Who Am I, Really?

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?

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Comments

  1. says

    This is a question that I’ve struggled with for a long time, and one that has recently returned to the forefront as I ponder this idea of my “voice” as a writer and as a blogger. Trying to decide which facet of my personality I want to showcase, which ‘face’ I’d like to expose, is a difficult one. Not to be facetious, but I have always like the ‘onion’ metaphor from Shrek, where individuals have layers and are rather complex, and can’t easily be distilled down to a single essence or identity. Like you, though, my teen writing is much more raw and intense in its emotional content, but I’ve also learned to hide a lot of that over the years. I think it’s an ongoing process, learning how to tap into that abyss of emotion without letting it overwhelm us, and I think it’s something that is always changing, something that is dynamic. I am trying to give myself up to that process, to accept that my shifts and changes will surface in my writing… but it is difficult, to be sure.

    Thank you for sharing this about yourself, and for broaching this topic!

    • Alana says

      Thanks for the comment, Lena! I think the onion analogy is a really good one, because it’s impossible to distill people down to one thing or another, yet we have a tendency to want to do so. You make a good point about tapping into the emotion without it being overwhelming to ourselves and others…so perhaps there is a good balance that can be reached with time and effort. I’ve started using my blog to test those waters a little.

  2. says

    This blog could have easily been written about me. As I read this, I was shaking my head in agreement as I’ve experienced some similar situations.
    I think as you are writing about your younger self, allow that feeling of not knowing what was going on to come out. Many people will connect with that experience because I think at that time in our lives, none of us really knew what the hell was going on.
    And as for knowing what is happening now and who your “true self” really is, I firmly believe that we evolve and change according to the experiences of our individual lives. Who you are right this minute may not be the same as who you are next week or the week after that. Its okay to be layered like the onion, it gives you depth and character. Exploring each layer of who you are and accepting that as part of your true self can be fun and exciting – if you let it.
    I do agree with you that mental illness is a taboo topic. I still have a hard time admitting to myself, much less others that I deal with chronic depression. But as I’m learning more about it, I am beginning to accept it as another layer of my mysteriously interesting self. If others accept that side of me, is totally up to them.
    The way I see it, all my sides, all my layers, are all apart of the many characters inside me waiting to be given a chance to tell their stories.
    Good luck with your writing Alana, I can’t wait to read it! And thank you for sharing!

    • Alana says

      I hadn’t really thought much about incorporating these feelings of uncertainty into my writing, although it makes a lot of sense. I’m sure most people will be able to relate to this struggle of figuring out who they “really” are. I guess I sort of wanted to reflect on that idea in this post too…that maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves to have this “true self” we shoe everyone when really we change and shift who we are all the time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing or something to fear.

      I think mental illness is becoming less and less of a taboo, but considering how almost everyone I know has been through it in some form of another, it surprises me that talking about it can still push some people away. But, like you said, those are probably the kind of people I wouldn’t be able to get close to since that is a big part of my past (and, to a lesser extent, my present).

      Thank you so much for your very insightful comment! You’ve given me even more to think about, in a good way :-)

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing – being honest and transparent is difficult. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to answer this question. To accept the past and it’s effect on you today is one of the hardest journey’s of self-reflection there is, I think. Keep the lessons of the past, and use the idea of who you want to become as a compass. When today sucks, tomorrow is a new day. :) Keep writing.
    Lisa

    • Alana says

      Thanks, Lisa! It is a difficult journey, and I think maybe part of the journey is accepting that it is just that…a journey. It’s not something we can just figure out right away or even after years of thought. It’s constantly changing.

  4. says

    Alana, Such an insightful post I imagine MANY of us can relate to. I actually posted on something similar today. :) Life is a series of learning curves and growth. The fact that you’re examining your life speaks of your maturity and interest in living fully.

    We should all be free to emote and feel feelings big time, without judgement or criticism from ourselves or others. That said, yes, we should have boundaries, learn to manage strong emotions in healthy ways and seek help from others as needed.

    Wishing you the best in your journey! :) Loving your insightful topics of late.

    • Alana says

      Thank you for the comment, August! I’ll have to go check out your post now. I agree that there should be a balance between feeling our emotions as they come while expressing them in a way that maintains some basic boundaries. I guess that’s the balance I still haven’t figured out yet.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my newer posts…I’m still experimenting with being more open on here, but people really seem to be connecting with it, so I think I’m on the right track. I wish you the best on your journey as well! :-)

  5. says

    Don’t hold back. Let it all out on the page because that’s the only way to be real. People like and respect honesty because when you lay it all out there, you’re likely to say it in a way no one else would have.

    And even if people haven’t been through what you’ve been through, your honesty will make them feel for your struggle.

    This doesn’t mean tell your whole life to the world, but whatever you say, even if it’s as short as a tweet, be real. I’ll always come back for real.

    • Alana says

      Thanks, Andrew. I’m seeing more and more that there is a balance between being real but not overwhelming people with your emotions. And in writing, I think there’s even more of an opportunity to be honest about your life and emotions because that’s why people read…to connect.

  6. says

    I do admire the courage it took for you to so openly share your fears with the world. You must be relieved to learn that we have all been there at one time or another.
    All these selves are your true self. Each one is a facet of the gem that you truly are. As you mature you will integrate them all into a greater whole. do not try to rush this, but enjoy the process of being in control one day and off the wall the next. Shoot, normal is boring. Be exciting, unpredictable, alive. Know thyself and enjoy.

    • Alana says

      Thanks, Prudence! I really appreciate the advice and perspective. It’s good to try to be positive about figuring out who we are, and embracing how that changes each day.

  7. says

    Dear Alana,

    I’m going to say something to you that I told my oldest son once. And I’m saying this because it takes one to know one. Never doubt your innermost feelings. Don’t feel bad because you may feel deeper or are more sensitive than others.

    It is a beautiful quality to be connected to your emtions. Unfortunately life has a way of making us callous. But don’t change because you want to fit in with people or be someone you think they want you to be.

    It is not a weakness to be sensitive although sometimes it might seem like a curse.But I think that you will find that over time, people will be attracted to you for this quality and that will show they are really a true friend.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    • Alana says

      Thank you, Karen. I have had people tell me I’m lucky to be so sensitive and perceptive, and that it’s good how much time I spend reflecting on myself. I’m glad others see those traits as being positive as well. And you’re right…my true friends are the ones that stick around even when they’ve seen the the worst of me and still accept me for who I am. Those people who can’t do that probably are right not to stay in my life.

  8. says

    I think the biggest obstacle in understanding our “true self” is nothing more than confidence. Confidence in yourself and what you want to say/write keeps the censor monitor off. Believe in yourself and just let it flow out of you. I think sometimes as writers we tend to over think our emotions and go back and edit out the truth. Don’t. Be yourself and don’t worry about what others think.

  9. says

    I just found your blog today and feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit! The only advice I can give is to write about these things- especially on your blog! When I blog about personal issues (I’ve blogged on the topic of crying too much) not only do I help sort things our in my head but I always get positive responses from readers. It’s like a little support therapy group!

    • Alana says

      Thanks for the comment, Sarah. I’ve been really touched by the outpouring of support on my last two posts. I’d been afraid in the past to be too personal, but people seem to relate with me.

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