On the Self

Lately I’ve been thinking about the self, about my self.

I’ve heard things like, “the self is a construct” out here on the internet and I think I understand it well enough. The self is made up of things like: the choices we make, the values we keep, how we react to things, how we treat other people; and it’s also made up of things like: the kinds of clothes we choose to wear, if and how we use makeup, what our voice sounds like. The self is simply made up. If you don’t like it, change it.

That’s good an all, but I have a problem (and I’m curious to know if this is shared or universal).

All my life I’ve felt like I couldn’t really see myself.

In high school I would ask some of my friends to describe me. I wanted to know what I looked like from their perspective. I wanted to know what traits they saw most prominently, how they understood me to be.

In middle school I remember thinking about how I didn’t really feel any connection to my name. Force of habit compelled me to respond when someone called out to me, but my name wasn’t anything special.

Even before then, I was aware of the fact that my reflection never felt familiar. I remember staring in the mirror as a child, repeating my name over and over, and feeling no strong sense of recognition. Seeing myself in the mirror was more of an, “oh, is that me?” rather than a, “that’s me!” I would imagine that there was some image that was the ‘real me’, but even that image wasn’t fully there.

I didn’t really think about all that when I was in college.

Things like personal style I may have once had, but I don’t think I have a style right now. I don’t feel strongly about things like clothes other than just wanting them to be comfortable and easy to move in. I occasionally buy clothing outside of those simple parameters to try something out but I buy clothing so rarely that it doesn’t feel like I’m learning anything about my preferences.

I wore eyeliner in middle school and high school, but can’t be bothered to do it anymore. Maybe my personal style is just that, I can’t be bothered to do this.

I tried changing my name. I went by my middle name in college; I used a different, chosen name, when I went abroad; I’ve tried sticking to that name that I chose for myself for it’s meaning and genderlessness. But if I let myself think about it, that name also feels separate from me; I respond to it through force of habit alone.

Even things like a moral code aren’t firm or easily recognizable. I hold beliefs but I don’t know if they show on the outside the way I want them to. I wonder about what my friends think of me, what qualities float to the surface.

Perhaps everyone feels like this, at least a little. But it makes me wonder if there are people out there that do have a firm image in their minds of who they are. Maybe they have something big and unique that they hold up as the type of person they are. I wonder if people like that feel more secure than I do. Or perhaps it’s that there are people who feel secure within this insecurity; people who really understand what it means to not have a firm identity, to be a construct, and have already accepted it.

…maybe this is just another part of my self.

Maybe the type of people that hold on to a single identity, a single aspect of themselves, lose out on opportunities for growth and change. Maybe people like me that spend days thinking about this are missing out. Or maybe this is just another part of my self.

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