From a young age, we are concerned about “who we are.” In elementary school we get classified by our activities and our personality; we become jocks, music geeks, outcasts, popular and the list goes on and on. While growing up I had an odd phase where I wanted to be Matilda (so you can guess what group I was in then), then I dabbled a bit in sport (swimming, baseball, horses), I found myself part of the “cool crowd” in grade 7/8 (HAD to wear GAP and Tommy Hilfiger, hellloooo) and in high school I guess you could say I was an artsy band geek, who knew how to weld, and was often found in the communications classroom. Phew! That’s quite the list.
Fortunately, for most, as we grow up the cliques disappear. Once I was in University, I never felt it was about who was a part of what group. Later I found out it was because I was a part of those “good groups.” Those included hanging with the upper years and joining popular clubs; I was the out-going, loud party girl that I thought I’d never become. Where was that kid who wanted to be Matilda? That artsy band geek? As much as I thought I was dodging cliques at this point and not caring about my “image” – I probably cared more about my image than ever.
I probably cared more about my image than ever.
Luckily I came back down to earth. It took time, energy and a lot of friends and family saying “are you truly being who you want to be?” I lost friendships who felt I wasn’t being authentic. I struggled with my family as they saw me putting up a facade. Even now, I would say on a daily basis I’m still finding out about myself and discovering new attributes every step of the way. However, it is one of the first times that I can happily say I’m living by the motto: “Those who mind, don’t matter. Those who matter, don’t mind.” If we spend our entire lives focusing on fulfilling other people’s views on us, are we really living? Do we want to lay on our death beds (morbid, I know) saying “man, I really fulfilled that image.” Or do we want to live, let live and just BE as people?
“My car wasn’t reflective of who I am to others….It wasn’t easy and I’m not comfortable with it still.”
Recently I had a conversation with a friend who bought a vehicle purely to fulfill an image. Weeks before I remember this friend saying to me that they “didn’t need the same stereotypical vehicle that everyone else drove”. That they were “comfortable with the [practical] vehicle they had”. Then, just mere days later, they are explaining to me that they bought a vehicle to fulfill an image. While I know this person has external influences on their decisions, it got me thinking. What is most important to me? Is it what others perceive of me, or how I perceive myself?
I choose me. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to completely poo-poo the constructive criticism, advice, and influence of others – that’s how we grow and develop. Mentors, teachers, friends, family, random people on the street that make you think; they are people who help us, but they don’t decide who we are. If we spend our lives worrying about others, how can we really flourish into who we want to become and who we truly are?
When I stopped worrying about how others viewed me, I started to realize that all cliques are me. I’m an artsy band geek, who has a knack for acting (hence Matilda); I enjoy sports and musical theatre; I’m an introverted extrovert who can enjoy a good night out, but would prefer to be curled up in her papasan chair with a good book. Discovering who I am made me more available and vulnerable to those I love, and those who deserve, for lack of better term, the “real” me. There are tons of people out there who have opinions of me and these people think they know who I am. There may be some truth in what they say, and there may not be. However, I don’t wake up every day and put on the “image” of Erica for society. I get up and just choose to be me.
Because being Erica is enough. 🙂