I was defined by who I was expected to be

do_others_know_you_better_detoursandshortcuts

My mom told me that I talk too much.

In fact, she said that the only difference between me and a radio is that a radio can be turned off. I was too talkative, too loud, too energetic, too restless and just impossible to control. I always exhausted her.

Not knowing any better, I got to school thinking that something was wrong with me. Being a hyper-active extrovert, why was I suddenly feeling shy? Why didn’t I want to talk to all the other kids? Why was I not the center of attention? I got angry with myself for being shy and for not having the confidence to speak up and demand attention.

Years later, at a parent-teacher meeting in high school my teacher told my mother that I was a great student, but that I should engage more in the classroom discussions. I was being too quiet. My mom almost fell off her chair. My daughter? Too quiet? That’s impossible!

But he was right. I was being quiet.

As a young adult, when going out with friends, I still had that awkward feeling. I wasn’t good at making new friends. I didn’t like the networking and the small talk in noisy bars. I hated to mingle. It didn’t add up. I am loud, I talk with big gestures and I work in sales and marketing. I drink champagne and dance on the chairs. Obviously, I must be an outgoing extrovert who is happy to be the center of attention! Why then, didn’t it feel right?

Finally, six months ago and four decades into my life, I stumbled across Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”. For the first time ever, it all made sense. It wasn’t about lack of confidence. It wasn’t about being shy. There was nothing wrong with me. I couldn’t believe it myself, but it turned out that all this time I was actually an introvert!

I honestly had never even considered that possibility.

This got me thinking about what, or rather who, defines us?

Are you the only one who can define yourself? If you think and believe something deeply in your head and in your heart, is that always the truth, regardless of what those around you say?

I have often felt misunderstood. In almost every relationship I have had, whether it’s been romantic relationships, friendships or the relationships with co-workers and acquaintances, I’ve almost always felt uncomfortable once it got to the point where they believed that they understood me and knew me. As much as I want to be understood (don’t we all?), I don’t like it when others have decided what I am like. I am terrified of being put in a box where I don’t feel like I belong.

But is it a given that I am always right about who I am? If I believe that I have certain personality traits or that something is important to me, but a hundred people around me say that I am the opposite of that — who is right? If my feelings and my behavior don’t align and if everybody else perceives me in a way that doesn’t reflect who I believe I am, do I still own the right to define myself?

Or to put it in another way; can others sometimes know you better than you know yourself?

I have lived just as much the way I want to be, as the way I believed that others expected me to be. I know just as well how others would describe me, as I know who I really am. And these two things may paint two different pictures. No wonder then, that others may see me differently than I see myself.

My ex and I are still friends, but we got into a fight recently. He had been to a seminar at work where he had to take a personality test and learn about different personality types and traits. After that day, he told me that it was crystal clear to him which personality type I am. Of course, we completely disagreed. I got angry and told him that he is just like my mother. He is just trying to put me in a box and apply negative characteristics to me.

Once I calmed down, I realized that;

  1. the characteristics he mentioned are in no way negative to him — quite the opposite, actually

and

  1. he was right. I have decided long ago what personality type I want to be and what I think are the most positive traits. I don’t want to accept that maybe that is not who I really am.

Sometimes others may tell you that you are a certain way. Sometimes you may try to fit in and pretend that you have a personality that you for some reason prefer.

Either way though, the truth will always come out in the end. You can’t hide who you really are forever.

But sometimes, you may need some help to open your eyes and see the obvious…

 

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I write stories about fear and how it often holds us back in life. I am on a quest to befriend fear and to grow my own comfort zone. My stories are published here on detoursandshortcuts.com, on medium.com/@detoursandshortcuts and on facebook.com/detoursandshortcuts. To get new stories first, sign up for the newsletter here on the page.

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