Mignon McLaughlin? Leata McQuiston? Barbara Bush? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: “Be yourself” is an ubiquitous platitude. Here is a funny variant: Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer. Would you please explore the provenance of this quip?
Quote Investigator: The earliest instance located by QI appeared in a newspaper column called “Chatter” by Leata McQuiston published in the “Hobbs Daily News-Sun” of New Mexico in May 1964. The statement was enclosed in quotation marks signaling that the columnist was disclaiming credit for the humorous remark: 1
“Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer.”
The second earliest instance located by QI appeared in “The Spokesman-Review” of Washington as a filler item within an advertisement section called “Shop With Sue” in October 1964. No attribution was specified. 2
Thus, the quip was circulating as an anonymous joke by 1964.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.