One of my favourite inspirational songs is “Just be yourself” by Morcheeba, and when I started to think about how I wanted this blog to look like, one of my first ideas for a tagline was this very sentence. I guess that´s still pretty much what I want the site to be about, but after giving it some thought I remembered that “Just being me” is one of the things I´ve struggled the most to learn – and I´ve found that this seems to be true also for many others. It´s so easy to say, but when we find ourselves confronted with expectations from family, friends and society it´s very easy to get confused and sidetracked. And with all those different inner voices most of us have, how do we even know what is “us”?
For many years I was very confused about my identity – I guess this have partly to do with adolcence, after all, isn´t this very much what growing up is about? Finding your identity… But that´s far from the whole truth. I very much remember a situation when I was speaking to a guy I was interested in at the time. I wanted to be honest with him; I wanted him to get to know me. The problem was, I didn´t know who I was, because my feeling was that different “persons” would appear in different situations. Sometimes I was really shy, in other situations really confident, sometimes introvert, sometimes very extrovert, even exhibitionistic. My feelings could change very quickly and I was in no control whatsoever. I almost thought I was schizophrenic, with all this different persons popping in and out, with all those different voices speaking in my head. And since I thought there was something seriously wrong with me, I didn´t dare to speak to anyone about this either, too afraid to reveal how crazy I was…
My first step towards a change came when I found a book by the psycotherapists Hal and Sidra Stone describing exactly what I experienced – and the authors clamed this was NORMAL. I was in chock – but of course utterly relieved. The authors say that when we grow up we develop different “sub-personalities” needed to handle different situations – but also that we have different “basic” sub-personalities like “the inner child”. Within a person 10 different “sub-persons” can easily hide. They have different needs and values and very often get in conflict with each other.
The trick to create harmony within ourselves is to start to look at these different “sub-persons” as our children, and find a way to be a good parent to all of them, making sure they all somehow can get what they need without dominating and suppressing the others.
For me, as an example, a very serious and controlled “big sister” was dominant most of the time. I also had a very playful eccentric sub-person, longing for fun and adventures, which almost never was allowed to come out. When I had some alcohol however, she managed to slip out, being totally wild and crazy, with results that always made the “big sister” terrified the next day….
Slowly I started to learn that that playful part of me needed more space in my everyday life – and the more I managed to let her in to my “normal” being, the less it happened that things went totally out of control at a party!
But at some point another problem occurred: “The big sister” (including a lot of perfectionist behavior, taking responsibility without proportion, terrified to ask for help etc.) had driven me to a situation when I got very sick; I had a serious burn out. As part of my recovery, I tried to totally deny that big sister, putting her out in the cold, refusing to take any responsibility whatsoever. In one way it was a relief, but part of me (guess wich one?!) was deeply unhappy. Finally I realized I had to find a balance between responsibility and play, that both parts are equally important for me. Doing that, however, has taken me some years.
These days I don´t spend much thought into the “who am I”-question. What have changed is not, as I once thought, that I´ve found one of those “persons” to be “my true self” and have learned to always be that person. On the contrary, I still have big changes in mood and confidence, and I still behave different in different situations and with different people.
But what is totally changed is that I´ve got to know those different parts of myself and accepted my strengths and weaknesses. Some have I learned to handle, some not. I have also learned that I don´t know what will happen later, that there might still come situations where I discover new sides of myself – just as you will never get to know another person completely.
Now I´m really curious – what does “be yourself” mean to you?