If the ancient Greek aphorism gnóthi sautón—“know thyself”*—is any indication, people have been obsessed with being themselves for a very long time. And no wonder: acting like yourself generally goes hand in hand with a sense of well-being—studies have found that people who believe they’re behaving authentically are less distressed and have higher self-esteem .
The benefits of being yourself seem especially strong in the context of personal relationships: research has shown that feeling inauthentic in one’s dealings with other people correlates with symptoms of depression . A study of adolescents found the connection between inauthenticity and depressive symptoms to be particularly evident in teens’ relationships with their parents .
And yet, for certain people, in certain situations, “being yourself” is easier said than done. In some contexts, women have the edge. They report much greater feelings of personal authenticity in their romantic relationships than men do , and as teens, they’re more likely than boys to say that they can be themselves with their best friends. On the other hand, teen boys report feeling more authentic with their dads than teen girls do—and young men say they feel more authentic around professors than their female classmates do .