Self expression is hard.
“To blame someone for not understanding you fully is deeply unfair because, first of all, we don’t understand ourselves, and even if we do understand ourselves, we have such a hard time communicating ourselves to other people.
Therefore, to be furious and enraged and bitter than people don’t get ALL of who we are is a real cruel piece of immaturity.”
And identification of self is just as hard.
It feels like we are always being pushed to label ourselves – constantly attempting to answer the question of “Who am I?”
Female. Brunette. Entrepreneur. Single. Daughter. Midwesterner. Weightlifter. Gluten-Free. Survivor. Curious. Aunt. Introvert. Bookworm. Intelligent. Goofy. Dietitian.
These are the labels that I attach to myself.
But, they have not always been the same ones… and they are sure to continue to change.
The problem with labeling is that we find the need to curate our image, our actions, our being in alignment with that label even when it is no longer serving us or making us happy.
Girlfriend. Redhead. Paleo. Runner. Anorexic. Churchgoer. Student. Crossfitter. Vegan. Bikini Competitor.
These are some of the labels of the past that I have thrown off.
And each time I was forced to redefine myself I felt LOST.
What do you do when you so deeply ingrained yourself in to one of your labels and then that label is ripped off?
I transitioned back to an omnivorous diet back in 2011 and still get asked if I’m a vegetarian. I have been gluten-free since 2014 and still get asked if I’m gluten-free. I competed back in 2015 and get asked when my next show is.
My labels have changed so much throughout the years, it’s no wonder that even those who are close to me are confused. Heck, I’m confused, too!
I do not even understand myself, how am I supposed to let other people know who I am!?
Why do we attach labels to ourselves and others?
I think it’s because we want to find our “tribe”.
A clan. A network. A family.
We all want to feel a sense of community. A group of like-minded people who share ideas, interests, and work together in harmony – supporting each other and speaking the same language.
But, what happens when our label changes? What happens when what brought you to your tribe is no longer a part of your present – but, rather, a part of your past?
You graduate from high school or college, possibly move away, and all of those “friends” that you hung out with and saw every day are no longer there. They disappeared. You think to yourself:
“What happened to ride-or-die? What happened to best friends forever?”
And then you hear the oft dreaded words…
Now, change is not always bad.
I find it hard to be vulnerable, especially with myself. Change of any sort, whether it be external (like a move to another city or state) or internal (like a shift in priorities), leaves you vulnerable to feeling vulnerable.
You start grasping for whatever feels familiar as the ground is shifting beneath your feet from the uncertainly of all the “new” that you are being bombarded with on the daily.
I will admit…
I do not have a tribe.
And it makes me sad – my heart aches. Making new friends is hard, let alone trying to date in today’s society.
I don’t live with my best friend any more. I don’t go to a school with 40,000 other people with countless opportunities for new meetings – clubs, parties, sports, dorms, classes, study groups – any more. I don’t live near my family or hometown any more. The majority of people that I once was honored to call “friend” no longer reply to my messages or requests to see each other when I’m in town.
My attempts to make new friends in the past 4 years have left me with my face in the dirt and a bruised ego.
When I talk to what few family and friends who have kept in contact about my struggles finding a tribe – even if it is just a tribe of two – I feel like they don’t understand.
No one is under any obligation to be your friend.
It’s not that I don’t try. It’s not that I don’t want to change my current situation.
But I cannot change who I am – at my very core – and attach myself to some new label just for the sake of making new friends.
Then I am not ME.
The longer that I have spent time with myself, alone, the more I have found which labels are temporary – held on by cheap glue stick adhesive – and which ones aren’t labels at all. They are in my DNA. They are who I am at the deepest, most fundamental levels of self.
And I have been alone a LOT over the past 4 years.
This is not an article to tell you how to find your tribe.
This is not a post to tell you how to cope with feelings of loneliness and how I won my own battle with it.
I’m still in it.
What prompted this departure from the regular schedule of events was a quote I saw posted by Kendall Reed (of She Matters Mvmt) on social media:
“The irony is that we attempt to DISOWN our difficult stories to appear more whole or more ACCEPTABLE, but our WHOLENESS – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of ALL of our experiences, INCLUDING the falls.”
This is me. This is my authentic self. This is what I am going through right now.
None of us have everything together. None. We don’t like showing that part of ourselves to everyone.
The part that makes mistakes. That breaks down. That feels too strongly. That fails.