What does it really mean to “be yourself?”

I’m Sarah Croughwell, the VP of Communications for AIGA Boston. Usually, I write these letters in our email, but this week the letter is longer than usual so we decided to make it a blog post instead. 

Hey there!

A few weeks ago I was in Baltimore at the AIGA National Leadership Retreat. I’ve had a few weeks to digest what I’ve learned and I wanted to share the idea that resonated the most (and with June also being pride month, it feels appropriate).

At the retreat, we talked about what it means to be your most authentic self. And this really stuck with me. I know, it seems a little cliché, “Be Yourself” on the surface seems like kind of a lame takeaway, but bear with me.

It can be really hard to be one’s most authentic self. There are so many social and environmental cues we pick up that affect behavior and signal whether certain kinds of people belong in any given space, or even if it’s safe to be in a space.

It’s hard to even talk about identity in a way that is both simple to understand and nuanced enough to capture every moving piece. At the retreat, we tried to list the ways humans are different from one another…and there are literally thousands of ways. As a result, conversations surrounding identity and one’s authentic can be awkward and uncomfortable and we avoid having them all together.

It’s easier to ignore one’s most authentic self, individually and even at an institutional level. However, most designers that I’ve met have a passion for helping people understand the world they live in and ultimately want to make the world a better place for everyone. I’m excited and fascinated to see how designers forge the path so that everyone can truly be themselves.

So this week, I leave you with two questions. How would you describe your most authentic self? and What are spaces where you feel like your most authentic self? 

If you want to share your authentic self anonymously, I’ve created this form.

For me, I’m a quirky optimist, a critical thinker, and a designer. I am also a white, bisexual, woman. I’m extroverted and a dog mom. My most authentic self is easily excitable and eager to listen, share and reflect on experiences. The space where I feel like I express those things in the most meaningful way is part of the AIGA community.

If you liked this letter, subscribe to our email list (in the footer of this page). I try to write them at least once a month so you know who is behind the emails we send out, and as always feel free to shoot me an email at sarah[at]boston[dot]aiga[dot]org if you ever want to say hi. Happy pride month, everyone!


Sarah Croughwell
VP of Communications, AIGA Boston

By Sarah Croughwell
Published June 21, 2018