do you and do you well

“Do you and do you well.”

I began saying that quite frequently in my undergraduate days at Duke. This was during a time when it seemed that many students were buckling under the pressure to work hard and play hard, acting like they had everything together when they really didn’t.

In response to this, I would often hear the common encouragement to “be myself” or to “do what feels right to me” or something along those lines. And my personalized adaptation of the statement was the quote above, and I said it pretty often.  

I mention the quote now because I wonder how useful it is in negotiating that pressure and what it actually supports. Initially, it fostered for me a genuine sense of self-worth and authenticity, concepts that still resonate with me deeply. Currently, I also consider how, if left unchecked, it can foster baseless self-centeredness and narcissism, concepts that are far less flattering in my opinion.

To be clear, I am not making an argument for or against authentic expression of self. I am trying to highlight what lies underneath these sayings that sound nice in theory but can lead to almost anything in practice.

For me, this quote has affirmed and validated me. It has also given me an excuse to avoid growing up. I mentioned it last time when discussing my journey to adulthood and my metaphorical box of crap. The box of crap can represent a lot of things depending on the individual and the situation. Regardless of what it may represent, I think the box and its contents can persist beneath the surface of a motto like “do you and do you well” because it empowers an individual to embrace things that may not be held in high regard. I know it did for me in college.

A prime example of this was my insecurity about what it means to be a man, a concept that, for the record, I’m still working on.

In the past, I had a lot of anxiety because I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t connect with a lot of the stereotypical ideas of masculinity and manhood, and it made me insecure and discontent. Not only was I smaller and shorter (and still am), it was really challenging for me to relate to other guys, particularly when I felt like they didn’t want to relate to me.

Thus, such a motto like “do you and do you well” inspired me to reconstruct my self-concept of being a man. Consequently, I have found greater security and contentment in who I am as a man and have formed many substantive relationships with other men. I stopped feeling so much pressure to act like some version of a man that I am not. I legitimately feel better about myself, and I think that’s a good thing.

Clearly, that kind of positive energy has been really motivating.

At the same time, this motto gave me an out. I passed on a lot of experiences simply because I didn’t want to do them, and I validated myself for not participating. Part of me embraced these undesirable experiences that I now wonder may have been meaningful for my growth as a man. As an adult, I speculate if I would have received more of the affirmation I seek out now had I leaned more adaptively into that discomfort and pushed myself. I wonder if the legitimate authenticity I developed also brought with it unwillingness to grow, encouraging me to “do what felt right to me.”

Taken together, I’m all for fulfilling the original statement in a constructive manner. I also admit that hiding behind that exact same statement is not constructive. “Doing you and doing you well” was never about achieving personal convenience and comfort by self-approved means. It was about the inherent value in each person and the capacity to be great and do great things. In order to do that, sometimes that means more inconvenience and discomfort, things that I could circumvent by professing this same motto. Oh, the irony.

Here’s another point: more recently, I reasoned that sometimes in order for me to actually do well, I need others to do well too. And in order to support their success, I might have to meet them where they are and adjust. If I do that, then the whole motto stops because it’s not even about me anymore. Doing me well thus becomes about helping others which can lead to the aforementioned inconvenience and discomfort.

And just like that, something that was all about me is now completely about somebody else. Such is life.

I hope you’re able to find value in who you are and continue seeking to be the best version of yourself. It may seem like an endless pursuit, but when done wisely, I think such a pursuit is dynamically thrilling and rewardingly worthwhile.

Blessings to you and your pursuits.

Love Love Love,

Jesse

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One thought on “do you and do you well

  1. This is a really good one. Recognizing how the thing that helped you also *enabled* you (“gave me an out”). Keep digging brother, you’re clearly finding important things. #buriedtreasure

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