Monday, June 27, 2011

Who Am I Today?


I know that I am many things to many people: mother to my daughters, daughter to my mother, sister to my siblings, wife to my dear Bubba...I could go on, but you know the drill. And, I suppose to some extent, I rely on that. I appreciate the ability to use those personality traits that fit best in any given situation in order to accomplish certain tasks, and then change when necessary. But I always assumed that I was only one person to me, and that, even if others saw vastly different sides of my personality, at least I always knew who I was at my core.
I have recently realized, however, that it is possible to really dislike who I am when I am in the company of certain people. And I thought I was done with that. Like most people, I tried out different personas in my teen years; I was a smoker with the rebellious girls, a goody-two-shoes with those who eschewed rebellion for a while, and, depending on the stage or year of high school, I could be known as prudish or outlandishly flirtatious. During those times, I often found myself feeling distinctly uncomfortable in my own skin. Asking hard questions of myself when I was all alone in the dark at night. And actively choosing to change my actions or distance myself from certain people. But as an adult, I thought I had all of that figured out. I was pretty sure I had solidified my personality like that cup of bacon grease that sits out on the counter until mid-afternoon. Not so.

There is a group of people in my life whom I love dearly and with whom I imagine I will be associated for the rest of my life. And I decided that I don't really like who I am when I am with them. While they don't call me on it (either because they are lovely, compassionate people or because they don't know any different), I noticed that I am often whiny or defensive or something-not-quite-me when I hang out with them, and that makes me decidedly uncomfortable.

It turns out that when I first met this particular set of people, I put them all up on some sort of pedestal. Although, at the time, I wouldn't have been caught dead admitting that, I was certain that they were certain I wasn't good enough for them. And, truly, we couldn't have been more different. But I was determined to justify my existence and show them just why they needed me in their lives. And I felt righteous about it. Sometimes. Often I felt judged and that made me angry and all the more determined to show them.

And so I established this pattern of behavior that led to me proving in subtle but varied ways that I am intelligent and witty and caring and good enough. Because if they were going to judge me, I was going to prove that I was worthy of a good verdict. And now, over a decade later, when I know they love me and I love them all for their quirks and imperfections (turns out we started out very different but are really much more alike than we all thought), I am still armoring up with my good enough suit and slathering on my 50 SPF judge-screen before meeting up with them. Once begun, it seems that the habit of being "something special" in their presence is a difficult one to break. Only the motivation is that this armor is beginning to feel more like something I'm using to conceal the authentic me than something I need for protection from these people who may or may not hurt me, but who deserve my trust. And so I have decided that it is time to feel good about who I am all the time, no matter who I am with. I know it won't be easy, but having left a gathering of us all where I felt as though I worked harder at crafting a persona than I ever did in high school, I felt as though I didn't know the woman I saw in the mirror and that made me sad.

6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Wise words --

Anonymous said...

Kari, some people will allow you to be who you are, your true self, with your own skills, with your own flaws, because they love you for who you are and value you for who you are. These people will bring the best out of you, your true self. Looking at yourself in the mirror, you will like it, because this is the real you. This is you. This is the image of yourself that will be reflected through their eyes. A dear person in my life told me one day that she wished I would see myself with the eyes she sees me. So beautiful, so powerful. So many times did I think about this.

Sadly, some people expect you to play a role and be a special character, be who they would like you to be, could be conscious, could be unconscious. It does not matter. The end result is the same,. You will be a character in a play that is not you, and this is who you will see, a character in a play, not you. Are you going to like this character, maybe yes, maybe not, because you might just never be good enough in their eyes. Just remember, it does not matter, because this is not you.

Feeling good about who you are, all the time? I wished it was easy but it is not. Honestly, it feels like a life long quest to me. Maybe one start could be to surround yourself with people who reflect the best image of yourself and look at your own value through their eyes. The other ones, well, really don't think too much about it, because, in the end they don't really know you in any way, not the real you, the true you.

Just some reflections that came through my mind reading your beautiful and honest post.

-Isabelle

Annie Boreson said...

Kario,

I think I understand your feelings as I know I've done the same from time to time. Feelings of insecurity run deep for me with certain people and it makes me act a different way that I don't enjoy. I am trying very hard to stay true to myself, but at times I slip. So, I truly appreciate your post.

wosushi said...

I've struggled (and still do at time) with always wearing a mask with people. Whoever I thought I needed to be with them, I was.

It takes a lot to see that in yourself and try to change it.

Kudos to you for putting this out there.

Deb Shucka said...

Awareness is always the first step to anything. Integrity is a lifelong pursuit, and I'm always impressed with the way you share the development of yours. Bacon grease? Perfect picture. Made me laugh out loud.

fullsoulahead.com said...

Self awareness is a double edged sword, isn't it?

Love the part of you who needs to put on a show. She's just scared. Like everyone is.

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