It’s not your job to be likable, it’s your job to be yourself. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The last two months of being 21 was full of confusion, and travels (photographs and stories coming soon!), but mostly confusion. And mostly about who I am and the kind of person I want to be.
Most days I want to be this powerful, wordly successful woman, a lawyer, who has shattered glass ceilings, works at the UN, and travels for a living. But on some days, I dream about leaving it all behind, escaping to a virgin island south of the country, opening up a resort or a BnB and taking up a bohemian lifestyle.
But my life trajectory isn’t really the point of this entry. The preceding paragraph was just mental diarrhea that I needed to write down.
My recent struggle has been more about identity.
I have always had trouble with fitting in with the crowd I currently run with. Last October, I was swept into a party lifestyle filled with booze, late late nights, overspending, and an overly casual attitude about
[s.e.x]. This continued on until December, even though most of the time I felt like I was forcing it. Nana almost died in the final week of 2016. God knocking on my heart, by then I knew I had to make a change. I quit that lifestyle and severed ties with the friends. It was a big sigh of relief, and for the new year I vowed never to compromise my identity again.
I learned however that forming one’s sense of self is not a snap decision with automatically permanent effects. You have to keep repeating that decision day by day, at every situation that tempts you to compromise. I don’t mean being inflexible. I mean keeping true to the values you hold dear and adapting it to the situation.
For this to make any sense, I have to first tell you that some of my work friends enjoy humor that is often at the expense of another person, the kind of humor you’d find at a comedy bar where the comic would randomly pick out an audience member and tear them to pieces. Oftentimes, a quirk, an imperfection, is woven into an elaborate and witty jest. There is no malicious intent of course, but sometimes an unbelievably savage joke that crosses the ‘offensive’ line would come up.
Occasionally I would be a recipient of these joke and these have been very helpful in my quest for self-acceptance and overcoming my insecurities. I learned that if you accept your imperfections, it cannot be used against you.
Steering into the skid has helped me gain their friendship, but eventually I became tired of being a recipient and I wanted to feel like I belonged. I decided that if they can be funny by being rude, I can be that too so I removed all of my boundaries and just let it rip.
It was fun at first, I made people laugh. Our usual victim was one of our managers who was a natural prankster. We felt comfortable with him but there were times when we got too comfortable that we forgot he’s actually our superior.
I liked being one of them funny girls. However, I also felt incredibly uncomfortable. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I can’t seem to stop doing it. I knew it wasn’t me, but I liked belonging. I was willing to continue pretending so long as I am liked for it.
But being liked for it didn’t last very long. People noticed the change in my personality and most of them decided that it didn’t really suit me. I was reprimanded for my actions and words which made me very bitter because I believed it to be unfair. How come I’m being told off but the others aren’t?
The resentment didn’t last very long, and I became very grateful for the character check. I acknowledged that I had become unkind, rude, petty, and downright judgmental. My brain has been reprogrammed to immediately seek the imperfections in another to be used in a deprecating joke later on.
I had to admit to myself that I became a bully.
This is not me. My humor has never been like this. I was raised as a lady, whose witticism is used to delight and whose sense of humor is never deprecating. I was raised to always hold another in high regard, and to always be mindful of the humanity that is in all of us.
I realized that the inappropriateness of the jibes is more noticeable in me because it wasn’t me. Maybe my friends are naturally like that, and I/we accept them for who they are but that doesn’t mean I have to conform to remain friends with them. I am grateful for the people in my life who like me for who I am, a nice kid, and who love me enough to point out that I wasn’t kind anymore.
So once again, I made a decision, for my birthday this time. I decided that every single day, at every moment, I will practice conscious self-identification. I will remind myself that being liked is not the end game of our existence, but it is to do good, to always do the right thing, and to fulfill our own personal destinies.
I’ve been 22 for two weeks now, one more week and conscious self-identification will hopefully have already become a habit. Wish me luck and include me in your prayers.
Let’s be kinder humans, self-accepting humans who love ourselves wholly. The world needs it more than ever.