personality

In which I’m suddenly an extrovert, write songs, am on television, and create a huge vintage freak show. Happy 2015!

New year! It’s funny I write this in such good spirits, because most of 2015 so far has felt pretty terrible. However, when life gives you things beyond your control, as long as you’re consciously doing all you can to make the best of the situation, I find the notion of acceptance a comforting one. (I conveniently had this realisation on my Google calendar scheduled “Epiphany” day. Anyone else have a good one?) Also, gratitude for all the things that don’t suck. They’re always there, if temporarily eclipsed.

I didn’t make myself any resolutions for 2015. I think New Year’s resolutions are kind of stupid (if you want to change something, do it on any day of the year), but I had the idea of making resolutions for everyone I know and love. At first that might sound horrid, but I think instead of everyone making lists of things that will likely evaporate two weeks into a new year, maybe we could all do these few things throughout the year. I kept seeing on my Facebook news feed how dreadful 2014 was to many people. So let’s make the next one awesome. 1) Stop wishing, and start doing. We only have one life. 2) Get out of your comfort zone. It’s scary, but I’ll hold your hand. It’s made me physically ill, but also led me to some of my greatest loves in life. 3) Think of at least one thing every night before bed you’re thankful for. Better, write it down. Wake up happy. 4) Stop and admire the stars. 5) Every time you judge or criticize yourself, ask yourself if it’s warranted. If so, do something about it. If it’s just a nasty inner monologue, ask yourself what your dearest friend would say about you. How they would see you. Because if you’re reading this, chances are at least one person (ahem) thinks you’re wonderful. 6) Cut things out of your life that aren’t contributing to where – or who – you want to be. It’s hard to give up on what can feel like obligations, but we all have hopes and dreams, goals, great people and self-nurturing to fit into our lives. Don’t run yourself ragged. You don’t have to say yes to everything.

Seriously, bundle up and lie on a table in the middle of nowhere and look up at the stars once in a while. It's magic.

Seriously, bundle up and lie on a table in the middle of nowhere and look up at the stars once in a while. It’s magic.

Those were my thoughts going into 2015. Some crap happened, but some incredibly great things have happened too, and we’re not even three weeks in. I attempted to conquer my fear of sudden loud noises. I spent time and many hours with my best friends on the planet, who picked me up when I was physically lying on the floor unable to stop crying, brought me chicken nuggets and let me sleep with every pillow and blanket in the world, talked me through everything with such openness and transparency, love and honesty, even if it hurt, that I felt they were legitimately part of my own mind for a while. I never imagined I would find friendships so close, and for the two of them, words cannot describe my gratitude.

friends

I wrote a new song. I spent a couple of days snowed in with my dear friend and she let me spend a day with my beautiful new baritone ukulele (for which I have to learn all the chords again from scratch! Whole new instrument, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to play! Thank you to The Professor for the wonderful Christmas present! I named him Cogsworth.), writing quite possibly the most heartfelt thing I’ve ever written. The feelings I had were so intense, I had to put them to music. And I wanted it to physically move people – sound very upbeat, as well as hopefully move them emotionally. I like songs whose feel sounds completely different from the actual lyrics. Here’s a very rough draft – recorded literally a few hours after I finished writing it – but with White Foxes we’re going to add in harmony, I hear some sort of kick drum, more guitar, and hopefully it’ll end up as a piece of ass-kicking folk a la Mumford and Sons. I’ve been really excited about making music lately. Just thinking that my whole life I’d wanted to sing or write even just one song, and in the last year I’ve written enough to record a whole EP. And I get to make music with two incredible people. I’m so very lucky.

I also tried the new instrument out on a song I figured everybody would know, along with another piece of new equipment – a Zoom H1 I bought to record band stuff. My phone REALLY wasn’t cutting it in terms of audio quality. So here’s Lady Gaga’s “Applause” I tried about ten minutes before my friend Nicole arrived for a movie night. (Yep, that’s my music stand falling down halfway through and me winging the end.) Excited to actually pair the mic with my DSLR once I figure out how to keep it recording video for more than 8 seconds at a time!

applause

I also got to be part of some amazing photography projects recently, both as a subject and photographer/editor. I always feel strange referring to myself as a photographer, because I don’t consider myself one – all my work is done in post; but I’ve been watching courses with the incredible Brooke Shaden recently, and she’s known in the fine art world as a brilliant photographer, yet she freely and regularly admits not really knowing how to use a camera. I organised my first big photo shoot as a “photographer” at the end of December – an entire series of weird and creepy old timey freak show shots I convinced people to pose for and let me edit. My dear friend Kevin owns a studio in the Exchange District and incredibly kindly allowed me to not only use it, but also his lighting equipment for the day. I had over a dozen models, a fabulous hairstylist and two amazing makeup artists all show up to donate their time and skills to help make my project come to life. I’m not quite finished all the images yet, but here are a few I’ve finished so far. (Of course I had to be one of the characters too – I’d written this character in my book, and it was the perfect opportunity to bring her to life!) I think you can click on each image to see it larger. I haven’t used galleries before. And yes, that’s a cut-up doll attached to a woman’s stomach as the baby that never came out.

I also got to be in front of the camera a few times – and my talented friends transformed me into a robot, an entire galaxy, and an evil disease infecting another poor soul.

I also really, really want to get back to working on my novel soon – it’s been too long, and I realised I’m turning thirty in a few months, and I began this project two years ago. I need to get back at it before another two go by. (But there’s so much to create!!)

Another fun thing that happened was that this very blog got featured on a local channel! It’s on television sets every day for the next few weeks, and I’ve already had people stop me and comment about it, which is very strange. My lovely coworker happened to be volunteering at the station and they were doing a series on bloggers, and though it was about two weeks after we’d met last summer, we’d become fast friends, and I ended up doing an interview.

blog

I realise I’m at about 1,200 words right now. You should know I gave up on the “rules” of blogging a long time ago, and for making it this far, thank you! I also had a bit of a realisation recently, and it honestly threw me. If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know how very interested in psychology I am. I love to study personality, the human mind, how we all weave our lives into each others, and how we’re all wired on the inside. People fascinate me, and the study of psychology is something that’s taught me a lot, as well as continuing to bring a sense of personal understanding and reflection. It’s also made me feel that after so many years, it’s okay to be exactly who I am. And as strange as I feel sometimes, I am not alone. The MBTI has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately, and I’ve never been one to call is sciencebut I have appreciated and learned a lot from it. It’s a psychometric typology assessment I’ve taken routinely for the better part of the past decade, at least, and I’ve eternally scored the same result: INFJ. This is considered, at less than 1% of the population, the rarest of all personality types, and I related to it so much that I got it tattooed as part of my text sleeve a few months ago. Over the past few years, my introversion has gone steadily down, which I’ve felt good about – the closer I got to zero, the more progress I felt I’d made in conquering my anxiety, but I always remained an INFJ, also known as “The Counsellor”.

infj

For two reasons recently, I decided to take the test again. One: I found myself filling out a new type of personality assessment, and noticed I was answering questions in a way I hadn’t before. I had more confidence and answered in a more extraverted way than I have for most of my life. I found this interesting. Two: I was given the biggest compliment in the world. In preparation for the galaxy photo shoot, I was telling the team that I’d like to incorporate something my friend Kier had always told me – that even at my quietest and most afraid, I had “a universe inside.” This meant so incredibly much that somebody saw what I was. My friend Melinda, whom I only met last year and who’s done some of the most incredible makeup I’ve ever seen, told me she “never would have guessed I used to be painfully shy.” Same with a coworker who’s only known me a few months. “Can’t imagine you not being this confident person”. Shy was THE word people described me as since I moved to this country, and I hated it so much. I hated what people saw on the outside just because I was so scared of everyone and everything. I was so scared of being judged that I never let what was inside come out. I feel like in the last few years I’ve tried to put myself in situations that force me to do what I’ve always wished I could. And to have people see that as ME… that in itself was enough to throw me.

enfpI’ve been worried lately I’ve been growing less sentimental, but that’s not it. I’m still the most emotional and sensitive person you probably know, and I’d still do absolutely anything for those I love. I tell them how much they mean regularly and I make a point of trying to put good out into the world whenever I can. I think maybe I’ve just learned to recognize things and see them clearly, and not through rose-coloured glasses. I’ve also learned that I’m more than okay on my own, because I’m incredibly lucky to have the best friends in the world. And I think that’s given me a bit of strength. Anyway, back to the MBTI. I held onto being an INFJ so hard because my whole life, it was me. 100%. But I retook the test. I expected maybe my introversion would have gone down a bit more, but I didn’t expect it to flip onto the side of extraversion. A tiny percent (basically a cat’s whisker over the border between the two), but also? My J changed to a P. Apparently I’ve become more okay with spontaneity rather than careful planning. Things have become more flexible. My entire personality has apparently shifted from the sensitive INFJ to the outgoing ENFP. Reading over this description… I don’t disagree. That’s the alarming part. Have I become a whole new person? I’d always wanted to become someone with strength and courage, someone unafraid to be authentically themselves in any situation, someone who wasn’t scared to try making an impact or putting my stuff out into the world… hopefully someone who could inspire others in some way. I just scored ENFP. The Inspirer. And I don’t know what to think. I know basing your identity on pseudo-science isn’t the wisest thing in the world, but because I’d related to it so very much; because it had made me feel so unalone – a shift threw me. Even if the results and people’s recent comments paint me as… the person I’ve always wished I could be.

I used to be afraid of taking the bus. Eating in public. I threw up if I had to be in front of anybody. It’s a little alarming to see what you only ever dreamed of actually becoming… real. But as taken aback as I am, I’m happy. I’m on the right path. I don’t know where it’s going, but isn’t that half the fun?

Advertisements

This I Know

I was talking to a good friend recently, and we were discussing our reasons for blogging and how they’ve evolved and changed. When I first started writing online, my posts were terribly boring and even more terribly written. I must have been about seventeen years old, and in high school, LiveJournal was the coolest thing in the world. It didn’t matter that your entries were as fun and exciting as getting a dart in the eye and finding a phone bill attached to the end, all the cool kids were doing it* and subsequently, I wrote about everything and anything. Fastforward a bit, and a couple of years ago I decided to start blogging “properly”. I started having Ideas and wanted to Share Them With The World (a dangerous combination), and discovered that the way to get them out there was to learn the valuable skill of networking.

Primarily, at the time, I wanted to write about my journey toward getting over anxiety – I had this desperate desire to reach anyone who’d ever felt similarly, and band together in some sort of invisible army, penning my fears, hopes, dreams, defeats and tiny victories and hoping that somewhere I might reach someone, and maybe, if I was lucky, inspire them to break free too. It was probably one of the best things I ever did, but as blogging made the transition from occasional visitor to permanent resident in my life, my reasons for writing began to change. It became a platform upon which to share my opinions, my thoughts and ideas; to stand up for myself, for my beliefs, and for others; to explore new ideas and gain new insights, to share my biggest struggles and learn new ways of living and dealing with things, and to chronicle all the thoughts, goals, feelings and everyday goings-on that are my life right now. As of late, my blog has become a sort of window into my head – I may not be the most vocal of people in real life, but I feel if someone lands themselves in my little corner of the internet, they’ll get to know the real me. Words I may not pipe into everyday conversation I can feel free to pour onto the page (no wonder most of us here are introverts), and these entries serve as a continual reflection of who I really am. So in that spirit, today I’m taking a leaf out of a fellow blogger’s book, and using a wonderfully honest post of hers as inspiration. It’s about Things I Know.

I know that I’m probably the most emotional person you’ll ever meet, and will invest every fibre of my heart into friendships and relationships. I know this puts me at the highest possible risk for getting crushed, but I also know that if I don’t, I’ll feel like I’m living half a life.  I know I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I also know I’ve done a lot of reflection, and I know that harping on about and reacting negatively to things that have already happened isn’t going to change them. I know I’m a work in progress – I know I need to break habits like overanalysing things, assuming the worst, and worrying about things beyond my control. I know that with enough practice and determination, I’ll get there. I know that every opportunity must be seized.

I know that I will always be an INFJ, Doctor Who will always be the greatest show in the world, and that green will always be my favourite colour. I know that curry in England is better than curry anywhere else in the world (rumour has it, including India), I know that I could happily live on coffee, bacon and lemon meringue pie forever, I know that the world would be slightly better without cherry-flavoured things, and I know that anything is better covered in salt. I know that without fail, a heartfelt hug, eating avocado with a spoon, inescapable laughter or a dog’s head sticking out of a moving car window will make anything better. I know that good things come to those who wait, but I also know that life is too short, and that we all have the power to turn it all around the very moment we decide to, and sometimes, the only time is now.

I know this planet is full of incredible beauty as well as incredible horror, and that I just happened to land on it. I know if I had three wishes, I would want to save the world, take away all the pain of those I love, and wish for more wishes, and only then would I be a little more selfish with them. 🙂 I know I want to travel, walk down streets thousands of years old, see impossible sights, soak up every soaring sunset and really look at, study, and fall in love with the canopy of stars that blankets our little world, knowing I’m seeing something billions and billions of years old. I know that the galaxy is big enough and wonderful enough to call God, and I know that now, I will never believe something that doesn’t make one hundred percent sense to me personally. I know I will always seek, question, and do my best to locate and figure out the truth.

I know that pain and sadness are inevitable, that loved ones could be stolen away at any moment, and that our time on this Earth is finite and ever diminishing. But I know that for the rest of my life, I am determined to make the most of every single moment, choose love over hate, future over past, present over future, and love as hard as I possibly can. I know how lucky I am to have people to love, and be loved in return. I know we are never given more than we can handle. As much as I like to think otherwise, I know that honesty may not always be the best policy, and that sometimes kindness is a higher priority.  I know that understanding is infinitely more difficult sometimes than proving yourself right, but I know one hundred percent that it’s always more important.

I know that dreams might not always be attainable, but I also know that just having them gives the opportunity for great adventures and great stories. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m finally at a place where I know my worth. I know that soulmates aren’t a quantifiable science, but I know with all my heart that whatever your definition, that they exist. I know that I’m too hard on myself and that nobody sees all the flaws I do, and I know that life’s too short to worry about things that we all lose in the end. I know one should never give up hope. I know that laughter and brilliant moments should be cherished forever.  I know that pyjamas are better as weekend clothes than they are to wear in actual bed, and I know that sometimes, style really is more important than comfort.  🙂

I know that my thirst for learning and passion and adventure will never be quenched, and I know how lucky I am to be able to go wherever I want, or to find whatever information I want at the click of a button. I know that this world would be better with more love and more education, and a focus more on unity than on difference. I know that I will always be infatuated with the English language, with literature, and I know that great minds will live forever through their words, which I collect and stash away like the finest of treasure. I know that being able to speak and tell stories and be heard is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I know that what’s popular isn’t a reflection of the best the human race has to offer, but that the human race offers wonderful things if you know where to look. I know I will never watch American soap operas and I know I will be a BBC girl until I die. I know that sometimes nothing can make you feel more alive than jumping around passionately with someone hand in hand to  brilliant live music. I know that life is better with a cat in it.

I know that I’m pro-choice, pro-freedom of speech, pro-equality, pro-gay marriage, and pro-doing what’s right. I know I should exercise more and eat more greens, make more time for sleep, drink more water and less port wine, but I also know that we only have one life. I know that few things bring me more joy and sense of accomplishment than writing a great piece of fiction, but I know that writing is a battle between you and a blank page, and that, as a favourite author once said, most often the blank page wins. I know that a home is better filled with ever-playing music and ever-shining fairy lights. I know that home is where the heart is, and that sometimes that can be in people more than places.

I know I don’t really fit into a social niche, but I know that by attaching labels, we cage ourselves in from everything that ever could be otherwise. I know that talk is inevitable, but in whatever form it comes, it means you’re not being boring. I know that the person I am today is an entirely different person than who I was five years ago, and I know that the person I will be in another five will probably be just as much a stranger, but I know that moving forward in life is a must, and that I will never stand in one place. Even if I don’t know where I’m going. I know I’m but a small speck on the surface of a planet that’s just as insignificant a part of the universe, but I know that even though all things pass, we can all have a giant impact in our time, and on those that surround us, as they can on us. I know that life’s a mystery, that it’s too vast and incredible and mysterious sometimes to take too seriously, and that I’m lucky just to have the adventure. And I know with absolute certainty that brevity will never be my forte. 🙂

How about you? What do you know at this moment in time?

*Definition of “cool” subject to interpretation; mine personally being people who occupied the physics room with me at lunchtime, examining the lyrics of the latest Decemberists tracks and drawing Star Trek comics on the whiteboard

Of Identity, Labels, and Living in the Void

Looking back on the last year, several things emerge as sort of overall themes of my life in 2010. Challenging fear was probably the biggest, setting standards and eliminating deadweight was another, questioning what’s important (and subsequently making meaningful connections) would likely fall into third place, and somewhere in the mix, amongst the hopes and dreams, was a quest for identity. I’ve always been fascinated by the study of human behaviour, and though I regret not pursuing it through formal education, I continue to seek out and digest as much information as possible on the psychology behind our personalities, our emotionals, our social tendencies, and on how we define ourselves. Mention the words “personality test”, and an initial response may very well be a wrinkled nose and questioning brow – but I put great faith in the theories developed by Jung, by Myers, and by Briggs.

Last year, I learned something fascinating about being an introvert. I also learned that when administered, answered, and researched meticulously, your Myers-Briggs Personality Type can be scarily accurate – and can shine a new light on why you think, act, and see the world the way you do. This stuff is a feast for the mind – figuring out the logistics behind your internal wiring that shape how you behave and define yourself can really go a long way in one’s quest for identity. But I can’t help but feel that despite the reading I’ve done, the results I’ve got, and despite it all making so much senseI still feel a bit of an anomaly. Perhaps that comes with being an INFJ – we do compose less than a single percent of the population, after all.

A few weeks ago, I played matchmaker for the first time, setting up a couple of friends on a blind date. It was wildly fun, hearing both sides asking about each other, about their likes, dislikes, history and upbringing – but one question stuck in my mind: “What sort of a person is he?” I tried to give as much information as I could, and went on to describe details about work, about education, and interests – but how do you concisely and accurately describe someone’s personality when inside lies a labyrinth of characteristics? With labels, I suppose. We all want to know who we are, and we all want to know who everybody else is, and the quickest, easiest way to do it is to stick a label on the outside for all to see. Goth. Nerd. Emo Kid. Lazy. Weirdo. Casanova. Drama Queen. Awkward. It Girl.  There are no end to the labels we attach to other people, but as Mr. Yorke once put it, we do it to ourselves. Everyone has an idea of who they think they are, and when asked to “tell me about yourself”, they’ll offer a few tidbits of information that combine to form a quick impression of the person as a whole. Often, these can be pretty accurate. But in labelling, we inadvertently give ourselves a glass ceiling. By defining ourselves as one thing, we conceal everything else that makes up who we really are. I’ve always found it difficult to define myself. I guess that’s why I felt like the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow when I first discovered the Myers-Briggs and the field of personality psychology. But the truth is – I still don’t really know.

I seem to defy social niches. That’s not new information, but perhaps it’s part of why it took me so long to find the people with whom I truly belong. Through adolescence to early adulthood, I flitted from group to group in an endeavour to fit in, allowing certain facets of my personality to shine through when it was appropriate, but hiding everything else in doing so. Only recently have I begun to embrace every part, instead of trying to fit a social mould – to acknowledge that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be an anomaly, because variety is the spice of life! Personally, I love getting to know multi-faceted people. People with different layers and contradictory yet harmonious interests. I like to dress up, straighten my hair, wear extensions, heels, and manicures. But I can also be blokier than Phil Mitchell. I hoover my counters and wear the same jeans four days in a row. I’m in love with the past, with fierce imagination, with history, culture, theatre and literature. But I’m also fascinated by science and technology, and the ongoing movement from science fiction to science fact. I love to imagine life on other planets and the evolution of the stars in the night sky, yet I’ll cover my walls with great art and beautiful words. I’m just as thrilled to listen to Celtic folk music as punjabi bhangra, Duran Duran, or 17th century choral masterpieces.  I enjoy cocktails as much as a pint of Carlsberg, and a round of Cranium as much as questing through Feathermoon Stronghold. I’ll be the first to crank up the Glee soundtrack while painting my toenails, but I reminisce about the days I fronted a punk band, thrive on the latest UK indie, and daydream of being the next Tarja Turunen, surrounded by symphonic power metal. I feel overwhelmed in crowds, yet crave social connection when alone.  I’m equally happy in a cocktail dress at a dinner party as I am dressing up in a World of Warcraft Night Elf costume at a comic book convention. I’ve been told I’m an introvert and an extravert.

I sometimes feel as though I live in the void between social identities. But then I remind myself, it’s just the world telling me I need a definition. It’s just other people that make me feel I need to fit a predefined genre instead of scattering myself throughout the library. It’s also an interesting parallel, I think, to blogging: we all know how I feel about limiting yourself to a niche despite it being the favoured means of operation, and I feel strongly that if you’re passionate about lots of different things, you should allow them all to see the light. Not tuck yourself into a box and stick a label on top for the sake of belonging to a certain crowd. We’re all such interesting and beautifully complex souls. And I think I’m finally okay with being a hodgepodge, after all.

Unmasked

Hannah Katy wrote an incredible post last week,  and it inspired me to write about something that’s been a bit of a regular in my life in the last few years.  First and foremost, I’m going to admit something: I despise fakeness. I also despise unnecessary negativity.  And recently, I’ve learned the unfortunate truth that the world, and the Internet, is full of it. But I’ve also learned that, as with so many things in life – you have a choice in how you let it affect you.

Growing up, I spent far too many pretending to be someone I’m not. I think what it came down to was the result of one too many bad relationships, leaving me with a pretty low sense of self-worth and confidence – and I desperately wanted to be seen as popular, to have people to “reaffirm” that I was worth something – at the expense of staying true to myself.

Image from Zemotion

Once I turned eighteen, as I think so many people do, I felt I needed somehow needed to define myself. Define myself with a career goal, with a group of friends, with independence and opinions… with an identity.  Several years went by, and I darted from job to job, boyfriend to boyfriend, friends to friends, in an ongoing endeavour to find myself. Find where I belonged.  Make myself into somebody that fit, in the secret hope that one day I would. You all know I had some rough relationship experiences, and I strongly believe were it not for those hard times, I would have remained the person I was five years ago. What motivation would I have had to change? After the last breakup, I decided this was the time to set standards for myself. To not just settle for anyone.  To be okay by myself and stay true to who I am, even if that meant being alone.  I learned a lot about myself by doing that, and it’s something that’s been an ongoing challenge. Not just in relationships (for the past two years I’ve been blessed with someone who’s believed in me, challenged me, and helped me push myself out of my comfort zone, seeing and believing in my potential) – but in friendships, too.

I don’t know how many of you subscribe to the notion of personality types, but it’s something I’ve always found intriguing, particularly in the Myers-Briggs ideas.  I think it’s fascinating how accurate the descriptions are, not just in terms of personal tendencies, but in how we react to any given situation, whether socially, at work, with other people, or in the face of adversity.  I am an INFJ (the “Protector”) through and through:

INFJs have an exceptionally strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others, and find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realise their human potential. Although they are happy working at jobs (such as writing) that require solitude and close attention, they do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that the personal interactions are not superficial, and that they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. Not usually visible leaders, INFJs prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.

INFJs tend to be devoted to what they believe in and seek work where their needs, values, and ideals can be deeply engaged. INFJs, while concentrating on what is important to them, may ignore the political ramifications of their actions. Being able to talk honestly and comfortably to people at work is much more important to them than ‘playing games.’

The INFJ’s external environment may appear disorganized. Their internal environment, by contrast, is anything but haphazard. Organization of the internal world takes precedence over organization of the external world.

INFJs prefer occupations that focus on the big picture, involve conceptual awareness, and lead to a better understanding of the needs of people. They want their work to have impact and meaning. INFJs value staff harmony and want an organization to run smoothly and pleasantly, themselves making every effort to contribute to that end. They are crushed by too much criticism and can have their feelings hurt rather easily. They respond to praise and use approval as a means of motivating others, just as they, the INFJs, are motivated by approval.

Motivated by approval. Growing up, I had a desperate need to be affirmed in everything I did.  Doing things like acting, sports, talent shows, writing stories – being told I was good at something made me feel amazing. Later in life, I was a devout student:  I loved my assignments and I loved getting tests back. Being good at school gave me a sense of self-worth, and only in recent years have I realised why I so easily gave up who I was: to fit in. I needed the approval of others. Fastforward to summer of 2009 when I was crippled with anxiety, too scared to even eat lunch with coworkers for fear of what people may have thought of me. I wasn’t comfortable with who I was because I didn’t know who I was, and so it led me into a shell. Thankfully through determination, perseverance, faith, friends, and Sweet’s encouragement, I’m now at a point where I know who I am. And I know who and what I need (and can do without) in my life.

I am dedicated to making a positive impact in the world. I sincerely want to do all I can to help other people, whether  through my workplace, my personal life, or my blog. One of the many reasons I write is not only to document my life, but to write about the struggles, the bad stuff as well as the good, and overcoming it, in the hope that it might reach someone – and maybe even inspire them. The emails I get on the subject may be few in number, but mean the absolute world to me. Knowing I’ve inspired just one or two people means more than any number of comments ever could. I don’t write to be popular, and I don’t let online time interfere with real life. I’m easily hurt, but I refuse to maintain vendettas or seek revenge. I believe being able to live a good life while maintaining integrity is better than revenge of any sort.  I value interpersonal harmony and am deeply unsettled by conflict, yet I am passionate about my values and beliefs, and blatantly honest. I will always tell you how it is, even if it’s not what you want to hear. But it’s only because I believe in the power of truth.  This has resulted in people cutting ties with me and even getting fired from a job, but I will not keep quiet if there is something important to be said. I will speak up if I believe it’s for the greater good. I will not be taken down by those who continue to define me by my past mistakes – I will focus on continuing to better myself; the person I am becoming because of them. I will not let fear dictate my life. I will question the truth in rumours rather than continue them.  I will not follow the masses and ignore an elephant in a room, but will put a hat on it and maybe even hop on and take it for a ride. People may find that uncomfortable and distance themselves, but I will always stay true to myself. Because that, to me, is more important than popularity. I will write about the good as well as the bad, and refuse to create an online persona – even if that decreases readership. I may not be popular, but I am real. And you know what? I’m 100% okay with that.

Poster of a Girl

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Things I Want To Achieve in life, you know, the big stuff. What I want my profession to be in ten or fifteen years. Which things I want to conquer, and why. What I’m going to do to make a difference in the world. This was all brought about on Friday, when I took my biggest step yet in getting over my anxiety, something that’s socially crippled me for a larger chunk of my life than I’d like to admit.

I taught my very first class. And after a week leading up to it full of restless nights, I actually did it, and left the room slightly shaky – but entirely overwhelmed, with a sense of accomplishment I haven’t felt in a very long time. And I have to thank my newfound faith, and the prayers and encouragement of people close to me who’ve reminded me that I wasn’t put on this earth to be afraid and held back by fear, and if I wanted to make a different in people’s lives, however small, I was bloody well going to do it. So I did, and now I get to continue to push myself, continue to grow, and continue to get better at it, all the while hopefully passing on some kind of knowledge to those who may not have it, who may use something I said to feel like they can do something too. Which is pretty cool.

I also had a really cool lunch with one of my coworkers on Friday, where we sat cross-legged at little tables, eating sushi and debating the different thought processes people have. I did a brief stint studying psychology in university, and though I never finished, I never lost my fascination for everything encompassing it, and in the office we often talk about different personality types and how they relate to careers, hobbies, etc. I’ve taken the Myers-Brigg several times, always with the same result – an INFJ, making up a whopping 1% of the population. INFJ’s are known as “Protectors” or “Counsellors” with an emphasis on heightened emotional sensitivity, introversion, creativity and caring. Which is all very accurate. So then why, in my coworker’s words, “why do you want to prove you can be in the spotlight?” Why do I want to be able to be comfortable in front of people?

“Because I used to be”, I answered. Which wasn’t a lie; go back ten years and you’ll find a girl heavily invested in performing; a girl who went to stage school every week, put on talent shows, organised fundraisers and sang her heart out in shows and bands. Go back fifteen and you’ll find a child who was always first to volunteer to take the solo part of the chorus in school musicals, always the first to narrate when reading stories. My childhood formative years were full of extraversion, creativity and a love of the limelight. But fastforward to those “adult” formative years, between 18 and 23, and you see a different story. Those were the years my anxiety grew progressively worse, and I always looked back and blamed the series of dysfunctional, slightly abusive relationships I kept getting myself into. How could a girl ever believe in herself when everyone she ever loved treated her terribly? Looking back, all I can say is it was a huge learning experience, but it definitely left me feeling pretty rubbish about myself, and knocked my confidence completely.

So why DID I want to push myself out of my comfort zone so badly? When being in front of people made me feel physically sick, my head was full of fear and my body started shaking, why did I so badly want to push myself into this situation? I wish I knew my Intraversion/Extraversion scores numerically; maybe, as my coworker suggested, I was on the borderline. 51% Introvert, 49% Extrovert, though if you only came into my life in that period, you’d never know it. I asked myself why, if I was naturally an introvert, I felt so uncomfortable being alone – felt the need for company, to be out and about and doing things. But then if I was so close to being an extrovert, why being in the spotlight made me want to run for the hills. It’s a very interesting time in my life, and I don’t have the answers yet.

But I do know that I can do it. I can put myself out there and be absolutely fine in front of other people, because there’s evidence to show that I’ve done it before. Sure, I might be quiet by nature, and a pretty tough period in my life may have led me to believe I didn’t have anything worth giving to the outside world. But things have become clear to me, in the last year. I used to let the fear of other people’s judgment control my life. And it’s a REALLY tough thought pattern to let go of. But if I don’t, I’m never going to be all I can be. And whose opinion about me really matters? The people I love, and the people I’m putting myself out there for – people I want to help. I was lucky enough to get a pretty good education, and I’ve had opportunities in life that now allow me to be in a position to share some of that education with people who may never have had the chance. Seeing someone at 10:00 on Friday looking at me so lost, and then two hours later fully engaged and asking questions and looking a whole lot more confident left me feeling pretty good.

So I’m going to keep working at it. I may never be back dancing on stage, or fronting a rock band again. But I can keep pushing myself to be in front of people, with the goal of getting back to who I was meant to be, and hopefully helping other people out a little bit. As for performing in front of anybody again – well, isn’t that what cats are for?

Nots

I’m not an extrovert or an introvert. I’m not as outgoing as I was ten years ago… but I’m not as shy as I was two years ago. I’m not comfortable being the centre of attention, but I’m not one to fade into the background either. I’m not a follower of fashion, but I still like to look good. I’m not capable of curling my own hair. I’m not a party animal, but will make every effort to occasionally go to a local indie music night just to be surrounded by the fun and energy of a group of people with a common love of something that’s not part of the mainstream. I’m not as into reading as I am at heart. This is something I’d very much like to change. I’m still not a Canadian citizen and I don’t know if I ever will be – this country has been good to me but I still don’t feel entirely like it’s “home”. I’m not a gossip – if you’re not part of the problem or the solution, then nothing positive is going to come of passing on stories. I’m not going to stop giving to my sponsor child or owning animals even if I am living in my overdraft. Kindness is more important than money. I’m not going to be someone I’m not in order to fit in. Maybe this doesn’t make me the most popular kid on the block, but true relationships are infinitely more fulfilling even if their number is few. I’m not sure where I’m going to be in ten years. Heck, I’m not sure where I’m going to be in five years. I’m not going to settle for a job where I’m taken advantage of and unappreciated for much longer. I’m not a fighter. Sometimes you have to take a breath and look at the big picture before you decide your next move. I’m not however scared to stand up to you if you mistreat someone I love. I’m not sure where I stand spiritually, but it’s something that’s growing and evolving constantly. I’m not sure what that means. I’m not a driver. In the past walking Winnipeg winters has been something to complain about, but there’s better things in life to focus my energy on than things I cannot change. I’m not afraid to tell you the truth: if I say something you might not want to hear, it’s probably because I care about you more than you realise and I honestly think it’s for your own good. I’m not who I used to be: I’ve had a few bad experiences but I’m not one to self-pity; I’ve learned from my mistakes and become a better person because of them, with the help of a few very good hearted people. I’m not afraid to tell you about the past, because I know the people that don’t care or judge me for it will still be in my future. I’m not going to hold back on telling you how thankful I am you’re in my life. If I care about you, you mean a lot, and I’m going to tell you that – even if it is weird. I’m not as into video games as I used to be – I find myself feeling guilty if I spend 3 hours in a virtual world of make believe, but will happily spend the same time in a literary one. I’m not a neat freak but I refuse to live in a dirty or messy apartment. A bit of clutter is a sign of a creative mind. I’m not ever going to find anyone more amazing than the love I have right now, and I’m not going to go a single day without stopping to be thankful for that.

Thanks to Kyla Bea for passing along the idea for this post. You’re right, it was harder than it looks!!