Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who I really am. I’m not sure there’s a “true self” exactly. I think all of us are a big mess of contradictions and personalities. For example, some people would describe me as being a quiet person while others have told me that I talk too much. Both things are true. When I’m in a new social situation, I’m often shy. When I’m with close friends, I might end up talking a lot.
I guess we present different sides of ourselves to different people…or even to the same people at different times. Yet there seems to be this idea floating around that we need to embrace our “true selves.” But what if I’m not sure which self of mine is the true one? And what if my true self is not the one that other people want or need me to be?
I’m really struggling with this issue in my writing because I’m not quite sure who exactly I am now or who exactly I was as a kid. I’m trying to write about my childhood and teenage years with honest self-reflection, but it seems impossible to pinpoint what the hell was actually going on back then or even what’s going on now.
Part of me feels like I need to censor myself, and I think that’s the problem. I’ve been told my entire life that I’m too emotional. I’ve been told that I cry too much, complain too much, and that I’m depressed and/or anxious too often. Despite the strides I’ve made and all the work I’ve done to change this, there are still people out there who look at me this way.
We’re rarely encouraged to talk about our emotions in real life. Mental illness, despite its prevalence, is still a taboo topic of conversation. I’ve been hesitant to mention it here even though it’s the focus of my memoir. But in writing, expressing honest emotion is a necessity. Even in blogging, some sort of emotional connection to your reader is required.
I think that’s why the writing I did as a teen feels more honest and uninhibited than my recent work. I hadn’t learned to control my emotions and impulses, so they flowed easily into my writing. At the same time, I had a lot of trouble making and keeping friends because they were overwhelmed (and occasionally annoyed) by my emotionality.
Is there a way to be open yet reserved, emotional yet controlled? Is there perhaps some sort of happy medium I just haven’t found yet? I don’t really have an answer or conclusion for this post because I’m genuinely struggling with all of this right now. Maybe I’m chasing a sort of self-awareness that doesn’t really exist.
Do you think we, as people, have a true self?