Relax, this isn’t going to be some highly opinionated, feminist article. It’s not my style to write like that. This is not coming from a place of gender.
Now that that’s out of the way, I know my body. I’m an avid exerciser, I eat super duper well, and I’ve listened to and worked with my body for a very long time. But it’s not just my physical body. I spend a lot of time rummaging through my mind too. I’m natural introspective. I enjoy looking at my mind, finding out what makes me tic, and seeing where I can improve. So…I know my body. I know myself.
Do you have a problem with that?
Seems a little confrontational, I know. Let me set the scene before I explain. I don’t go around bragging about how well I know my body and mind. Simply, sometimes I’ll politely turn down a piece of advice or I will say that I think this, that, or the other thing, and I will be told that I’m wrong because I don’t really know myself. It’s impossible to know yourself until you’re 25.
Of course, I respond with “I do know myself”. So what do I mean when I say that?
I guess it means this, and really only this, I know myself.
The problem comes when other people doubt or question that knowledge. For this week’s “What I mean when I say…” I’d like to focus in on that tendency to undermine people’s opinions of themselves and confidence in themselves by directly attacking them whether it be with “facts”, emotions, or ethos.
But it’s not just about me this week. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen to others too and not just other 23-year-olds. And it feels awful.
I know myself. I know what I like and what I don’t. I know what ruffles my feathers and what smoothes them back out. I know how I react to things. I know my opinions about various topics and issues out there right now. I know what I love. I know what I despise. I know what triggers my headaches, injuries, and depression. I know how to manage my anxiety. I know what exercises my body needs to be happy. I know how to fuel my body.
As most of us do.
Everyone knows themselves to varying degrees, right? Some of us don’t know ourselves well at all right now. It doesn’t matter if we’re 23 or 93. Some of know ourselves really well right now. Again, it doesn’t matter if we’re 19 or 99. How we got to know ourselves doesn’t matter either. Sometimes a terrible event or sequences of events happens us that makes us understand ourselves or that makes us lose touch with ourselves. We all know ourselves to varying degrees.
So I say with confidence, I know myself. I know when I’m getting sick. I know when I need to relax. I know when I need to workout. And I’ve worked very hard to know that.
Saying I know myself, does not mean I know everything I’ll be.
I think this is why people feel the need to cut me down when I speak confidently about my identity. I see my human self as a self that will change minute by minute. Miniscule changes happen every moment of my life until I’ve metamorphosed into something else completely. I might not be able to see the small changes that have happened this day, but a year from now, five years from now I’ll see how those small little alterations added up to a completely different dress.
But this isn’t how everyone views the human self. Some view it as less abstract. At 10 you are naive. At 15 you are rebellious. At 20 you are immature, foolish. At 25 you begin to mature. At 30 you are a parent, responsible. At 40 you are miserable. At 50 you have a midlife crisis. You start to be wise. At 60 you get old. Now your words have weight. At 70 you have an existential crisis. You’re seen as smart, wise. At 80 you’re really old and you have a sage wisdom about you now. At 90 you’ve seen it all, you understand things no one else can. Your brain is declining.
That seems about right based on what I have encountered.
And I hate it.
I really, really hate it.
But why? Because it undermines our individuality. Our own paths that we are working so hard to walk down. It takes away value from little children who have to struggle more than some seniors ever have. It takes away value from the lives of young adults in their twenties who are old souls. It takes everything away from a senior just starting to suffer from something when they are completely unprepared. When their life hasn’t prepared them as society said it would. And that just doesn’t seem very fair to me. But more than that, it’s so painful to feel like you’re out of place in your own life. No one should ever have to question themselves by saying, “What is wrong with me” in this context. We should not be making people feel that way because their life didn’t follow some unwritten board game rules that say you have to be and feel a certain way at a certain time in your life.
Life is too abstract for this representation of it.
For a very long time, I’ve encountered people telling me that I will change my mind. I will change myself. And that I do not know myself and they’re sure of it.
But I don’t say anything.
So what do we do? How do we assert our confidence in ourselves?
Well, first, we say that we do know ourselves. And that we don’t need a reason to back that claim up (even though we often do). We explain that we know we’ll change. To think we can be the same person day in and day out for our entire life is naive. Of course, we’ll change! But we’ll see those changes too. And we’ll understand them to the best of our ability. We clarify that we don’t know who we will be tomorrow, but that we know ourselves today to the best of our ability. But, we let it go. We understand that they might not understand us and that all that matters is that we understand us.
But that’s only a part of the problem. The other part is this.
We have got to be more understanding. Even if we don’t agree with someone’s confidence in themselves, we let it be. People will learn about life their own way. Our words, our doubt in them can throw them completely off their way. It can hurt them.
I’m not saying “censor yourself” or “be nice to me”. But I am saying don’t be rude. There’s no need to tell someone they don’t know themselves and they won’t for many years. It accomplishes nothing.
So I’m turning this back on you.
Why don’t you think I know myself? Are you projecting? Are you insecure? Why can’t you accept that I love myself and I know myself?