For as long as I have known myself, been aware of something, someone, known as myself, I have gone through periods of not being certain who I was referring to when I used the terms ‘me, myself and I’.
When this first happened I probably didn’t think there was anything unusual about it, because when we are children we’re more open to things being the way that they are, we’re flexible and accepting (and that includes being accepting of ourselves as we are even if we have no idea who we are),
but over time it was made clear to me by the adults in my life and the other children I met (who had already absorbed the adult view and were passing it on and off as their own) that the way that I was was not usual, that it was not normal to not know who you are (and think that was okay, part of a process of discovery in this adventure called life), and that this was something about which I should be anxious because it made others anxious, and I should fix it by setting an identity for myself in stone (how much of who we are is based upon having to make a decision about ourselves and set it in stone because our indecision is bothering others, triggering their anxiety about their own decisions, their own ‘who’ they are which they’re not entirely convinced about but have to be it because the stone says that’s who they are and therefore have to always be).
My mother was the one who bore the brunt of my changeable self which couldn’t quite settle anywhere in the land of personality, ego, identity, and she was vocal about her distaste of it.
Her: What do you mean you don’t like peanut butter!?! You love it, I’ve seen you devour it!
Me: I used to love it, now I don’t. Maybe I ate too much of it and have had my fill of that experience (of suffocating because it glued my mouth shut, blocked my throat and made itself hard to swallow).
Her: I went out of my way to buy it for you (I had to walk barefoot on a path of hot coals while carrying a monkey on my back who kept bashing cymbals together next to my delicate ears through Mordor, Narnia, Wonderland, and the Lost World only to find that the local grocery shop had it in stock and perhaps I should have gone there first but I had an argument with the shopkeeper because he didn’t know who I was and treated me as though I was like everyone else so I avoided the obvious because it made me feel oblivious) and now what am I supposed to do with it!??
Me: Thank you (for your regular inability to ask me what I actually want before you go to the shops because of your regular ability to assume you know everything, are the smartest person in the room, on Earth, about me and everyone and everything else and don’t need to ask anyone anything because you already know it all and they know nothing) and I apologise for (your insistence that once I eat something, therefore am someone who eats that thing, ergo am someone based on that something I eat and all the personality issues and perks which come with that according to you and your judgment of people who eat that and who they are because they eat it, I have to keep eating it for the rest of my life, be committed and loyal even if I develop an allergic reaction, to it or else your entire universal reality falls apart, which means you fall apart) being such a nuisance.
Her: You and your ‘I’m different now’ thing! Just for once I’d like you to finish what you start instead of getting bored of it and leaving others (*she holds a big flashing neon arrow sign pointing at her martyr self whose halo weighs a ton thank goodness she’s so strong and brave that she can carry it and hit other people with it so they know how holy and righteous she is over her head) to pick up the pieces (of what she broke during her latest tantrum which was of course my fault because she wouldn’t have tantrums if everyone else behaved according to the rules of her but then again even if others abide by her rules those rules change so she can have a tantrum and blame someone else, usually me, for it whether they follow her rules or not because she needs her rules to be broken for them to matter).
Me: Give me the peanut butter, I’ll eat it, just please don’t buy anymore for me, thank you (*reaches for the jar of PB but she holds it firmly out of my reach and refuses to give it to me).
Her: No, there’s no need for you to do that, if you don’t want to eat it then you shouldn’t. I don’t want to be made to be the baddie (because I’m a total goody-two-shoes hero) forcing you to do what (you should do according to me) you don’t want to do (voluntarily). I’ll put it in the cupboard (where I keep all those things which I can hold over your head like a sword of Damocles to use it to remind you of what a burden you are to me, how much you owe me, how much it hurts, what a pain you are to me, and what a saint I am for putting up with you, I must shoulder that crushing burden because you forced yourself into my womb, I almost died giving birth to you and this is the cross which a mother has to bear and never let her child forget about it using professional levels of emotional blackmail, this is love).
Me: … I am not worthy of your love … (that seems to be what she wanted to hear and this is the persona I should adopt to deal with this complicated drama which came out of a jar of unopened peanut butter – now I know why I don’t want to eat it anymore, eating it is like trying to deal with my mother, it stops you from speaking your truth, tries to suffocate you with substance).
Or something like that.
Just because I don’t know who I am doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of self, a stable core around which I spin and which keeps me spinning – in fact not knowing who I am is part of who I am, and going through these periods of not knowing who I am remind me of who I am.
These periods are akin to going outside after being stuck inside, taking a breath of fresh air and releasing the stagnant, crawling out of a cave… okay, sometimes they’re like going into a cave to have a long sleep after an exhausting phase of being stuck being someone for someone else.
Sometimes not knowing who I am anymore is about realising that I am not being myself anymore.
Somewhere along the way being me became being a certain ‘me’ for someone else – being their version of me based on a true story but the truth of that story is lost underneath their creative adaptation of it, being only the part of me they like while censoring the parts of me that they don’t like, but that part of me they do like keeps needing modification because… once you start modifying yourself for someone else they’re never quite satisfied and need further adjustments (a bit like trying to hang a picture on a wall and the other person thinks it’s still crooked no matter how many times you straighten it).
What was once natural became artificial and I’m freeing myself from a habit which has outlived its purpose, has stopped being fun, has gone from being real to being unreal, has become living by going through the motions, automatic, robotic, zoned out, while no longer knowing why those motions were started, what they mean, there’s just a vague memory of something somewhere in the past which resembles a reason but it’s in shadow now.
One of the parts of me which others may not like is the part of me who has an identity crisis brought on by an awareness that the traits and behaviours which identify me don’t define me… anymore… instead they define who others need or want me to be for them, it’s who they think or feel I am, who perhaps they believe I contracted with them to be for them, to play a role in their life story, to fill a gap, be the piece of their puzzle which they couldn’t be, and… the solution to the crisis requires a review of what or who has become my identity.
The problem isn’t my not knowing who I am – it’s that other people have decided who I am and they’d prefer that I stick with their decision, their definition of me, and never change, evolve, make a different decision, redefine my definition, colour outside of their boundaries of me lines, because if I do those things the ripples of my penny dropping might affect them and their identity and they’re not into the whole identity crisis period movement.
People sometimes build who they are upon others, they choose friends as part of their identity (hang with the crowd who represents who they want to be, discard those who they see as being ‘toxic’ for them, embrace those who’ll help them further themselves, get rid of those who hold them back, and so on), and if you’re the sort of friend who changes their identity this messes with the identity of others and they do not like not knowing who they are – they’ve put a lot of work into who they are, and you’re either for them or against them with who you are, you’re either their support system or you’re an unsupportive structure which can’t hold the weight of them and the mansion they want to build of themselves.
The problem is that I went along with them because… that’s also something which is a part of me.
Sometimes I do it because I’m doing what they’re doing and erecting an identity teepee on their view of me for me to live in. I’m the person who that person likes because I make them laugh when they’re down, I am calm during their storm, I listen when they need to talk, I’m this me for their me and… our identities work together. Change one and what happens to the other?
Sometimes I do that because I don’t see any issue with doing it (until later and then I kick myself for repeating a pattern I know about). Others aren’t ever going to know you the way you know yourself and vice versa, so if they only know certain aspects of you, like only a couple of things about you while not liking others because those are the ones which mean something for them and they’re not interested in the rest… well, you can empathise because you’re human too and whatever they do chances are you do it or have done it too, it’s something understandable even if it’s annoying when people do to you what you may do to them.
Sometimes I do it because it makes life easier and it’s nice to take a break from making life harder. Whoever you think I am… yup, okay, I’m that (as long as I don’t have to go out of my way to be that and it’s just an illusion which you construct for yourself using me as a template). I won’t interfere with your artist at work as I don’t want to have that argument which ensues when you tell someone that you’re not who they think you are and they then tell you that you are because they know you better than you know yourself even though they can’t possibly… the proof is in the fact that they haven’t really bothered to get to know you at all, and they still refuse to do it and the argument confirms that.
Sometimes I do the opposite of what I want to do because I think what I want to do is probably wrong (and so the right way is in the opposite direction) and/or going to incur the kind of consequences which I don’t want to deal with.
Sometimes I’m lazy and cut too much slack… in an effort to be easy, I make things difficult.
I’m going through one of these periods right now of not knowing who I am anymore, except it’s slightly different because even identity crises are allowed to change who or what they are…