Versions of the Self
We dedicate a lot of time to modifying the perception others have of us. Whether it’s the way we dress, how we speak, or our hobbies and interests, we all have a self-image we perpetuate. Maybe some are more concerned than others. I’m more than guilty of letting who everyone thinks I am define what I think of myself—I’ll own up to it. Call it self-aware or self-conscious, I’m honestly still murky on the distinction.
Recently, I made a snap decision to combat this. I was in a rut, feeling deflated and rejected and pretty worthless. Then, ironically, I saw myself from the outside. I was whiny, self-loathing, and utterly pitiable. I was seeking consolation and approval from everyone around me, and I could see the exhaustion in their eyes. I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be able to generate my own emotional strength. I don’t ever want my happiness to depend on anyone else. I got tired of being vulnerable to the way everyone perceives me. How did I get like this? I want me to be independent, self-sufficient (like the Kelly Clarkson song).
So I flipped a switch in my brain. Every moment of self-doubt, every internal query as to what so-and-so must think, is now met with a mental brick wall. I am truly proud of myself. I feel like I’ve gotten back to myself, my true self, the one that doesn’t hinge on anything anyone else does. For the first time in a while, I am operating solely according to my own goals and desires—like when I was a child.
That said, my mental brick wall has allowed for a very different type of curiosity: would me like me?
I’m serious—what if we could traverse screens, pages of books, or other surfaces, and get back to former versions of ourselves? Would me, a decade ago, curled up on the sofa with a Harry Potter book or writing in her journal, be proud of me today? So much has happened in this 10-year lapse. An emo phase, a preppy phase, an eating disorder, new friends, and an ex boyfriend, a divorce, high school, leaving home, career decisions…is it all what I wanted for myself? Is there still any sort of thread connecting me to that 10-year-old girl?
It really started worrying me. Because I remember vividly that back then, I loved who I was. I marveled at my own accomplishments. That little girl was bad-ass. She did what she wanted, no questions asked. I’d like to think that spirit still lives within me.
There are so many versions of myself, and I want them all to speak to each other, learn from each other. Because it doesn’t matter what my parents want from me, whether my friends agree with everything I do, whether I get the guy in the end. I just want me to be proud of me.