AS BABIES WE learnt everything through imitation. We made maximum use of our unrefined motor control skills to mimic what our parents did, and eventually, with enough practice, most of us mastered the basics like eating, drinking and speaking.
No problem with that. So what’s the problem then? Well, the problem is that many of us lock ourselves up in this imitation phase for our whole lives, always having someone that we’re desperately trying to be, or at least copy. It could be a friend, who we have deemed to be “cooler” than us, or has better “swag” like it is called today. Or maybe it’s a celebrity.
What we don’t realise, while at it, is the fact that trying to copy someone’s “swag” is foolhardy. Foolhardy because it puts an upper limit on how good you can actually ever get. Take out any outstanding personality, from politics to sport to the arts, and ask yourself if someone else would ever be that person. For instance, I have never heard a phrase like “he’s like Bill Gates, even better.” The point here is that no one else will ever be Gates. Nor will you ever be anybody else but you.
I find that trying to become excellent and copy someone else at the same time is like putting a carbon copy in a copy machine and expecting it to come out better than the original. It just doesn’t happen.
We all know why it’s impossible to beat someone at their own game, so let’s drop the pretence: it’s because we can only glean so little about someone else from their actions. There is so much activity within their brains that we will never be privy to. We see the tip of the iceberg, but sometimes we’re only trying to replicate 90 per cent that’s underwater just by looking at the visible portion. Now that’s a tall order.
On the other hand, you have a great advantage if you really embrace who you are and try to become the best possible version of yourself that you can be. Just as you can’t really copy anyone else, they can’t copy you, either.
That doesn’t mean not to learn from other people, of course. But what we learn must be passed through our own internal filters before it’s expressed through our actions. We can actually use what we learn from other people to become better versions of ourselves.
Anyway, just another reason to be yourself. Otherwise, what’s the point of walking the entire walk of life as someone else?