This is a question that I have continually considered.
I hear many people ask questions of themselves and others – who am I? What am I? Is this the real me? Do I know myself? Do I know you…..? It is what makes us human, what makes us create beautiful works of art, music, poetry and literature. It is what makes us want to explore the oceans, reach for the stars and try to unravel the workings of the human body and mind. Through these pursuits we seek ourselves, our identities and our own truth..
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
Am I loved?
Can I be my genuine authentic self?
These are the questions that tormented me for many years throughout my loss of self confidence through bullying and mental illness. Who am I really? Can I just be me with no apologies and no regrets?
I have come to the understanding that I wear many hats, literally and figuratively, and they all belong to me. They all reflect a part of me, a facet of my personality. I am not the same all the time in every situation. But, I am congruent now more so than I have ever been. That is to say I am me, I am still kind, caring, sensitive, accepting, non-judgmental, a huge softie, a true friend, emotional at times and loyal….whichever hat I am wearing I am still all of those things.
I have spent many years trying to fit in, work out my place and what I want to be. I never dressed conventionally when I was young but as I got older I felt more and more pressure to conform, to fit and to meet the acceptable norm head on. As my children grow and my health issues, physical and mental, seem to settle down I find I am caring more about what I think and less what others think about how I look, what I wear and what colour my hair is this week!
I remember going to see my wonderful long suffering hairdresser Luke a while back and asking him to strip the red out of my hair so I would be a more conventional colour because that was what I thought I ought to do as I began my forties. He did as I wished of course and I was content for a while thinking that I was getting too old for such frivolity.
However I wasn’t truly happy. I looked at myself in the mirror every day and wondered what had become of that wild girl who once wore black clothes so tight they looked as if they had been sprayed on and then rainbow everything as if the sun refracted through her. Where was she?
But I am a Mum now I though to myself. I must be sensible and wear practical things that reflect my age and sensibilities. All the while thinking “but I don’t feel any different….I don’t think I really want to be sensible after all….”
So I started wearing black again…and purple…and red and I started feeling a bit more like me again everyday as I began to care a little bit more about myself and a little bit less about other people’s opinions of me, which after all as we know are usually more about how they are feeling about themselves than me. I know that because I was them.
So I went back to the hairdressers 18 months or so ago and asked my lovely friend to put my red back in, not all my hair, just at the ends. I thought he might throw me out on my ear but he smiled and shrugged and did it anyway. I loved it and felt more like me every time I looked in the mirror.
Then I was fortunate enough through a strange set of coincidences and circumstance to meet someone who showed me how to wear a hat that suited me and not to be scared of wearing red lipstick again because it is not the privilege of the young alone. She knows who she is and that I will always be thankful for that.
And I felt like me. Finally I felt like me. For the first time since the depression, the misdiagnosed bipolar, the post natal illness, the Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, the death of my Mum, the years of self doubt and hiding and my childhood years of being bullied.
I had no desire to impress, to show off, to hide, to explain myself, to justify anything, to be ashamed anymore. I just was.
I still ask those questions of myself of course because recently the doubts have crept in as there have occasionally been comments made about how I look (at your age! Are you having a midlife crisis?) the friends I keep and the life I choose to lead. But mostly they are made on assumptions as people do that without really understanding what is underneath it all. I don’t mind. I can’t be everyone’s favourite flavour or shade. I’m okay with that.
I am finding out who I am.
I quite like this me who does not need to fit in or apologise so much anymore.
I am still a Mum, a wife, a friend, a student, a pain in the arse and a thorn in the odd person’s side too as I have always been but I am becoming the me I like. Not like anyone else because I can’t be and don’t want to be.
I am me.
You are you too you know?
To quote Dr Seuss:
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”