I have a mental illness.
Do I really have a metal illness, or am I just pretending I do for sympathy, or support, or out of laziness?
I feel suicidal.
Do I really feel suicidal, or do I just want to take the easy way out because I’m too lazy to try and make things better?
I hate myself.
Do I really hate myself, or do I just think that’s the ‘cool,’ or socially acceptable thing to say?
Those are just three of the first things that popped into my head when I pondered how to explain my second guessing in this post. It goes from the big thoughts, right down to the little ones.
I want to be able to say that my belief in equality and human rights is something I am certain of, but it’s not, because maybe I don’t actually believe in them, maybe I just want to be seen as a nice person.
I tell people that I don’t know myself, that I don’t know who I am, or what I like, or what I believe. I try to explain that I don’t have a solid identity, and they don’t understand. They tell me how they see me, and, to them, that is who I am, that means that I have an identity, so they don’t believe me. They don’t seem to realise that how other people see you is not who you believe you are.
I have no idea who I am. I have never known who I am.
I watched a fabulous video, “How to find yourself,” which talked about creating yourself rather than discovering who you are. “What a brilliant idea, I can do that,” I thought. Only, I can’t. Because it turns out that even when I decide that I want to be ___, or enjoy ___, or believe in ___, I don’t have the belief in myself to trust that I really want that, that I don’t want it for another reason. I question whether I’m merely being influenced by others, or using liking or being that thing to appear nicer/cleverer/cooler.
Identity is such a basic thing. We develop it so early that most of us just do not know what it is like to not know who we are, and because of that there is remarkably little understanding or support for people who don’t. But there are people, people like me, who know all too well how scary and confusing a lack of identity can be. Personally, I have found that it leads to desperate attempts to forge an identity, trying many and varied things while hoping and praying that something sticks.
That’s not to say that I haven’t made progress. In my nearly 29 years of life I have so far decided that:
- I prefer myself with short hair.
- I like myself with brightly coloured hair.
- I like myself with piercings.
- I have no gender preference in romantic partners.
Evidently, the things I am as certain as I can be of are few and far between, and everything else still causes daily anxiety, self-hatred and second guessing. It is hard.
People regularly advise that when you are struggling, you ask for help. Maybe a therapist, or a friend, could help me figure out who I am? Perhaps, but I suspect that it’s more likely I would just leap on their suggestions, only to later realise that I did so to gain their approval, to convince them I was trying, or out of simple desperation to be ‘normal.’
I don’t know who I am, and I wish I could say I’m OK with that, but I’m not.