Don't try to be something you are not


MIND MOVES:WHEN I WAS growing up, one of the main barriers was trying to fit in. I ended up pretending to be somebody I wasn’t, always trying to be the perfectionist and impress people.

When I look back at the different role models I used to look up to and the way they went about their lives, I realise that they weren’t real inspirations to me because their lives were too perfect and they seemed to have everything under control.

So when it came to me trying to be like these people, it just didn’t feel right. It felt like I was missing something whether I was in school, hanging out with friends or even just playing sports. The something I was missing was me.

There is one memory that sticks out in my head, the long chats with my dad on a cold dark winter’s night about music. We would talk for hours on end in the kitchen about different types of music he was into and why he liked them.

As I sit here thinking about that, I realise that for me it was a way of reassuring myself that I wasn’t alone. Even though he was the man of the house and I really respected him, I was still afraid to approach him with a problem because I had this image in my head that all fellas had to deal with things on their own, and if they couldn’t deal with it, it was a sign that they were not manly.

I really don’t know when I began to feel I had to take on this role of an alpha male, the “Man of the House” and be in charge and have things under control. It might have been when I was in first and second year, pretending to be someone I wasn’t just to fit in and be cool like everyone else at the time. I kept telling myself that if I couldn’t fit in, then I mustn’t have the so-called “male image” I was supposed to have.

I remember coming home from school and going straight into my bedroom because something in my gut just didn’t feel right at all and I just wanted to avoid telling people what was really going on. I remember friends and family asking me, “How was school?” and I always said, “fine, not too bad”. For those people who know what “fine” means, they know I was using it as a mask to cover how I actually felt: f***ed up, insecure and emotional.

I used “fine” to cover up something that was going on or happened during that day. It is the little things that happen in schools, such as name calling, that can lead to more serious matters. For me it was not standing up for myself, being the pushover, giving people my work because I was afraid, or being too busy trying to impress and so not always saying what or how I really felt inside. Those are the little things that influence the bigger picture.

I also didn’t want to bring my family any worry. All I wanted was acceptance by my peers as me and no one else. I kept telling myself, “come on, just one more day, take each day as it comes, something will come good from it sooner or later”, but it never did while I was trying to be someone else.

It wasn’t until I got older and realised that I was annoyed and fed up pretending to be this person I wasn’t that I went back to being me.

When I began being the real me it was then that people started to accept me. I remember one day a guy came to me and said, “sorry for the way I treated you in the past and if I had been different in the way I treated you, you wouldn’t have ended up the way you are”. For me that was his way of becoming a so-called male and beginning to help others and not only himself.

Some people think that the male has to have a certain authority within themselves to be a man, but for me, every man has his own unique personality and every man is different.

Yes, there is a sense of a male having to be the “macho man”, but it’s not easy for any one person to take on this role. No one should have to say I never blow the top off my bottle because everyone does, even our role models. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human. It’s just natural, no-one is perfect.

Now I know the only way to fit in is just to be me. Everyone brings their own unique personalities to life and all you can do is be yourself.

Darren Scully is youth adviser to Headstrong – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health (

Tony Bates is on leave