Identity Crisis #3005
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Last night I woke up suddenly at 4 am from some kind of surreal dream-nightmare. I don't remember it anymore, but it was my usual flavor of dream, eerily similar to reality but everything felt just a bit off, like the saturation was up too high or the ground was crooked. Either way, I woke up suddenly and after laying in the dark for a while grounding myself back into reality, I wrote this.
I’ve always been one of the most nostalgic people I know. I’ve always been one of the most emotional, nostalgic, and psychic people I know, and for some reason, in recent years I’ve come to fear those things. I’ve found myself shying away from emotional intensity for reasons that don’t feel like my own. For reasons that feel more like a reflection of the environment I’ve surrounded myself with than a manifestation of what’s truly in my bloodstream. I’ve always been so dramatic and extreme, and for some reason in years past I’ve tried to fade myself from color block pop art to shades of grey in a way that isn’t really me.
It’s hard to unravel where this comes from. It’s confusing to look back at myself and wonder what brought me to this attempt to mellow the very thing that makes me, me. It feels like something I did to fit into an idea of me. It feels like something I did to make myself more palatable, more welcome at tables that I didn’t even really want to sit at. It feels like me trying to cling desperately to something that isn’t really there, something imagined, something conceptualized. It feels like something I did in an effort to keep people around, to align myself with an image of me that doesn’t match what I see in the mirror.
There was a study done that questioned whether we would recognize a clone of ourselves if we saw them in a crowd. If we were to walk past ourselves on the street or brush shoulders on the way into a café, would we know it was us? Apparently not. I’ve always thought that was incredibly strange. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of myself and I know it’s me. I have enough facial recognition to know who I am in two dimensions, but something about never having seen ourselves from the outside, living and breathing and laughing and exuding our mannerisms makes us unrecognizable in three dimensions to ourselves. Something about never having watched ourselves walk away from us, or set a plate of food down on the table in front of us, or never having held our own hand makes us a complete stranger to ourselves unless we are captured in still pictures. We know ourselves from the inside and from the way our hands look attached to our arms, but if that same hand were to reach across a counter and set a coffee down in front of us, we might not know who had set it there.
A thread on Reddit I just spent too much time reading, questions the same thing. It feels like the verge of a full on identity crisis to really explore this question, but so do a lot of things. Sometimes life just feels like one giant identity crisis and I guess at its core it kind of is. We are changing and adapting even when we don’t feel like it. Situations and things around us demand this change in order for us to keep up with the world we are living in.
This all goes to say that I don’t know why in a million years I would ever try to be someone I’m not. If I only know myself from the inside out, what is the point of trying to control everyone else’s perception of me? It sounds exhausting because it is. There’s nothing I can do to control anyone’s thoughts about me, so the least I can do for my own peace and serenity is stick to controlling my own perception of myself. My own view of me. One of my friend's moms once told me that "Other people's opinion of you is none of your business," and that's a very important thing to remind ourselves of.
I don’t know why I ever spent any time trying to make myself an easier pill to swallow. But then again, I do. For love, or what I thought was love. For the comfort of people other than myself. For what I thought would be the only community I would find. For who I thought would be the only person to fall in love with me. But did I ever stop to question whether or not I loved me? What is the point of anyone else liking me if I don’t? I’m the only one who has to live with me every single second until the day I die. I’m the only one who has any sort of concept of who I am to grapple with, so why am I trying to change that for anyone else?
It sounds like a waste of time to me. And it also sounds like a process, to accept this. Learning to love me for me (as cliché as that sounds) is a lifelong process, and that’s okay. Isn’t everything?