There have been many times here at the ReLove Plan.et blog in which I have explicitly encouraged people to love themselves as they are, to not care what others think, and to be yourself and be happy no matter what adversaries come your way. What I have not discussed is what to do when that sense of self, that sense of your own comfort in your identity, is challenged. Perhaps I never spoke of it because it has been a very long time since I've felt a deep overwhelming challenge in this area of my life. I have always been quirky, different, and in recent years done my best to embrace my individuality--something that has become easier and easier with every year as I become more and more secure in my own body and self. It felt like easy advice to give, and certainly something that each and every one of us can consciously work on: becoming comfortable with ourselves and embracing Who We Are. However, sometimes our sense of self can be vigorously challenged. While it has taken my own sense of self to be recently challenged to truly reflect on this topic, I am always glad for opportunities of insight and exploration; encouraging me to look at my identity, at people, at the world we live in, always providing new opportunities to learn and grow and share.
So. Perhaps your sense of self is often challenged. Perhaps it is from family--and perhaps this is the most common one, especially if you really do embrace your quirks and lovely individuality and all the strangeness our society deems "unfit." Perhaps it is from friends (why would you want to have friends like that?), or coworkers, or peers in school, or any other number of people or circumstance.
Our sense of self is almost always first challenged sometime during our school years. We start off so innocent and genuine, and then somewhere along the line society and the people that are a part of that society begin to make us feel as if we can't be ourselves and that we must fit a certain standard. Our innocent and genuine identity become tainted, twisted to try and fit in that narrow-minded box. Fortunately, many of us learn that we don't want to fit in the box or join the herd of society's sheep.
While I was in school, I learned at a more subconscious level that I did not fit in and didn't want to fit in--after my own lack of success in trying. I learned to stick up for myself. As I became an adult I was somehow comfortable creating new identities for myself. I was a goth/metal kid for a long while. I probably tried entirely too hard to be "badass." I went through a mild hippie stage as well. At some point I accepted I was also rather a bit of a "geek." In the end, I learned to embrace all the individual parts of myself. But, that isn't what I'm talking about today (that's in the "Be Yourself" posts you can find on the rest of the blog).
So, what challenged my sense of self recently?
Let's Get Personal…
First I will say that my sense of self is largely identified (to myself) by the inspiration, happiness, and warmth I try to spread to others and the world around me. I generally consider myself a good person who is out to help others and do the best I can in all areas (people around me, our planet, animals, etc.). These were things that were important to my character, things I resonated with, things that made me feel secure in who I Am. They still are, don't worry, but these ideals have been challenged, because my sense of self has been challenged. Why? Nothing has challenged my sense of self more than the very recent separation from my partner. Yes, we're going to get personal here; hopefully many of you can relate through your own relationship challenges, and if not hopefully it at least compares in some way to your own challenges.
At first, I had to deal with the guilt of leaving a ten-year relationship with an awesome guy. Fortunately, I have pretty amazing friends and family who have supported me through all of this. However, there was a lot of questioning involved for myself--because I was very aware that I was hurting another person (my husband) and it made me feel, quite frankly, like a shitty human being. Of course, this logic isn't exactly sound. If I wasn't hurting him then I was hurting myself, and I was hurting the relationship, and therefore hurting him in the end regardless. While I have reminded myself of this logic repeatedly, it still made me feel like a not-so-great person. I accepted that it was something that needed to happen, that my Intention wasn't to actually hurt him, but to help both he and myself in life. Stagnation and self-harm is never a scenario you want to stick with. So those reminders helped too.
My sense of self was challenged further as this little rabbit hole of my life continued. I had fallen in love with another man; a good friend at that, who was/is also my husband's friend. This made me feel like a shitty person too. Even though I never cheated on my husband, the guilt of falling in love before ending my relationship with him lingered. Since speaking to many other female friends and acquaintances, I have come to realize my situation was not exactly unusual, and in fact was quite common. Perhaps it is because we are often too afraid of hurting the person we're with to end relationships when we should, and so falling for a close friend may feel easier, even safer, if not usually accidental. Oh what denial can do to us!
Both of these circumstances made me feel not like the person I had spent a long time becoming and loving. What you should also understand is that I used to hate myself rather passionately, so becoming someone I was proud of and loved was a big step and accomplishment in my life.
Since this has all transpired, the spiral continued. Suddenly, I felt like everyone was judging me. It is amazing what can go through your mind at times like this, challenging our security within ourselves as much as it challenges Who we feel we Are. I began to wonder what my friends truly thought of me, what outsiders would think and/or say, what people were saying behind my back. I had suddenly opened myself up to a huge window in which there was room for judgement.
Further reflection upon this has reminded me that there are always windows for judgement. Being vegan is a window for judgment. Being environmentally conscious is a window for judgement; being "consciously aware" is a window for judgement; being "unique" is a window, dying your hair, having piercings, having tattoos, having dreadlocks, what we choose to wear, how we choose to act… really just Being Yourself is a window for judgment, because it causes people to reflect on their own lack of sense of self. Many people become jealous and/or uncomfortable by anything that challenges the sheep-like society we live in. Of course, people are breaking these barriers every day, but there are still plenty of people who are afraid of change or anything different from themselves--I think these people, more than anything, are just afraid of being themselves, therefore it is easier to judge others so that they can feel better about their own lack of identity and individuality and fear of being themselves openly.
I realize this is a pretty long-winded post. Perhaps this should be more of a "free flow thoughts" sort of post; but I feel like plenty of people can relate to this subject so it is one I wanted to openly discuss and find some enlightenment with.
What I've come to learn, is that, at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what other people think of you. All you can do--and all you Should do--is Be Yourself, fully and openly and as comfortably as possible. The higher our level of comfort and acceptance we have for ourselves and our decisions, the more those around us are accepting as well. Opening the window of self-doubt opens that same window to others. People can see and sense your self-doubt and insecurity; if you can't be comfortable with your own self and decisions, then how are others supposed to either? Of course, no matter how comfortable and accepting you are of your own self, there will always be Someone there to question it, there will always be Someone that has something negative to say--such is life. This is why our value should never come from anyone else but ourselves. Also, your friends should always be understanding, the people that matter will always be on your side--and if they're not then you should probably find new people.
Since I was speaking of relationships as well, I will return to a final thought on that as well… Any end to a relationship requires two people. For a long while much of my guilt and lack of security within myself was due to me taking all the blame and responsibility. Once I was able to remember and see that my husband had just as big a role to play in the unravelling of our relationship, my sense of self began to return with more confidence. It takes two people. And we all have reasons for the decisions we make, so hold onto that, whatever those decisions may be--whether it involves a relationship or any other aspect in life.
What are your own thoughts on your sense of self or "identity"? What challenges have entered your own life in which you felt extremely challenged in this area? And what insights have you gained, and coping methods have you learned in this area? Would love to hear from you all!
As always, so much Love!
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