When I was walking through the city recently, I passed a girl wearing a blindingly white shirt that proclaimed, in big black letters; DON’T CHANGE. BE YOURSELF.
I was immediately struck by how incompatible these sentences are.
My younger brother, for example, used to want to be a professional athlete. He is now a very happy and capable accountant. I was once devoted to dance and gymnastics – now I lift weights. People change in more radical ways than this – we age, we grow. I recently changed my hair colour.
Not only our appearance but our very sense of self will evolve – different sides emerge, shine or diminish. Some people change their gender, their sexual orientation. We choose different friends, we follow different interests. As I grow, I have noticed that I am mellowing out. I am a more relaxed and carefree version of myself than the ‘me’ of a few years ago.
Staying true to ourselves if a difficult concept, because our ‘self’ is constantly evolving. Who is it that I am staying true to? The self I was at five, at ten, at sixteen? The self I was a year ago or the self I was yesterday – or today? Sometimes we talk about staying true to ourselves as meaning staying true to some core, or ‘essential’ self. As though there is a core part of us which, over time, does not change.
We ask, “Who Am I?” and answer a million different ways. I am kind. I am generous. I am a runner. I am a friend. I am a staff member. I am a sister and daughter. I am all of these things together.
You are a complex being. You are changeable. You are allowed to evolve and also to regress. You are allowed to self-define. You are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to be whoever you want – so when you be yourself, be free.
Wow. I just loved this article Emily. We are complex beings, aren't we? If we are growing emotionally (I am not talking about physical growing here) we will be changing, evolving, adapting as time passes. I find some aspects of 'self' got a bit lost along the way only for me to rediscover those aspects at a later time in my life.