“when a person tells you to be yourself, how do you know which fragment of yourself they are referring to?”
That was my fb status update seven years ago. I find it Ironic stumbling on it at a time I’m questioning my own identity.
I also found a list I wrote in 2001 of everything people had called me. Both positive and negative. I assumed this was a good way to find out who i was, the real me.
It’s no wonder that shortly after this I had a breakdown.
Identity is pretty much who someone is. Their beliefs, principles, qualities, expressions…
At the age of 29, I still struggle with this. Who am I?
Growing up,my identity was always tested, always questioned. My dad would ask me five times if I was sure about something.
Do you really want to graduate from dancing? I’ll give you money to go overseas if you don’t graduate from dancing? But you spent 13 years dancing why don’t you want to graduate?
Every decision I made was calculated before me.
You are going to learn keyboard. Its this much per month. So each lesson is this much. If you miss a lesson it’s costs me that much to….
There was a lot of the usual… Stop talking. Stop crying. Stop coughing. I remember being sick and my sister saying that I’m coughing because I wanted attention and my mum agreed. I remember waiting for my mum while sick, and I think.i was just sick so often, that sometimes she didn’t come or.got too busy.
I was a confident, self assured, happy kid. But I was broken down slowly. By teachers, by peers… I remember the criticism more than the compliments. At age 10, i always volunteered to speak in assembly. My teacher would ignore my hand and one day she told me frustrated that my voice is so squeaky she can’t handle it. My laugh was annoying. I was too fat to be a good dancer. When I lost weight and was at my thinnest at age 12, a peer told me that if I just lost a bit more weight than of be beautiful. Since then I’d always felt fat, whether or not I was. By age 13, my self esteem was shot and i actually failed drama that year.
And almost everyone noticed me start to change in high school. I got quieter, darker and I felt no one understood me. I was obsessed with mental disorders and serial killers. I’d write lists on how to make people like me. It was mostly things like read less, watch more TV, read cosmo… All so that i could seem ‘cool’ among the masses. It worked. At age 15 i had transformed from the girl with no friends to the girl that every knew and spoke to. That’s when I crashed.
I started suppressing who i was and what I loved. I started taking up things to make people like me. Liking music that other people liked. Pretending to crush on Freddie prinz jnr even though I really liked Edward Norton… But no one knew Norton then.
A teacher I became obsessed with played guitar and so I asked my uncle to buy me a guitar so I could spend time with my teacher. Another loved Elvis and so I bought his cd and taped all his films. I even thought I was lesbian at age 17 because the only person there for me when I crashed was a girl. I pulled her into my crazy darkness and 12 years later she still hates me.
Somewhere in those years between 8 and 12, i stopped being who i was and started trying to be what everyone made me. All I wanted was attention. I wanted people to like me. I assume it was the result of endless criticising and mockery from everyone and which I chose to internalise, from always being told to be quiet and often silenced for having an opinion and most importantly, for always having to fight for what I really wanted.
In high school, when it came to choosing subjects, I wanted to do art but my dad wanted me to do accounting. In front of him I put accounting as my first choice and let him sign the form. I was in the a class so I know I’d get my first choice of subjects. When I went to school, i tipexed it out and made my first choice art. When I told my parents I was beaten with a stick. It was a stressful time since my dad had a heart attack and had just come out of hospital. My sister had also told me that i was the reason he had a heart attack.
In standard 7, during a parents day, my teacher told my dad how talented I was and how i was the only person to get 100 percent on an art work. He told everyone how wrong he was about not wanting me to.do art. But it didn’t change things. He saw it as a hobby never a career. And me trying to get into advertising had been an endless fight that I gave up on.
Being blamed, being accused, being yelled at for being me…. Not feeling loved or worthy, was a norm for me.
In university when I again swopped my subjects behind my parents backs from law to media, I was accused of hating them. My dad told me that if he died it would be my fault. And almost every week for three years of university, he told me that he hated his job and he was only still in it because of me. And after every argument (my uncle said the same thing to his kids) he’d say that he screamed and shouted because he loved me.
I knew none of the blame was true. I often spoke about it to my friends. But it wore me out. It hurt. And when you have already suppressed so much of your true self and you are fighting for the last string tying you to your real self…. I don’t know. I think somewhere I just gave up on me completely. I let myself go.
University is when i stopped believing in myself. I allowed men to use me. I allowed strangers to kiss and touch me just so i could feel wanted. I chased men who treated me badly. I had no self worth or self respect when it came to begging them for attention. And memories of how i let my first crush treat me for four years, reminds me just how little I stood up for myself. I remember a moment in which he belittled me and told me to stay while he ignored me. I sat there thinking I should just get up and walk away. But I didn’t.
I gave up.
I write about this often and may have mentioned it before, but somewhere are 2007 my crush and I were talking about identity. He was adamant that we defined ourselves. I was arguing and still believe that the world defines who you are. That your definitions of yourself don’t matter because no one cares to wonder what your definitions are.
People will judge you, regardless how far away they are looking at you. And that will be who you are.
So now when it comes to distracting myself with hobbies or working on my career or trying to achieve something better… I feel nothing. There’s no ambition left. No dreams. I look at my past and I can’t work out what was me, what made me happy… Everything is more or less me trying to please someone or me trying to piss someone off.
Im just a fragment of self. A broken mirror.
And I’m starting to believe a lot of it is me, not them. It’s my decisions. My choices. Me.