Being is hard. Am I who I am because of who I am or because of who others project or say I am?
When I was a kid people would always tell me how pretty I was or how good I was and how strong I was. Hearing these things as a child, seemed positive. What it did though was plant the seed that pretty is important, I could never be bad or fail and I could never be vulnerable. What a heavy burden to bear all from what appears to be compliments. A psyche of perfection formed.
I’m 38 years old and I’m still striving to figure out who I am as my authentic self. I’m human, that’s one thing I know for sure. As I ponder this very thing, I fall down the proverbial rabbit hole.
I’m a woman, I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a friend, I’m a doula, I’m an educator, the list goes on and on. These are things I do, roles I fill. Are they who I am? It’s quite perplexing to me. Yes, as such these contribute to the whole person but who am I?
I then start to think of my attributes or qualities. I’m caring, loving, kind, loyal, funny, thoughtful, giving, protective, smart, determined and steadfast. I like to think these are what truly make up me. These allow me to do all the other things.
The only caveat is; I’m African American and a woman. A double minority. These are pre-requisites on how you see me and how you’ll treat me. Now who I thought I was is tailored by your response to me. You see how difficult this thing is? Who I am is ever-changing.
The struggle to dispel familial damages to societal conformities and projections all contribute to choreography of putting oneself together.
I traveled to New Orleans with my husband for 4 days. It was the first trip in 8 years where it was just the two of us for a long stretch of time. A few days after returning my husband said, "I miss hanging out with you." I found that odd. I told my friend what he said when she responded, "Why would you find that odd? You are fun to hang out with." Oddly, I still found it odd and found her response odd. Crazy I know! It’s almost robotic, if that makes sense. I took some time later to think about what she said. I got to see myself through someone else's eyes. Eyes I could trust. Not patronizing eyes or eyes that wanted something. I gained an appreciation for myself. For a moment, I got to stop being and start seeing.
They say when you're 50 you’ll know your true self, because you’ll stop caring what other people think and you’ll stop trying to please others. Well, I have 12 years to go. There’s plenty of work ahead for me in finding me.
I want to be, but not on your terms.
This piece is my perspective but I’m sure it’s not too far removed from the feelings of most women. We are in a time where identity is broad and misunderstood. Do you feel you have adjust? Do you feel safe? Do you feel heard?
We women have it hard. No, this is not an oh poor women cry! Our reproductive rights and basic human rights are being at the very least violated. Forget equality, I want equity! I love being a woman and all that comes with it. Yup, I can build a house. I just may want a pink hammer to do so. Give me all the same comforts and access as anyone else.
Women’s rights issues are a lot to tackle. Start with one, that one being you. What we can do in the everyday is show respect. Ask rather than assume and be wrong and offend. See whoever you see for whoever they are at that moment. Be kind.
SheTara Smith is a birth worker from Boston, MA. Specifically a doula, lactation educator and infant sleep educator. I provide a holistic approach in my support of women and their families. Reach her via email at: email@example.com