Who Do You Think You Are?

First off, go read this post by Carrie Cuinn.  It is awesome.

She brings up the issue of how so many people define themselves by what they have to do, by their responsibilities, by how they act around others based on what they want–whether they want to repel or attract.  And she talks about how, only when we are truly alone are we really ourselves.  Just us.  Not so and so’s mom or this guy’s wife or this other person’s friend or college professor or whatever other thing you choose as a defining point.

Who are you if you take all those defining points away?  Do you know?

I’d wager that the vast majority of people don’t.  Not really.  Because there is this instinctive human fear of being alone in most people.  I think this is particularly true for extroverts.  They tend seek people out rather than wallow in the solitude of their own thoughts.  But even introverts get caught up in the whole life centered around other people.  I see friends get away from spouses or kids or work–and often they can’t seem to find anything else to talk about.  Because that IS their life.  And we’re all so freaking busy all the time, that the notion of carving out alone time to a) figure out who we are on our own or b) protect who we are on our own, is a difficult task.

Sometimes you have cases where you wind up there not of your own volition, because of divorce or loss of job or death or some other loss of one or more of those anchor points.  And you’re left reeling, not only from the totally natural grief of the loss but because you don’t know who you are on your own.

I used to be a very social creature.  So much so that I was, for years, under the mistaken impression that I was an extrovert.  Because I actually DO like people.  And when I was in college and had plenty of time to feed the muse, get enough sleep, and write to my heart’s content (all around my actual educational requirements), I used to seek them out all the time. That’s when I learned I love to cook and entertain.  Those were also the years when I learned that I can’t take people all the time.  I get twitchy and cranky and need my solitude (one of the reasons I fear children).

Over the last decade, I’ve trimmed down my social circle.  Some of that was a natural product of folks moving on after school.  We all got busy and were lousy at keeping in touch.  There were some people who, once I stopped seeing on a regular basis, I just kind of forgot about.  Which sounds horrifically insensitive and awful, but there you have it.  They weren’t feeding any of my needs, so my limited time and effort just didn’t get expanded to chase after them again.  It is what it is.  I don’t wish them ill or anything, I just moved on.  Some of the pruning was an effort to cut out the toxic people in my life.  We’ve all got them.  People who stress us out, who force us into roles that simply are not us.  We don’t NEED those people.  They don’t ADD to our lives.  So don’t feel guilty for cutting them out.

But a great deal of the shrinkage of my social circle was because I just stopped trying to define myself by other people.  I’ve learned who I am on my own and I am totally okay with that, thunder thighs and all (not that I’m not trying to shrink said thighs).

I absolutely do not see the point in being someone I’m not.  I never have.  It’s flat out exhausting.

Boys were flat out afraid of me in high school because I was smart (and a little oddball).  I didn’t want to date them enough to compromise on that and try to hide it (and when I got to college, it was a trait that was appreciated).  And as it happens I wound up in a marriage to a man who appreciates me for all my strengths and my flaws.

The friends I’ve retained love me for the same.  They all add real, true, value to my life, and for that they gain my unwavering loyalty and know that if anything happens, no matter what, I will be there to help.

Does that mean I run around being 100% authentically me all the time?  No.  Like the other day when I totally got proselytized by some old dude in one of the electric wheelchair carts while I was standing on the shampoo aisle.  I spent the whole 10 minute encounter wishing he’d just hush and go away.  But this is Mississippi.  He was old.  I wasn’t going to be rude.  I knew all the right answers to his incredibly personal religious questions (hello, buckle of the Bible belt here) and I lied through my teeth when I needed to just to speed him along.   Pretty sure his brand of Christianity thinks we Episcopalians are going to hell.

Anyway all this self reflection is just to say that I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I know who I am.  I am a writer and foodie.  I would rather give up wine than have to go without my daily cup (or more) of tea.  I prefer dogs to babies.  My favorite scents are saddle leather and woodsmoke.  I like my towels hung on the bar in neatly folded thirds.  I think life without cheese is not worth living and I will (almost) never say no to Mexican food.  I believe bacon makes everything better.  I have no appreciation for crude, low-brow humor, but I love LOL Cats and I Haz a Hotdog.  I crave silence as much as chocolate and prefer instrumental music to that with words.  I truly do like opera and jazz.  I’m sick to death of vampires and want to see other creatures represented in the paranormal cannon.  But I still love werewolves.  I’m viciously competitive with board games (and almost everything else) and I love doing solitary things so I don’t have to compete.

Do you know who you are?  If not, take some time to find out.  Don’t compromise because of someone else’s expectations.  Life’s too short to be anybody but you.

15 thoughts on “Who Do You Think You Are?

  1. Great post Kait. I’ll have to go see what Carrie wrote on this topic, too. Knowing who I am has been the only thing that’s kept me going at times. More importantly, though, it was the knowing that who I am matters (even if I don’t know how or why) to the web of life. I’m a strong believer in purpose even if I don’t know exactly what that purpose is at all times. It’s easy to tell when I’m *not* living it or when I am. Once I decided to live my purpose whether the others in my life approved of it or not, everything began to fall into place.

  2. Actually, after reading this post, I realized I’m a lot like YOU. I’m an extrovert to the world, and I love being around people, but after awhile I need solitude. I prefer small groups of friends to big parties. And cheese. We HAVE to have cheese.

    I feel comfortable with who I am. But that doesn’t mean I want to show that to everyone else. Only my closest friends know the deepest parts of me.

  3. Great post. It had always been interesting to me how many people avoid alone time. Maybe because I was an only child and am very much an introvert, I crave alone time. It feeds me. My husband travels a lot, so there are times I go out and grab dinner or go to the movies by myself. When I tell friends I do this, they give me odd looks. But I have a four year old and a busy life–a quiet afternoon all to myself doing only what I want to do? Well, that’s just a whole bucket of awesome in my opinion. : )

    1. Roni – I’ve found that a book and great food are about the BEST date around. Even though I love my friends and adore my hubby. Sometimes you just wanna chill with yourself. 🙂

  4. Yes. And well said! I don’t mind hanging out with people either, but I’m definitely an introvert. Got no problem with being on my own and I’ve always been glad I found out early enough that I didn’t compromise to try to get more dates. It’s a life changer to meet someone who actually gets you (and – based on a recent encounter – to get of the family home and into a place of your own).

  5. You and I sound a lot alike. I think I’m an introvert but I do love people around people, and I love entertaining them. I can be an attention hog, really, but after a while I get tired and want to go be by myself. My partner goes away on business a lot (right now he’s in Croatia), so I spend a lot of time alone. I have to make myself go see people a lot of the time, just so I don’t lose track of time. But I do like being alone. Like you said, it’s the only time when you are truly yourself.

  6. Good post, I’m an extrovert when I’m around family and friends, but when I’m around people I don’t know well enough I become really shy. In grade school it earned me the nickname philosopher, because I thought a lot and said little.

    I can count my relationships with one hand, boys were probably scared of me. I was quiet, focused on school and wore odd clothing. I met my manfriend in high school, I made quite the impression when I wore a goth purple and black velvet dress, with dagged sleeves and embroidery to a party at school. We’re both nerds and have the same odd sense of humour. not much more I could want.

    1. Oh and I have an intolerance to most cheeses (feta and cheddar are fine), but the threat of a migraine or feeling ill will keep from enjoying 5 year old Gouda on toast every now and then.

  7. I totally scared the boys in school. And college. But I found a keeper who didn’t seem to mind his outspoken wife. 🙂

    As for preferring dogs to babies, I really don’t blame you there. Just spent all night staying up with my sick baby. Although, man is my baby cute! 🙂

    I’m so over most paranormal subject matter. Vampires, ICK. Werewolves… well, I would have said I was over them, but you brought me back. hahaha

  8. I have alway been an introvert, scared all the girls in high school. However after 50+ years, I have learned it is better to be yourself because other skins just dont seem to work. Sometimes they appear flabby or way too tight!
    Thanks for the great post!

  9. Great post. We have a lot in common. I do love being in social situations and yet, often, I don’t want to be around anyone. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of evaluating of my life and the people in it. I’m making sure that no one is draining my joy. It’s surprising how so many people do.

    I love feeling comfortable in my own skin! It’s the only way to be. 🙂

  10. “Time makes you bolder. Even children get older. I’m getting older, too.” from Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

    I always think of this lyric when I read something like your post. As I prepare to leave young adulthood, I see so many things I will never do, so many disappointments, and so many lessons learned. One of the big lessons I’ve learned is to be really sure something matters before I bend my will or go out of my way to conform.

    Each year, less and less matters. As far as people go, I make a point to put my family first. They love me even though. (Fill in the words after even though with whatever you want; it’s probably true.) Like you, I have let people slip out of my life for a variety of reasons. Also like you, it took me a while not to feel guilty about it.

    When it comes to being X way or doing Y thing because I’m “supposed to,” I find myself asking why. If the answer is not good enough, I do what I want to. This doesn’t lead to popularity, but I’m honestly too tired to care about that any more, either. LOL

    Great post. I know I tell you this all the time, but we are *so* much alike.

  11. Beautiful post! It took a long time for me to just be me, and now, I can’t imagine being anyone else. LOL 😉 But I know it’s scary for a lot of people to confront themselves. There’s so much to distract us nowadays, it’s easy to bury yourself in other things and not look to the inside.

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