I’ve been steadily working at becoming a better version of myself. There are sometimes setbacks, but in general, I feel like I’m making progress. A lot of that comes from self-understanding.
It’s taken me fifty-one years to realistically look at who I am and to stop trying to make myself into someone I am not. I can now make a huge list of “I’m not a …” and I’m totally okay with that. More importantly, I can make a growing list of “I am a….” and it is really empowering and exciting to start peeling back the dead layers of onion skin to see who I really am in here.
A big part of all this has been recognizing my unique personality type. I’m an INFJ personality which means that to the world, I look a lot like an extrovert but in reality, I’m a very deep introvert. There’s a lot more. If you have never waded into the Briggs-Meyer personality type tests, I recommend it. I used a pretty amazing app to dive deep into this. Here’s my profile https://www.dimensional.me/CDVM . I highly recommend checking it out.
Another thing that has been interesting is exploring all the neuro-diverse paths that exist. I grew up in a time when there were two modes: being normal or retarded. That’s the words that were used. As I got older in school they started to use the terms special ed, or differently abled and things like that but it always came down to you were either normal or retarded. Frankly, I was never normal but there was no way I was going to be labeled retarded so I bent myself in all kinds of ways to fit in and be part of the norm. A lot of that led to a great deal of anxiety and internal trauma. We can easily recognize now that large numbers of people are not ‘normal’ and that there is a big difference between being mentally disabled (what we called retarded) and having a condition like ADHD, aspergers, bi-polar disorder, a generalized anxiety disorder or something else. My best guess is that if I were in school today, I would easily be classified as ADHD. In the days I was in school, my ADHD led to frequent beatings with a wooden paddle. Seriously, no joke.
It also gave me the ability to thrive in some subjects and with some styles of teaching and led to me really struggling with some others. My grades were always good, but with a proper understanding of who I was, they actually would have been much better and my education would have been much more rewarding and fulfilling.
It’s funny (in a not funny way) to see how hard I tried to fit my not square self into a very square world. I tried so hard and constantly. I was perpetually exahusted and on the brink of losing it. I was anxious at being caught in my masquerade – even if I was unaware of the fact that I was masquerading. Over time this anxiety led to using substances to dial myself down. Not in a healthy way. My self-medicating was toxic. I see now why I was doing it, and I see why it often led to such terrible places. Who I am was constantly suppressed and attacked by the defensive persona I wore as armor. Not a healthy way to exist.
So who am I? I’m still learning but it’s becoming more clear. I’m a creative and sensitive storyteller. I’m deeply interested in people, their stories, and their motivations and lives but I’m also sensitive to too much input data, big events, loud parties, and huge crowds are attractive to me but quickly can become overwhelming. I’m an idealist and truthfully, I’m outraged and disappointed that we (as a species) haven’t even come close to our potential because of foolish decisions that were made long before any of us were born. I enjoy nature and the type of competition that isn’t in your face. Quiet competition. Of course there is much more.
I like to explore, ideate, create, and build. I enjoy innovation and disruption. I don’t like having to fit myself into a box. I could go on, but that’s not the point of writing all of this.
The point of writing this is to let you know how important it is to get to know yourself and how hard it actually is or has been in our society. It’s so important.
Funny enough, I have to give Bald Jesus a lot of the credit for allowing me to get to know myself better. Somehow just having the simple maxim of ‘Don’t be a dick’ as a guiding rule has helped a lot. There are other ways Baldism has helped as well. Another great help in all of this has been being a part of a number of neuro-diverse communities and projects and seeing how great not normal can be.
And, there is also much to be said for being a parent and engaging as much as possible in a conscious-parenting style. My child and being her father has taught me more about my own childhood than I ever would have expected.
Know thyself sounds so simple, but in truth, it is anything but simple and the simplest thing in the world at the same time.
Here is one more thing that really helps. It’s the old serenity prayer but I’m going to take out the god parts because I feel like it is more powerful as a self-affirmation than a plea from some power outside of yourself.
I seek the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
I seek the courage to change the things I can.
I seek the wisdom to know the difference.