What does “you do you” mean anyway?
Urban Dictionary says it’s “the act of doing the things that you normally do. Nothing more, nothing less. Just being yourself and showing everyone who’s boss around here.
Person 1: Hey, I went to the mall and bought a YOU GO BAK today.
Person 2: You Do You, Pal!”
The New York Times opines that the expression perfectly captures our narcissistic culture:
“We don’t all partake of the same slang menu — you say “pop,” I say “soda,” and we’ll all get properly sorted on Judgment Day. Wherever you hail from, you’ll recognize “You do you” and “Do you” as contemporary versions of that life-affirming chestnut “Just be yourself.” It’s the gift of encouragement from one person to another, what we tell children on the first day of kindergarten, how we reassure buddies as they primp for a blind date or rehearse asking for a raise. You do you, as if we could be anyone else. Depending on your essential qualities, this song of oneself is cause for joy or tragedy.”
And there is something conservative about the phrase. There’s an acceptance of the status quo and a refusal to engage in critical reflection. William Safire, also writing in the New York Times, called phrases like this, “tautophrases.”
“According to Safire, “It is what it is” has many tautophrasal relatives and ancestors. “What’s done is done,” “What will be will be.” The striking thing about his examples is how many of them preserve and burnish the established order”
But in our house, a busy house packed full of strong willed people with big, big, big personalities (where did that come from?) “you do you” is the liberal slogan used to end all arguments that are really matters of taste and opinion. I hear it used well among the kids in discussions of sexual orientation and relationship style preference but my favourite use of the expression concerns food and exercise.
We’ve got one formerly vegetarian child experimenting with chicken and another pretty much vegan. But that’s okay, because at the kitchen counter they’re all “you do you.”
It’s also stopped some sports nutrition arguments dead in their tracks. “Is that cereal you’re eating? Carbs at breakfast are a super bad idea.” “Hey, you do you pal.”
CrossFit versus heavy weights? You do you!
Running versus running makes you fat? You do you!
Paleo versus carbs are necessary fuel? You do you!
So while I’m sure there are areas of life where the slogan doesn’t apply, in my house, in matters of food and fitness, I’m a big fan of “You do you.”
Just don’t get me started on “It is what it is.”