For the past 24 or so hours, I’ve been contemplating the conversation I blogged about yesterday (please take a quick moment to backtrack, otherwise this post might not make as much sense as it could – I don’t feel like repeating myself). In particular, I’ve been focused on that “don’t change – be who you are” part and I finally understood why it vexed me so much: I had been making it into a binary matter.
It’s not a dichotomy. Not an either/or situation. Not black and white, light and dark, high and low. Yes, that might have been obvious to someone else more quickly – it’s not an Earth-shaking epiphany – but that’s how my mind works: looking at the details, turning them over and examining them, then painstakingly assembling them into larger and larger images, moving things around as the fit becomes clearer.
Being true to myself means deciding, consciously and actively, whether or not I want to continue behaving, believing, or feeling a certain way. It is not about remaining in stasis – It’s about choosing when and how to change in ways that are true to who I know myself to be. There’s a big prerequisite to being able to live like that – you need to actually be doing the ongoing exploration of yourself. Otherwise? No baseline. No internal model for healthy comparison. A wonky compass that points you who-knows-where (but definitely not true north).
So what is it that I know about myself that helped move me forward, get unstuck from this simple issue?
I like to talk. More precisely, I like to discuss. I like to gain additional perspective (Evolving Perspective, get it?) in order to form a more intimate and realistic picture of any given situation. So that’s what I did. I searched out opportunities to gain a better understanding of the conversation from outside perspectives by speaking with other people familiar with the issue and the individual with whom I had spoken.
So, a small diversion for a moment, if you will allow… When I speak with someone, I tend to take them at face value. Yes, that means my personal prejudices sneak in (I don’t know that we’re ever completely out from under the influence of myriad socio-cultural factors that influence the way we perceive everything) but what I mean is that I take each person individually as they present themselves to me. I’m sensitive to inconsistencies – I’m not a super great lie-detector, but I can sense when people are being disingenuous with me or are otherwise ambivalent about what they are saying. This covers a wide array, so I don’t always understand WHY they are acting that way, just that they are. If they’re not, if they believe what they say and aren’t actively trying to be manipulative in some way, then I accept that as-is.
That’s how and why I accepted what I was being told about myself yesterday, about being perceived as an arrogant know-it-all, without an undue amount of judgment about the person delivering the message. And I don’t entirely dislike the label – I relish being considered intelligent enough to have lots of answers. I gleaned two very important perspectives from the two conversations I had AFTER the original one. One, that the person to whom I was originally speaking tends toward the use of generalities, which is wholly in keeping with her belief in herself of being a “Big Picture” sort of individual. Fair enough and useful – take what was said with a grain of salt. Two, that that same person is also eloquent at turning situations away from herself and deflecting responsibility (I hesitate to use the word “blame,” but that may also be accurate) – don’t take what was said too much to heart.
Where am I going with this, where am I going…
There’s too often a knee-jerk reaction toward self-defense in this modern Western world. I have fallen into that trap of reactivity more than once, sometimes because I stepped in somewhere I ought not to have (poor use of discernment) or because the trap itself was well-laid and I unsuspecting. Truthfully, I don’t need to defend myself against a belief or perception someone else has of me unless it somehow escalates into a judicial matter and I have legal obligation to present a defense. (Whether it makes sense to or not, I do worry about that possibility.) Some people will perceive me as cocky, some as fascinating, some as too cerebral, and, yes, some as not at all worth their time. I needed this reminder, this wake-up call, this testing of my boundaries and understanding of myself. It’s really just the next mile of the road toward home and a new place to create sanctuary in myself.