, she's a terrible choice to dispense this and ends coming like a Broken Aesop or something. Now, Kuroko, who is always herself, would have been perfect for this, and likely funnier to boot.
- Deconstructed pretty harshly in Fate/Zero. Gilgamesh gives this advice to Kotomine- except that Kotomine's natural inclination is to take pleasure from suffering, and Gilgamesh knows it.
- One of the main themes in I'm Gonna Be an Angel!, where it mainly applies to the heroine, Noelle, but as it turns out, most of all to Mikael
- A major theme in many early Astro Boy stories is Astro learning to deal with being different from his human friends (he's much smarter than the average human but he's incapable of understanding art and music and can't feel pain or fear) and overcoming Pinocchio Syndrome. In one story he gets an upgrade that lets him experience more emotions but the villains of the week take advantage of his new sense of fear. In the end Astro decides it's better to be the best robot he can be instead of trying to be something he's not.
- Mayonaka ni Kiss: Nono tries to fit into high society by being the kind of lady the wife of the founder of Ichijou Group was but ends up fitting as herself.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Jack Atlas looks down on Yuya Sakaki because so far, Yuya only emulates his father instead of forging his own path and finding his own way of doing things. Then later played with in their second duel where Jack states that everyone is influenced by the people around them and says it is fine to use other's words as long as you fully understand them and can convey your will through them.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, when Canada tries to stand out and goes overboard, his brother America at first teases him but then tells Canada that he's fine the way he is. Canada doesn't buy it, but the end of the strip states that America meant what he said.
America [about Canada]: "He has a rare personality that can get along well with everyone, and he actually wants to change it? He seriously doesn't know how blessed he is."
- Bloom Into You
- Learning a variant on this lesson is a major part of Touko's Character Development. She'd originally started out as a shy girl with mediocre grades and few friends, but after her older sister's death, she started to emulate her and change for the better. Eventually, she learns that her sister was, in actuality, a bit of a slacker who only pretended to be a model student, and is deeply shaken by it, but can't give up on her desire to emulate her sister. However, Yuu finally gets through to Touko by helping her realize that everyone who likes Touko sees her as herself, not as a copy of her sister.
- In the School Play, the main character is a high school girl who lost her memory, and hears three different accounts of herself from her schoolmate, her brother and her girlfriend- respectively as The Ace, an Aloof Big Sister and a surprisingly needy crybaby. In the original ending, she "chooses" to become the person her girlfriend saw her as, but in the revised version, her nurse convinces her to remain true to the person she became after waking up in the hospital.
- In Yuri Is My Job this is one interpretation of Kanoko's advice to Hime. After Hime learns that she's been working alongside her former friend Mitsuki, the only person besides Kanoko who knows that Hime's cute façade is merely an act, and who dislikes her due to a past incident, Kanoko tells Hime that if this is true, then Hime doesn't need to put up the façade and get Mitsuki to like her. Since Kanoko believes the real Hime is cuter than the façade she puts up, it can be interpreted as an example of this trope, or as her trying to convince Hime to give up on Mitsuki, since Kanoko later becomes jealous of Hime's closeness with Mitsuki.
- Roujoteki Shoujo Hinata-chan: Hinata is a kindergartner who retains the memories, personality, and mannerisms of her past life as a grandmother. After an attempt to see her old self's grandson ends in disaster, Hinata resolves to be more like a normal six year-old. She trades her tea for juice, tries playing more video games, and tries watching childrens' television instead of her preferred sumo. Hinata's mother catches on to her behavior and tells her it's okay to be her usual self and she will be loved no matter what. The experience gives Hinata a greater appreciation for her mother.
- Iris from Pokémon starts off being this pompous, haughty jerk towards Ash by trying to assert her supposed "maturity" towards Ash by teasing him about the petty mistakes he makes. She eventually learns to be herself by embracing and learning from her childish mistakes (she even calls herself a kid a few times), respecting Ash a lot more as a trainer, and becoming a lot kinder to not only him, but others as well.
- Discussed and contraindicated by Chris Rock, who has gone on record of saying that on a first date, you are not you; you are the ambassador of you.
- Subverted in Lucifer, in which the eponymous protagonist takes this to the extreme. He even tells his protege: "Be yourself until you bleed."
- In the end, Lucifer's attitude is deconstructed by Yahweh, who points out that no-one can truly be entirely themselves: Everyone is created and shaped by external influences, and Lucifer's continued desire to be himself means he'll be eternally seeking for something he can never have and be forever alone and miserable.
- This is the aesop of Swamp Thing Annual #2. Alec Holland asks his predecessor the plant elemental Swamp Thing from Alan Moore's run what it did to become The Paragon of Green champions. It tells him that the secret to its success is very simple: if something tries to change who he is as a person, he can always say no. The past Green champion who introduced them tells Alec that all he needs to do to be successful is to emulate his predecessor exactly. Alec proves he learned the lesson by saying no.
- The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: Subverted in one instance when Crankcase is preparing to meet a friend, and is getting advise from his fellow Scavengers. Krok tells him to be himself, then adds "be a less abrasive version of yourself".
- Astro City: Starbright tries telling his archnemesis Simon Says this, after escaping a deliberately flawed deathtrap of Simon's (which is the supervillain's way of saying "thanks" for Starbright bring Simons' friends to a birthday party). It isn't until after Starbright's death that Simon follows up on those words herself.
All you have to do is just be yourself. Figure out who you really are and be that. Just as much as you possibly can. Light up the whole world with it.
- Archie Comics:
- Subverted in an issue where Archie is asked what he believes to be the secret to popularity, and answers "Just be yourself. Unless you're a jerk, of course, then be someone else."
- Being true to yourself is Jughead's core tenet in Archie 2015:
Jughead: If you're going to survive in this world, here's what you need to know: You are who you are, not what people think you are. Be straight. Be weird. Be whatever. Just be what you wanna be.
- Deconstructed in Brody's Ghost. Kagemura demands that Brody destroy all but his most essential belongings so he can focus on his training, to which Brody refuses, citing that Kagemura is trying to change who he is. Given that at this point Brody has proven to be an out of shape slacker who let one break up ruin his life, Talia rightly points out that he needs to change who he is, because who he currently is is not good.
- Forever Evil: The ultimate lesson of Cyborg's arc in the Justice League tie-ins. He learns that he doesn't have to reject his identity as part machine, but instead embrace both the human world and cyberspace, which belongs to him.
- In "Secret Identities", Supergirl starts high school under an assumed identity, but after a few days she gets sick of teenagers pretending to be friendly as planning to backstab you. Deciding a secret identity was a mistake, she reveals her true self to her classmates and flies off after telling them they should stop pretending to be other people. A bullied girl takes her advice to heart and starts talking back to her tormentors.
Supergirl: Do yourselves and each other a favor... Be yourself. It makes life a Hell of a lot easier.
- In Demo, it's the aesop of "Volume One Love Story". Instead of treating her compulsion with notes as a problem, as per her therapist's insistence, Marlo accepts it as a part of who she is and something she enjoys, and the story closes on her about to enjoy a date with someone who finds her compulsion fascinating.
- The Ultra Fast Pony episode "Utter Lunacy" discusses and plays with this one. Twilight Sparkle insists that Princess Luna needs to conform if she wants to be accepted by Ponyville. Luna wonders if perhaps "being yourself" would be a better message to send to the viewers—and Twilight busts a gut laughing. But the events of the episode eventually prove Luna right. Her attempts to "act normal" all fail hilariously, but when she gives up and starts complaining about Twilight Sparkle, everyone congratulates her on how well she's fitting in.
- Subverted in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series. After spending the entire episode trying to break a world record, Calvin seems to be headed in this direction until he proclaims that millions of people's suffering was completely justified by his own existence.
- This is a recurring theme for Zuko's character arc in The Stalking Zuko Series. It's pointed out that Zuko considers his mastery of stealth and Dao swords an important part of his identity, since they're things that he mastered on his own. Lu Ten's final letter also tells Zuko that he shouldn't conform to others' expectations of him, although he, having internalized others' opinions of him, believes it means he can't change and begins to despair, until Katara helps him to understand. The author believes that Mai's relationship with Zuko will not work out because of their mutual desire for the other to change.
- In Despair's Last Resort, Kaito is given this advice by Hikaru when he asks how to get girls to like him.
- In the Worm x Dark Souls II crossover fanfic, Outcry, Weld gives Taylor this advice in light of everything she's been through.
Weld: "I joined the Wards on probation in Boston, after a year, probation was up, and they liked me. So I kept doin' what I was doin' to be a hero. As for how I deal with the looks I get to be honest, I kinda don't. There are people that matter to me, and people that don't. And those who mind or look at me funny, don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. I don't try to make myself perfect to please a bunch of strangers. Just do what you want. Be yourself."
- In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Bring Me Back Home, Bridgette has been trapped in another universe and forced to impersonate her counterpart Marinette. After Adrien finds out and he manages to convince her he's a good guy (compared to her own Cat Noir), they have this conversation.
Bridgette: Do you- do you think you could teach me?
Adrien: Teach you what?
Bridgette: How to be more like Marinette. Everything the people here say about her she seems incredible. So perfect. I wish we were more alike.
Adrien: (laughs) Marinette isnt perfect and neither is Ladybug. It just depends on how well you know her. The closer you get, the more flaws she has. [ ] But I dont think you need me to teach you to be like Marinette.
Adrien: Because you make a much better Bridgette than a Marinette.
Bridgette: Do you really mean that?
Adrien: I do. I think Bridgette definitely still has room to grow, but I think she should grow into herself, not someone else.
- In My Huntsman Academia, Yang gives Izuku this advice when he asks how he could have possibly won her over while hanging out Vale at night.
Izuku: [after a night of romantic chicken] Oh... so I didn't stand a chance, huh?
Yang: Hmm... Well, I wouldn't say that.
Izuku: What, you're serious? How?! What did I need to do?
Yang: [laughing and patting him on the shoulder] You know what Izuku? Don't worry about it. Really, just... be you and that kind of stuff will work out. Trust me.
- The Many Dates of Danny Fenton (Danny Phantom Western Animation, TV Series, and Comic Books.): All of Tucker's dates end up pretty badly because he purposely made his dating profile to describe him as someone he's not. When he's finally honest with his dating profile, he gets a good date with Velma Dinkley.
- Deconstructed in Ghosts of Evangelion when Asuka points out that Misato enabling Shinji didn't do him any good.
Misato: Shinji's a doormat.
Asuka: Isn't that my line?
Misato: He is! He's helpful and earnest and very nice, but he wouldn't know assertiveness if it walked up and bit him. And it's so frustrating! He stands up to you all the time, I see it, but with everyone else he's a passive little mouse.
Asuka: That's true. He doesn't like it when I yell at him, and he's learned that being assertive around me means I'll be nicer to him. But the rest of you are too polite to criticize him, so he doesn't feel the need to change. Typical Japanese.
Misato: How delightfully racist of you.
Asuka: It's true. You only ever called him out when it came to his piloting; apart from that you let him do whatever he wanted, which was usually nothing at all. What did you expect?
- Almost every movie from the Disney Animated Canon post Renaissance features this (ironically, along with very self-assured villains, and the dissonance is pretty much never addressed In-Universe):
- The Little Mermaid (1989) is a bit of an Unbuilt Trope, since Ariel being herself means she literally can't be with the man of her dreams, but her Deal with the Devil to live on land robs her of her voice, the only means by which she could have told Eric who she was.
- Ditto Beauty and the Beast, where Beast's selfishness is what curses him, but because he wants to be free of said curse he does his best to become a better person, while Gaston being true to his self is what kills him.
- This is a significant theme of Disney's Aladdin (and only the Disney version): Pretending to be the overbearing, pompous "Prince Ali" only alienates the hero from Princess Jasmine, who finds the earnest, resourceful "street rat" more appealing. This aesop is driven home in a memorable scene on the balcony, the Genie transforms himself into a bee and encourages Aladdin "bee yourself!"
- Although it's not explicitly stated in Tangled there's a definite undercurrent of this moral throughout the film. For example, Rapunzel encourages a group of rough-and-tumble thugs to follow their dreams (even though they don't fit their image) and tells Flynn Rider that she prefers his real name, Eugene.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph plays the role of the Bad Guy, and doesn't like it. The film even starts with his being told that Bad Guys are necessary to the world he lives in. In contrast, however, the sequel's moral is a more conventional of staying true to yourself rather than working in the confines of society, as Vanellope gets to be in a game she prefers.
- The Emperor's New Groove, however, subverts this - Kuzco being himself means being the jerkass that he is, until Character Development finally kicks in.
- Frozen: Zig Zagged Trope, as Elsa's true nature (whose ability to control ice decreases as she loses hold of her emotions) is incredibly dangerous to both herself and everyone around her, but her way of "managing" this by trying to completely repressing it backfires horrendously. Embracing her nature doesn't solve all of her problems, but it helps her enjoy the good parts and find healthier and more effective ways to manage the downsides.
- Toy Story: Played with, in that Woody is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, while Buzz believes he is the real Buzz Lightyear. The sequels, however, play the Ironic Echo "You. Are. A. Toy." for all its worth.
- Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille: Be yourself and follow your dream, even at the risk of death.
- Happy Feet: The whole point of the movie's Aesop is that Mumble made all the difference in the world by being himself.
- Kung Fu Panda:
- In Kung Fu Panda, this is key to understanding the Dragon Scroll's message, which contains the power to make whoever reads it one of the greatest kung fu masters in existence. It's a blank scroll that shows nothing but the reflection of the reader's face. Or rather, the true secret of the Dragon Scroll is that there is no secret ingredient. The most important factor in your success is you and your desire/determination to improve yourself.
- Makes a return in Kung Fu Panda 3 where the arc words for the heroes are essentially "I need to turn you into you", a koan which naturally baffles everyone who hears it for the first time. What it means is that a good teacher cannot make a student into something they are not (Shifu cannot make Po into another Shifu, Po cannot make the other pandas into another Po), but instead should make their student into the best version of themselves possible by embracing their own abilities to win the day.
- In How to Train Your Dragon Hiccup is told a few times that he just needs to change, but eventually becomes respected for his own abilities. The quotation below becomes a set of Arc Words.
Gobber: You need to stop all..this.Hiccup: But you just pointed to all of me!Gobber: Yes! That's it! Stop being all of you!
- It's what both Fievel and Tanya learn by the end of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, and it's shown that they've learned it more through action than words; i.e. Tanya washing her make-up off and Fievel turning his hat right-side-in so it's blue again and not a cowboy hat. A rare example of the trope executed in a way that doesn't come off as sappy. Also inverted when Tiger saves the day and gets the girl by going from peace-loving to badass via training montage. Kind of breaks the whole aesop if you think about it.
- The ultimate lesson Manolo learns while in the world of the dead in The Book of Life.
- In the Maya the Bee Movie, Flip the grasshopper tells Maya to just be herself and she'll be just fine. He and his friends then sing about it.
- Thoroughly deconstructed in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Exactly what "being yourself" means to the animals in the film is never clear—they straddle the line between the humans and the truly wild wolf. At the beginning, they act like humans, with lawyers, gym teachers and newspaper columnists. The film later asks, how much like yourself should you be, when that self is brilliant but destructive? We never really get a good answer.
- A major part of Shrek 2, Shrek begins to feel insecure of his relationship with Fiona and tries to make it right by taking a potion to turn them into a more beautiful human form. But Fiona assures him that he's already everything she wants and they decide not to make the transformation permanent, becoming ogres again after the stroke of midnight.
- Comes up in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It's even symbolised with Miles's costumes. Prior to his big heroic moment, he's wearing a cheap Halloween Spider-Man costume, and spends his time trying and failing to be a poor man's Peter Parker. Later, when he figures out how to be his own Spider-Man instead of an inferior copy of the first one, he comes up with his own design and uses that. This is also part of his lessons from Peter B. Parker, although sadly the line that best exemplifies it was only in the trailers:
Peter B. Parker: First of all, don't do it like me. Do it like you.
- Invoked in Cherry 2000, wherein the hip, New Age Californian villain orders his henchmen to spread out and be themselves!
- Double Subverted in About a Boy where Hugh Grant's character Will, helps nerdy teen Marcus by buying him the latest trainers and teaching him about the latest music to fit in better with his classmates, is shown to be doing him a favour. Because his nerdiness really wasn't "himself", just who his mother wanted him to be, as evidenced in his mom and Will's argument.
- One of the songs in High School Musical, "Stick to the Status Quo", features three people who move out of their group's normal behaviour (a geek who likes hip-hop dancing, a stoner who plays a cello, a basketball jock who bakes) and their friends exhort them repeatedly to "Stick to the stuff you know; stick to the status quo".
- Subverted completely in Bertie & Elizabeth. Edward VIII was made to look like an uncommon jerk for being himself. George VI was praised for being a Wise Prince. The message was "do your duty" not "be yourself". It helps that Edward VIII was a Royal Brat with more of a care for his pleasure than his duty, and that George VI is to this day one of England's most beloved monarchs due to his steadfast leadership during World War II.
- One of the main themes in Dead Poets Society, which is subverted when you consider that staying true to himself indirectly leads Neil to be Driven to Suicide.
- Chris's mother says something of this nature to him in the movie Just Friends.
- Theodora gives a rousing little speech about being a modern woman, and the importance of being yourself in Theodora Goes Wild.
- Subverted in Morgan. The title character is told to just "be yourself" during an upcoming psychological evaluation. Given that Morgan is an artificially-created Super Soldier, this doesn't end well.
- Shadows: After her heartbreak with Tony, Lelia adopts a brassy, hard-shell attitude with Davey, making him wait two hours to take her out, insulting him, and also acting sexually aggressive. When Davey tells her to knock it off, saying simply that "It's you I like," she starts to cry and then embraces him as they dance.
- In The Hunger Games, this is Cinna's advice to Katniss regarding her interview with Caesar Flickerman.
Katniss: How do you make people like you?
Cinna: Well you made me like you.
Katniss: That's different, I wasn't trying.
Cinna: Exactly. Just be yourself, I'll be there the whole time, and just pretend that you're talking to me. Okay?
- Audrey, Wait!: A side character preparing her for live, national TV says these exact words to Audrey... before handing her cue cards on what to say. Audrey ultimately takes the advice to heart, ignoring the cue cards and screwing over the network airing her (and their duplicitous label associates).
- Nathaniel Keene, from the novel of the same name, is encouraged to do this by his school principal. Unfortunately, since Nat is a vampire, 'being yourself' involves becoming a bloodthirsty murderer. Nat doesn't bite.
- Psalms 139 invokes about being yourself that God made and loved you before you were born.
- Reviving Ophelia, a book focusing on the struggles of adolescent girls, discusses the various good and bad points of the Be Yourself lesson; on the one hand, self-confidence is the key to resisting a lot of the negative pressures girls face as they approach their teenage years. On the other hand, that can lead to destructive rebellion and depression when one's self is not the one that parents and peers want. As one girl puts it, "I am a perfectly good carrot that everyone is trying to carve into a rose. As a carrot I have good color and a nice, leafy top; as a rose, I wither and die."
- Played with in Dragon Bones - Ward fears that, by pretending to be someone else for so long, he has lost his self. Oreg tells him that he knows exactly who Ward is, and encourages him to stay that way. Ward, however, is a bit bitter about the fact that all attributes Oreg mentioned are actually from some role Ward has been playing. (At least he thinks so - the narrative doesn't really prove him right, his kindness at least is a very stable trait)
- On the Broken side, "Be yourself" has often been used to restrain ambition. The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings is a cautionary tale in which the bunny gets what he wants — and his mother doesn't recognize him and slams the door in his face. There's an excellent takedown of it here. It was written by a white woman named Carolyn Bailey who claimed it was adapted from an Afro-American folktale. The poem "Just Be What You Is" is another example, also written by a white author.
- In the Warrior Cats book Bramblestar's Storm, Bramblestar tells Sandstorm that he's trying to do what Firestar would have done. Sandstorm points out that that's not what he's supposed to do: he's not an echo of Firestar; he should be himself and trust his own judgement on what's best for the Clan.
- In The Mysterious Benedict Society, each of the members of the titular society are chosen for their own particular talents and though they may at times wish to be more like each other or doubt themselves, ultimately they can only succeed by being themselves. Used humorously when Constance is lamenting a hastily devised plan that even narration describes as being "bold, ill-formed and likely to fail."
"How are we supposed to do that?" Constance asked, launching into a tirade about how ill-prepared they were, how little time they had, and how this plan was giving her a worse headache than the hidden message broadcasts did. "So I ask you again," she concluded, "exactly how are we supposed to distract the Helpers?" "Just be yourself," Kate said with a sigh.
- The title character of Franny K. Stein learns this lesson in the first book Lunch Walks Among Us. In an effort to fit in and make friends with the other kids at her school easier, Franny drinks a potion that turns her into a normal child and adapts to enjoying the same food and activities her peers like. When a Pumpkin-Crab Monster shows up and goes on a rampage at the school, Franny takes an antidote so she can become a mad scientist girl again and save the day. The next day at school, Franny is finally accepted by the other children, who like her for who she is and are grateful for her stopping the monster.
- The Brady Bunch: Multiple episodes have had this as the moral, most notably "Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up," "The Personality Kid" and "Today I Am a Freshman."
- Broken by Family Matters with "Stefan Urquelle". And then reconstructed when Laura decides she loves regular Steve, instead of letting him be Stefan permanently.
- But the fact that Steve ended up with Laura is a painful inversion of this trope in itself. Laura had always refused to give Steve a chance, until he suddenly stopped wearing suspendors and "improved himself". But he gladly did all of this just to end up with his "true love", despite the fact that he already was dating another girl, Myra, who had been in love with his true self from as soon as she met him.
- Clarissa Explains It All:
- In one episode Clarissa's guidance counselor tries to get her to be more "normal." After trying out "normal" activities suggested by her guidance counselor and seeing her example of normalcy, Clarissa decides it's better to just be her own quirky self.
- There is an episode where Clarissa starts dating a guy while pretending to a different persona, "Jade". But it becomes a Reconstruction, as the boyfriend decides to give Clarissa another chance even after finding out that she lied to him.
- Amongst Petey Greene's ramblings in How to Eat a Watermelon is this. Interestingly, he teaches this not by avoiding a stereotype, but by fulfilling it. Rather effective, actually.
- Ruthlessly parodied on 30 Rock, when Tracy gives one of these speeches at a high school graduation, which concludes, "Just be yourself, and I guarantee you every single person in this room will one day be President of the United States!"
- This is the moral of The Weird Al Show episode "One for the Record Books". Al spends the entire episode trying to break a world record in order to feel special until he finally learns that he's special just the way he is.
- Glee: In one episode, token Camp Gay Kurt just wants to be normal, his standards for "normal" being his father, and musician John Mellencamp. For a glee club assignment, he performs Mellencamp's "Pink Houses", complete with false Southern Indiana accent. The teacher Will is visibly concerned, and by the episode's end, Kurt learns he was trying way too hard to be more like his dad, even if it meant not doing his hair and making out with Britany.
- Dexter spends much of the second season deciding whether he should be himself. Thing is, the "himself" he means is a serial killer...
- Inverted in the reality show Beauty and the Geek with an entire series being about men (and women) having to act in specifically uncharacteristic ways to get their smart or attractive partner.
- Warehouse 13:
- Claudia has just been made an apprentice agent, and tries desperately to act the part. She naturally makes a fool of herself.
Claudia: Umm... maybe I should stick with the computer stuff. I'm really not good at the interviews. Especially with the... people.Myka: Why do you say that?Claudia: Well, I tried to be like you, you know all professional and adult and...Myka: [Burst into laughter] That... that is really dumb!Claudia: Is this your version of a pep talk?Myka: We already have one me, we don't need another me. I want you to go in there and be more like... you.
- Later, when Claudia is about to go on a date with a hardware store employee named Todd, who appears to be clueless about anything tech-related. When she asks Artie for advice, he tells her to just be herself. Her attempt ends up completely ruining the date, and she blames Artie for giving bad advice (to be fair, Artie's not exactly an expert on relationships). Artie does end up fixing things. Later, it's revealed that Todd is, in fact, a geek in a witness protection program, and Claudia instantly falls for him (she gets off on him using technical terms).
- Claudia has just been made an apprentice agent, and tries desperately to act the part. She naturally makes a fool of herself.
- Subverted in the Highway to Heaven episode "Friends", in which the lesson is that it's okay to be yourself if you're not fat. Jenny is a fat girl who doesn't have any friends. The lesson she must learn in the episode is that she needs to lose weight for people to like her.
- Community: In the episode Physical Education, Jeff gives this advice to Abed when the rest of the study group is telling him to act differently when approaching a potential secret admirer. In the end, it's subverted, as Abed teaches everyone else that if you're confident in your own identity, it's no big deal to change. This leads Jeff to realize that his clothes aren't an important part of his identity and play pool naked.
- Saved by the Bell: Lisa pretends to be high-class to date a rich guy. She discovers he's a jerk when he scoffs at her old friends.
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: In the Every Episode Ending, Mr. Rogers delivered this message with great sincerity directly to his viewers, getting right to the heart of the matter and warming everybody's heart in the process:
"You make each day a special day. You know how; by just your being you. There's only one person in the whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are."
- In Kamen Rider Fourze, this is the motto that Amanogawa High School follows, having each of their students be themselves, and thus have a diverse student body. However, this also creates a chaotic school ground, especially considering that some of the students are given Zodiarts Switches.
- In Kamen Rider Wizard, this actually gets deconstructed. One of Wizard's allies goes and talks with a guy who she sees as being down on his luck. She soon finds that he became a Phantom and talks with him about that and for a while, she actually manages to get through to him, realizing that he doesn't like what the Phantoms are doing and doesn't like being ordered around to do exactly that. Then she suggests just doing what he wants. Turns out that the Phantom was a recurring enemy to Wizard whose major encounter with him involved assaulting a woman so that her son would succumb to despair. See, he likes wanton destruction more than just breaking the wills of people, and that he'd prefer doing the former more often. It actually becomes bad for all parties involved. It's bad for Wizard's ally who soon gets held hostage by the Phantom, bad for Wizard since the Phantom grew so much in power that he would have died in one encounter, and bad for the Big Bad himself since the Phantom is going out of his control and might wind up undermining his own goal of creating more Phantoms by making them despair (they can't despair if they're dead). And all because someone suggested to him that the Phantom should be himself.
- Subverted in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Ami, afraid that Usagi and others would leave her if she didn't act more social, reads a self-help book and tries to immerse herself more in her friends' habits, even lying just to establish herself as a more outgoing person. Usagi finds the book and realizes Ami has been faking it, and it seems that we're in for a straight Be Yourself aesop... until we find out at the end of the episode that while Ami has indeed reverted to her old shy personality, some of the positive changes have stuck, and she has the potential to defrost even more. People don't change overnight, but can change slowly, given enough time.
- Addressed in Frasier. When Frasier is mocked and pranked repeatedly on-air by some shock jocks at his station, he compares it to bullying he and his brother faced as kids. Martin is totally unsympathetic to both instances, pointing out that the reason he and Niles were picked on, both then and now, is that their high-class, stuffed shirt personalities made them easy targets, and the only way for it to stop would be to act more middle-class. Frasier realizes toward the end of the episode that while that he may get picked on for being different, the only real way for a bully to win would be for him to change who you are.
- Girl Meets World handled this particularly well; when the yearbooks came out, everyone found out what the rest of the class thinks of them. Three of the four main characters put on the sort of over-the-top, costumed transformations you'd expect from a Kid Com and just when you can feel the usual Broken Aesop coming, Farkle decides he's going to drop the assumed name and attitude-but keep the edgier look.
- Subverted on Israeli sitcom HaPijamot: in season 2 ep. 1, when the eponymous band are working at a hotel, wannabe sensitive artist Elan fancies his coworker, and his bandmate Alona suggests this Aesop. Ilan decides to take her advice, but while flirting with her he sees a cockroach, and pushes her aside to run away screaming. Alona tells him he was himself, but unfortunately himself is a coward.
- This is arguably the central Aesop of Samurai Gourmet, but since the protagonist is a mild-mannered, sixty-year-old Japanese man, it plays rather differently than usual. His social dilemmas and samurai fantasies teach him to be less restrained and more like the Cool Old Guy in his heart.
- Turns up as a lesson for a student teacher in Welcome Back, Kotter. First she tried Mr. Kotter's personality, but her jokes fell flat. Next she tried By-the-Book Cop, literally consulting her textbook every few minutes to figure out what to do next. This ended up pissing Epstein off, and she ran crying from the room. Kotter counseled her to be herself, and of course that worked.
- In the 2004 Made-for-TV Movie Biopic Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story. From his rough child star upbringing onward, Jackson keeps mentally flashing to a vision of Diana Ross advising "Follow your heart".
- Played with in Brooklyn Nine-Nine where Peralta wants to impress Santiago's father at Thanksgiving dinner. Boyle says the trope to him, but Peralta is skeptical and asks his colleagues how long it took for him to get them to like him.
Diaz: Couple weeks.
Terry: Six months.
Holt: Jury's still out.
Peralta: See, Charles? "Be myself," what kind of garbage advice is that?
- The song "Everyone Is Special" from Barney & Friends is all about this trope.
- The Twilight Zone (1959):
- In "Mr. Bevis", Mr. James B.W. Bevis learns this Aesop after his Guardian Angel J. Hardy Hempstead makes him a Slave to PR.
- In "Cavender is Coming", the Guardian Angel Harmon Cavender turns Agnes Grep into a very wealthy woman and a member of high society. After all of her old friends and neighbors fail to recognize her, she tells him that she was happy as she was, even though she was unemployed and behind on her rent. Cavender returns things to normal, telling Agnes that she is the richest woman that he knows and that money does not guarantee contentment.
- The (unstated) moral in Joe Nichols' top 10 country hit "What's a Guy Gotta Do." The song itself isn't as harsh as the video — a man trying too hard to land a girlfriend, with his efforts resulting in him being accused of harassment — but, through examples of cruising the parking lot and making small talk that fails to get over with desirable young women, and bumping into another (presumably single) young woman's shopping cart at the grocery store (on bad advice from an elderly friend), the man eventually learns that being himself is the best way to land a girlfriend.
- Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" conveys the message of love means never changing anything about yourself.
- Madonna's "Express Yourself" from Like a Prayer:
Don't call for second-best, baby. Put your love into the test. You know, you know, you've got to make him express how he feels. And maybe then you'll know your love is real.
- Most of Lady Gaga's Born This Way, with the eponymous song, "Hair" and "Bad Kids" being foremost (respectively, a song about society's prejudices being beneath you, a song about your individuality as a concept and a song about how you don't care if people call you screwed up).
- Kesha's Animal:
I am in loveWith what we areNot what we should be
- Yusuf Islam's "Be What You Must".
Be you dust or be you star, to be what you must, just reach out for what you are.
- Oasis, "Supersonic"
You need to be yourself. You can't be no one else.
- Britney Spears utilizes this as her message, subtly and unsubtly
- Baby I'm a freak and I don't really give a damn
- Eminem's "Beautiful" is all about this trope
- Be yourself man, be proud of who you are / Even if it sounds corny / Don't ever let anyone told you you ain't beuatiful
- Black Veil Brides: Their music pretty much exists to say this.
- Chesney Hawkes's one hit:
I am the one and only me, nobody I'd rather be......But while this may be true, you are the one and only you.
- The main theme of Lindsey Stirling's piece "Transcendence" is about being who you are and the happiness and freedom that comes with that, rather than trying to fit ideas other people project onto you or how culture says you should be.
- Kevin Max's "Be".
Be, be yourself
there's no one who does it quite like you.
And be no one else,
cause if you don't, then who is going to?
- "Thou Shalt Always Kill" by dan le sac vs. Scroobius Pip. After three minutes of bafflingly specific, vaguely anti-consumerist didactic rhetoric from the titular Scroobius Pip, he admonishes listeners to "think for yourselves".
- "Follow Your Arrow" by Kacey Musgraves:
Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls, if that's something you're into
When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight
Roll up a joint, or don't
Just follow your arrow wherever it points
- Quadrophenia by The Who ends with this. One of the more mature uses of the trope: the plot is about Jimmy trying and failing to find his identity by fitting in with other groups (and constantly being let down). It's only when he lets all that baggage go at the end of the story and decides to be himself that he finds his identity.
- "Whistling In The Dark" from They Might Be Giants' Flood.
There's only one thing that I know how do to wellAnd I've often been told that you only can do what you do wellAnd that's be you, be what you like, be like yourself
- "Be Yourself" by Audioslave
- "Dimetrodon" by The Doubleclicks:
Be yourselfCount on your inner strengthFind your people
- Their song "Clever Girl" is also about not judging oneself by Hollywood's unrealistic depictions...of Velociraptors!
- Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass", while sounding like a Stuffy Old Song About The Buttocks is also about not judging yourself by impossible standards of beauty.
I see the magazines working that Photoshop,
We know that shit ain't real, come on now, make it stop.
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!
- Christina Grimmie's song "Ugly" is all about not caring what other people think because those who are judging you aren't that great.
- Van Zant's "Help Somebody" has the line "It's better to be hated for who you are, than loved for who you're not."
- "All You Need Is Love" from The Beatles tells us that "Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time / It's easy!"
- This is the central theme of Sting's song "Englishman in New York", about a man who tries to be who he is despite being a stranger in the crowd.
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile,
Be yourself, no matter what they say
- At the end of rapper Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss" music video, Lil Mama is happy and thanks her mother for the lip gloss that helped boosted her popularity at her school. Her mother responds with "it wasn't the lip gloss, it was you all along."
- KT Tunstall's "Hard Girls":
Oh, you soft girls,
Trying to be hard girls,
You know that nothing changes,
Just be yourself.
And all you good boys,
Trying to be bad boys,
You know that nothing changes,
Just be yourself.
- "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne: "Seeing the way you're acting like you're somebody you're not is getting me frustrated."
- Mitch Benn's "Love Handles" and "How I Feel About My Face" are both about not holding yourself to unrealistic standards of appearance.
It's my face, and it looks like me,
And it's as pretty as I need to be,
It's my face, and it looks like me,
And I think it's all right.
- "That's Just About Right" by Blackhawk is about a painter who, through his work, comes to realize the individuality of the human condition:
"Real life", he says, "is the hardest impression
It's always movin' so I let it come through"
"And that", I say, "is the glory of true independence
Just do what you do what you just gotta do"
Your blue might be gray, your less might be more
Your window to the world might be your own front door
Your shiniest day might come in the middle of the night
That's just about right
- Sophie's album OIL OF EVERY PEARL'S UN-INSIDES implicitly has this as its central theme, but with a twist. Several songs allude to concepts of self-identity and immaterialism, how she thinks "your inside is your best side," but the song "Faceshopping" in particular brings to mind photoshopping, plastic surgery, fitting social dialects, etc. She believes that this sort of self-alteration for personal branding reflects a certain type of honesty from the subject, and that there's authenticity in artificiality.
- Elvis Costello's "Pay It Back":
"And I tried so hard just to be myself
But I keep on fading away"
- Grupa Operacyjna: "Bądź Sobą" hammers in that if you don't know who to be, be yourself, not some celebrity.
- Satirized on the podcast Behind The Bastards, which tells the real-life stories of some of history's most unpleasant people. After being pressed on what seems to connect bastards during the episode on John C. Woods, host Robert Evans concludes that the most common trait seems to be boundless self-confidence and an inability to self-reflect, rather than outright sadism or wickedness. He then jokingly suggests that the lesson to be learned from this is 'don't always try to be yourself; you might be horrible without realizing it'.
- Ever since Jerk Jackson was renamed "Bobby Fish" in Pro Wrestling NOAH, this has been his main jerk justification. You may not like it but all it's him and all Fish is interested in doing anymore is being him.
- This "lesson" might have lead to a Create Your Own Villain scenario, as Jessicka Havok claimed in a SHINE preview she learned the importance of being herself from Su Yung, and as such we've seen Havok go from The Stoic to mad woman willing to go to potentially lethal lengths in matches, including against Yung. Ironically Havok said this in reference to the fact Yung hadn't been herself since becoming a thrall of Sweet Saraya.
- ACH stopped teaming with Matt Sydal during Road To Best In The World out of a desire to be his own man, which lead to Silas Young attacking ACH out of the belief he didn't know what was good for him, the importance of being secure in yourself, or not, becoming central to their resulting feud.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- When Josephine asks Travers how she can be more likable, Travers' only advice is that she be herself- otherwise she'll regret bending to the will of others down the line. This hits close to home for Travers, who's a trans woman that still struggles with being comfortable in her own body.
- Michal tries to act suave in order to impress Lenore, but doesn't manage to grab her attention beyond a little curiosity. Ciro says that, with this sort of thing, most people would advise Michal to be himself if he wants to try and impress her.
- Yelled repeatedly along with "dude" in the Aladdin show in Disney's California Adventure park by the genie when Alladin goes to meet Jasmine. After yelling for a good minute, the genie becomes overly embarrassed at how long he took, and then goes off to "find nemo".
- The trolls from Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt. "Be thyself, and thyself is enough!" It's a repeated motif in Ibsen's plays. It plays an important part of A Doll's House, and also in Brand ("Be what you are, complete and whole, not a divided, piecemeal soul.")
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano is ugly and eloquent. He loves Roxane, but he will never dare to confess to her because he is afraid she rejects him. Christian is fair but not witty, and wants to confess to Roxane, but he knows she never will accept someone who is not eloquent. Cyrano convinces Christian to woo Roxane (who desperately wants to believe Christian is as eloquent as fair) by Cyrano being... well, Playing Cyrano. When Christian discovers the rather obvious truth that Cyrano also loves Roxane, Christian accepts the fact that he is fair but unwitty and forces Cyrano to tell the truth. Notice that Christian still has hope that Roxane will chose him, but if not, Cyrano and Roxane, the two people Christian loves most in the world, would have been happy.
Christian:'' I will be loved myselfor not at all!
- In Twice Charmed, Cinderella learns that it wasn't her dress that made the Prince fall in love; it was her.
- This is a major idea, plot point, and overall Aesop delivered in Persona 4. Whenever someone gets thrown into the TV world, they're confronted with a twisted "Shadow" version of themselves that attempts to Break Them by Talking, and then just break them. The only way to survive is to accept their repressed issues, which turns the Shadow into a Persona. Becomes darkly twisted in the case of Adachi, who is implied to have gained his Persona due to accepting his Shadow and thus embracing his depravity. A similar case would be Mitsuo, where his shadow represents that he's a worthless human being, which he rejects with a feeble attempt at claiming that his life is actually worth something. Although, the boss fight after, an outer shell that looks like an 8-bit character, implies what happens to people like that, and that part of themselves is the shell they hide behind, but it's not as "self" as whats under it.
- While they never outright say it, Persona 5 inverts this with its main story. The villains have, in Persona 4 terms, accepted their true selves and yet are unrepentant in being evil. When you see their Shadow selves, they're basically the same exact character, with the only difference being in that they don't bother putting on a public persona to appear fit for society.
- Namco High: "BE TRUE TO YOURSELF" shows up at least once in each route and in the end credits.
- In Agarest Senki Vira-Lorr's people, the onerthes are... not treated kindly by others. Most have taken to hiding their third eye and pretending to be human to avoid being hunted. Vira-Lorr on the other hand openly displays her third eye and practically dares hunters to come after her, rather than hide what she is.
- In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II Valimar essentially tells the main protagonist, Rean Schwarzer, this, noting that there's little point in him trying to be someone or something that he's not.
- Super Robot Wars V: This is what Amuro tries to tell Full Frontal that he shouldn't act like he's Char but be his own person.
- In Tales of Berseria, although never stated this way directly, this idea lies at the heart of the creed followed by the characters and they are fighting against a force that would turn everyone into unthinking creatures without any personality. "In my heart is a flame I could not extinguish even if I wanted to. To live as you are, and to be true to yourself."
- In King's Quest (2015), Chapter 4 sees King Graham and his long-lost son trying to reconnect. But Graham is a pun-loving guy who prefers to work through puzzles in the traditional manner, while Alexander has become a mage during his absence and is more comfortable using his magic to resolve problems. The crux of their disagreement comes from Alexander wanting to be himself instead of the person Graham has always thought he would be.
- The Most Popular Girls in School: At the end of Season 2 Brittnay and Mackenzie resolve to never change who they are to become rich and famous. Even if who they are are rude, crass, and kind of psychotic.
Tristan: But Brittnay, what about your show?
Trisha: Yeah, Mackenzie, what about your modeling career?
Brittnay: Fuck it.
Mackenzie: Yeah, we don't need to be rich and famous right now if it means we giving up who we really are.
Brittnay: Yeah, I mean, if somebody wants to give me my own show and a whole bunch of money, you better goddamn believe it's gonna be on my own terms.
Mackenzie: Yeah! Besides, if we were to sacrifice everything we are to become rich and famous at this age, well, we could end up like Amanda Bynes.
Brittnay: Or Lindsay Lohan.
Trisha: Or Shia Lebouf.
Saison: Or Michael Jackson.
Mackenzie: So for right now, we're just gonna be exactly who the fuck we are and not anybody. Besides, we're still the most popular girls in school!
Brittnay: You're goddamn right we are.
- Dr. Havoc's Diary: The lesson that Dr. Havoc teaches Crystal Mynxx in Episode 8. Unfortunately, that lesson ends up working a little TOO well...
- Played for laughs by being used as the most useless piece of advice possible in this Cyanide & Happiness strip.
- In Joy To The World, Joy struggles with dealing with her mothers attempts to make her act and dress more like a girl. Joy hates dresses.
- In Sinfest,
- In Homestuck, Vriska Serket learns this.
- In Rusty and Co., Mimic soothes Dirk telling him that only Cube is Cube -- he should just be Dirk. Stabs comments on the irony of a mimic advising "Be Yourself."
- Zebra Girl: After Viv and Incubus trying to get Sandra to become human or demon, Mabel tells Sandra that she is not Viv or Incubus but her own person.
- Nautilus from Cucumber Quest gives some helpful advice.
"You can't make the world like you, Panpipe. All you can do is be true to your heart. And then, some people still won't like you! Ever! ...But if you like yourself, it's really not so bad."
- Played for Laughs in Paranatural with Johnny Jhonny. Johnny admits to Ed that he finds himself respecting and ultimately wanting to befriend Max, but is concerned that his jerkish ways will just cause friction with the much more morally-centered Max. Ed, put on the spot, vaguely responds that Johnny just needs to believe in himself. Unfortunately, this leads Johnny to believe that Ed is invoking this trope, and he concludes that it will all work out as Max will eventually come to like him for who he is: a violent bully.
- Deconstructed in one The Onion article, "Local Man Ruins Date By Just Being Himself."
"I'm glad he felt comfortable being himself," said brother Chris Scanlon, 39. "But when you're in full-blown mid-30s-crisis mode with misogynist tendencies and a desperate, neurotic need for approval, maybe 'the real you' is not the best thing to put forward."
- Deconstructed in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog in Captain Hammer's song "Everyone's a Hero," which at first appears to be a pretty straightforward "accept yourself for who you are" anthem, but it gradually becomes clear that the message comes with a coda, "and incidentally, accept that who you are will never be as great as I am."
Everyone's a hero in their own way,
Everyone has villains they must face.
They're not as cool as mine, but folks you know it's fine to know your place....
- Played for Drama in the Ready Jet Go! episode "My Fair Jet". Jet wants to go to the DSA Open House with Sean and Sydney, but Sean and Sydney will only let him go if he behaves like a regular Earth kid. He can't say he's from Bortron 7, he can't use his "tool-armed backpack thingy" (which doubles as a jetpack), and he can't sing. However, at the Open House, the DSA weather balloon flies away in some bad weather, carrying Sean along with it. So, Sydney convinces Jet to be himself, so he can save Sean. He ends up rescuing Sean with his jetpack, and sings a song about how he is Bortronian. Pretty much, if Jet wasn't himself, Sean probably would've been killed.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks: In "My Fair Jeanette", Alvin tries to make nerdy Jeanette into a beauty queen to compete against Brittany in a pageant. However, she realizes that she's not cut out for being glamorous and admits as much to everyone during the show, taking down her hair, etc. — and ends up winning.
- In "The Beauty Contest", after being tricked into entering a beauty contest tomboy Spinelli is taught to be a "beauty queen" by her friends - but ultimately wins by being herself.
- A, very rare for kid's show, deconstruction in the Randall's Friends episode: Randall is ashamed to admit to his father that he has no friends, but his father tells him he was proud of him for using his time to spy and tattle on kids rather than helping them and building personal relationships, because he was that way himself at that age (and still is), and he just wants Randall to be true to himself.
- In the Muppet Babies (1984) episode "Scooter's Hidden Talent", Scooter is tired of being the klutzy nerd, so Gonzo tries to help him create a new persona. However, when the skills he already has turn out to be just what's needed to fix the exercise bike the babies built for Nanny, he realizes his nerdiness can be a good thing.
- On CatDog, tough-acting tomboy Shreik tries to make herself "a real woman" so that Dog will take notice of her. It backfires when every guy except Dog ends up hitting on her.
- On Rugrats, the Deville twins are tired of people getting them mixed up and decide to take on new personas. Lil becomes more like Angelica, a heartless bully, and Phil becomes more like Chuckie, a timid coward.
- Watch this excerpt from The Little Mermaid TV series. Sebastian provides the perfect Theme Song for this trope: "You Got to Be You".
- A subplot in one episode of Sushi Pack. The crabby Kani decides to be mellow, even though everyone likes her the way she already is.
- The Aesop of every single Kim Possible episode where Ron Stoppable gets to be special for one episode. It is discussed in "The Cupid Effect", where Wade suggests the idea, yet Ron dismisses it: "That only works in cartoons."
- When Tucker tires of his geeky (and for that episode, unlucky) lifestyle in Danny Phantom, his friend Sam suggests a change and makes him a Goth like her. Tucker however finds the experience horrifying, refusing the dreary make-ups and accessories, causing him to revert to his original self. Subverted the entire time because Sam tricked him into accepting who he is by making his short lived experience as a Goth as terrifying as possible.
- A major theme of the Holly Hobbie and Friends films, particularly "Marvelous Makeover."
- The premise of My Little Pony: Princess Promenade, in which the dragon, Spike, tries desperately to get Wysteria to be a proper princess. She does her best to go along, but really just wants to be herself, and eventually ends up standing up and saying so, finding a way to still be a princess while being herself.
- Also the key theme of "Come Back, Lily Lightly," in which Lily Lightly thinks that her friends will shun her because she glows. "Yes, I guess, we have to say, we all shine in a different way! And that means... me too? No one shines any brighter than you!"
- In the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Adventures in Squirrelsitting", Tammy tries to impress Chip by going to Fat Cat's hideout to recover the stolen Maltese Mouse. Gadget eventually finds her and seeing that she's jealous to tears of Gadget, informs her that she doesn't need to do anything impressive to get Chip to like her; she just has to "be Tammy".
- Family Guy has fun subverting this trope, using Meg.
"Chitty Chitty Death Bang"Meg: I don't get it. The harder I try to make friends, the more people hate me.Peter: Listen. Meg, you're a one-of-a-kind girl with a mind of her own. Now, see, that's what people hate.Meg: Really?Peter: I'm telling you, just be the girl you think everyone else wants you to be.Meg: Wow, it's so obvious. Thanks, Daddy.
- Stewie defies it in a special episode. While the whole episode is dedicated to make him realize that his sophisticated way of talking is an act and making him drop it, he eventually decides that he is better off faking his accident, acting superior to everyone and keeping his insecurities to himself.
- Subverted in the "Clean Is Keen" episode of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Suede Simpson stunk because he never showered. At the end Suede starts taking showers.
- In an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger explains that the secret of his popularity is, "I've just got to be me!" Unfortunately, Eeyore misinterprets this by trying to just be Tigger!
- The original philosopher of this trope, Popeye the Sailor—"I yam wot I yam and tha's all wot I yam."
- Constantly played with in Futurama. Lots of episodes end with a character learning a Be Yourself aesop, despite "themselves" not being the greatest of people. In general, they run with the humorous twist that "being yourself is the right thing, even if it's not the best thing for everyone," or as Hermes put it:
Hermes: When push comes to shove you gotta do what you love, even if it's not a good idea.
Leela: Um... do you think you could be a little less evil than that?
- This comes up directly in an episode where Fry gets parasites from a rancid sandwich and they improve his body and mind. Leela says "I love what you've become," which worries Fry and causes him to get rid of the worms so he can see if she likes him or just what they made him. She rejects him, but they become an Official Couple later on.
- Played with in "Hell Is Other Robots", where Bender goes to Robot Hell after first joining a robot religion and becoming annoyingly good, then going overboard with hedonistic acts after Fry and Leela decided they wanted their jerk back and tempted him back to his old ways. After Bender attaches robotic wings to his back and escapes Robot Hell by flying away, carrying Fry and Leela with him, he promises that he'll never be too good or too evil again, he'll just be himself.
Bender: That depends. Do you think you could survive a 200 foot drop?
- In "The Cyberhouse Rules", Leela is frustrated at being labeled a freak so she has plastic surgery to turn her one eye into two. Fry is none too happy, saying that it made her unique and special (and also because she starts dating the surgeon). When the guy talks about adopting and "normalizing" an orphan with an ear in the middle of her forehead, Leela tells him where to stick it and says she was fine the way she was.
- In the Bob's Burgers Halloween episode "Full Bars", one of the marauding teens taking part in the "Hell Hunt" starts flirting awkwardly with a girl he likes - the Belcher kids look on behind shrubbery:
Gene: That guy's totally dying.Tina: He should just be himself.Louise: No, he really should be someone else.
- This is the moral of the Care Bears (1980s) episode, "The Best Way to Make Friends". Treat Heart is recording a video about the best way to make friends. Champ Bear says the best way to make friends is to show how strong you are. Cheer Bear says it is to show how pretty you are. Bright Heart says it is to show how smart you are. Treat Heart laughs at them, but they were being serious. They leave, but they come back and ask Treat Heart to continue being funny. The four characters find the moral: the best way to make friends is to Be Yourself.
- From King Leonardo and His Short Subjects, Mr. Wizard's regular end-of-episode advice to Tooter Turtle:
Be just what you is,Not what you is not.Folks what do thisAre the happiest lot.
- The Legend of Korra:
- This is Tenzin's lesson near the end of season two: he'll never be his father and shouldn't try to be. You wouldn't think a man in his early fifties would need this, but when your dad was a hero who ended a 100-year war and you have to carry on his nearly-extinct culture...
- He later gives a similar lesson to Korra, who had just lost her powers and connections to her past lives, saying that Wan, the first Avatar, became a legend for who he was, not what, shaking her out of her Heroic BSoD.
- Bolin's shtick of trying to act cool to impress girls generally annoyed them apart from some fangirls the audience usually only heard about in passing, but when he meets Opal Bei Fong he doesn't consider her to be his type, meaning he acts much more naturally around her and she almost immediately starts crushing on him. When he does try to act smooth later, she tells him to be himself and they start going out.
- In an episode of the first season of Transformers Animated, Big Guy Bulkhead accidentally destroys almost everything in path due to his size and clumsiness. The Lancer Prowl offers him some advice to control his strength, by accessing the situation before acting, but this causes him to freeze up in battle. Prowl finally tells Bulkhead to do what'd he do, and not what Prowl would do, thus saving the day.
- In the 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode "Swine Song", Rolly tries various attempts to woo his crush, Dumpling, however she doesn't reciprocate. At the end of the episode, he gives up and starts acting like himself again, saying that he'd rather pig out on corn fritters for the rest of the night. This is finally what gets Dumpling to like him, as she loves corn fritters as well.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Sideshow", Killer Croc escapes from a police transport and stumbles across a little group of former circus performers, who welcome him as a friend and tell him that he can "be himself" among people who don't see him as a freak. Unfortunately, he finds out that they have a large stash of retirement savings, and tries to kill them and steal the money. The episode ends with the Broken Aesop version of the trope, with Croc showing a remarkable (for him) degree of self-awareness as he is taken back into custody:
Billy: Why, Croc? Why'd you turn on us like that? We could've helped you. We could've done something.
Croc: You said you could be yourself out here, remember? I guess that's what I was doing. Being myself.
- This is the aesop of "You Are Special / Daniel is Special" from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. For example, O wants to do a magic trick because he thinks it'll make him special like Prince Wednesday, even though he doesn't really know how to do magic. Teacher Harriet tells him he doesn't have to do a magic trick to be special.
Teacher Harriet: I like you / I like you / Just the way you are.
- This is a common aesop on Beat Bugs. Because, as noted by the show's adoptive theme tune, "All You Need Is Love," "Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time / It's easy!"
- In the Sonic Boom episode "Tails' Crush", Tails gets a crush on Zooey and wants to ask her out. Sonic advises him to act cool and aloof. Knuckles advises him to act macho. Amy advises him to be poetic. Sticks advises him to do a bizarre mating dance. None of these approaches work and they just weird Zooey out. Eventually, the villain Dr. Eggman, who said watching Tails suffer felt wrong, tells him that girls don't like fakes and he should just act normal. It works.
- The Simpsons: Marge gives this advice to Lisa in "Summer of 4 Ft. 2", in which she's feeling particularly down about having no friends. As soon as she's gone, Lisa angrily points out she's been herself for eight years, and it's not worked. Reconstructed later on in the episode, when Lisa does make some friends while pretending not to be her normal self. Bart spills the beans, but her friends don't mind (although when he tries to tell her this Aesop, it hits Lisa's Rage Breaking Point and she justly points out that Bart has just ruined the greatest friendship she'd ever had for the sake of petty revenge and almost does something horrible to him with maple syrup before Marge walks into the room and Lisa puts everything back in order immediately). It turns out that what really endeared her to them were the qualities that reflect her original smarty-pants personality (i.e., she was the one who taught them "not to drink seawater"), which they didn't have.
- In The Fairly Oddparents episode "A Wish Too Far" Timmy wishes for clothes and things like the popular kids due to getting fed up with being unpopular. It takes Timmy (nearly) losing his fairy godparents to realize that his new popular friends didn't like him for who he was, and only what he was pretending to be.
- In Episode 133, Kaeloo is not invited to a party everyone else was invited to because they all thought she was weird. Mr. Cat tells her not to worry about being labeled and tells her that all she needs to do is be herself, and she goes back to the party and spreads the same message to everyone else. The episode ends with everyone, Kaeloo included, throwing another party and "being themselves" there.
- In Episode 184, Kaeloo finds out that no matter what she does, she can never be "perfect", so she starts doing things like eating junk food, swearing out loud whenever she feels like it, and not holding her farts in, and notices that her life is much better now. Mr. Cat tells her that now, since she has accepted herself for who she really is, she is truly perfect.
- At the end of the Ed, Edd n Eddy movie, Eddy realizes that being a jerk to others was what was keeping him from being liked by the other kids. He starts being himself, and he finally gets accepted by the kids with his friends.
- In the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Big Pink Loser", Patrick imitates everything Spongebob does so he can win an award. At the end, Patrick ends up getting an award for something he himself is good at: doing absolutely nothing. This convinces Patrick to stop copying Spongebob, and go back to doing what he does best.
- This is the aesop of the second episode of Babar, City Ways. Pom is very concerned about impressing some older kids, and that is when Babar tells him about when he came to the city and lived over there for a while. The climax of the story is that he once almost screwed up a dinner party by acting like a "sophisticated" snob, which nobody liked. When he started to act like himself, he managed to win the guests over.
- The Sheep in the Big City episode "Going Off the Sheep End" has Sheep try new looks in an attempt to court his love interest Swanky the Poodle, only for Swanky to not be interested. He first tries rearranging his wool into a stylish hairdo, then tries using plastic surgery to turn his snout into a humanoid nose, and finally becomes a grotesque mass of muscles using Oxymoron muscle powder after an unsuccessful attempt at bulking up at the gym. In the end, Sheep realizes he doesn't need to change his appearance to win Swanky's affections and deflates his muscles to return to normal.
- In "Captain Blah" from Creative Galaxy, Captain Blah steals all of the artwork in Arty and Annie's art show because he was unable to make a paper bird like theirs, and feels that so he's not an artist and if he can't have art in the show, then nobody else should be able to either. The two point out that he doesn't need to make art like theirs to be an artist; that really the whole point of art is making something that expresses yourself in your own way.