I Understand Myself Better

by | Mar 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Who are you? Introduce yourself. Tell me what you’re like. Write about who you are. Every new class, every new teacher, every new person. Who am I? What do I like? What do I want to become? What do I stand for? How do I know who I am?

Tell them. Tell them what? My favorite book? Tell them I hate wearing socks? Tell them I always lose the TV remote? What can I tell them? How do I know who I am?

What is Identity? 

I asked my friend once, “Am I defined by one pivotal moment, or am I defined by every single choice and action I have ever made?” I think the latter. Who am I but not everything I have ever done, every book I’ve read, every place I’ve been, every class I’ve taken, every show I’ve watched, every person I’ve met. Take all of that away, and I am nothing. You would only find a shell of the person I once was. No pivotal moment can erase the decisions I’ve made to get here. How else would I know who I am?

Identity. What is identity? I think Identity is a tricky thing because it overlaps and changes as you grow old. There is no one set of rules on how to define yourself. It is all up to you, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. To say I completely understand myself would be a lie. Every day I learn something new. Some parts of my identity don’t change, like my race and ethnicity, but other things change like my favorite song or my favorite food.

Sometimes the hardest part of your identity to find is something that makes up a large part, like your gender or sexuality. I think a lot of people get caught up in labels. They feel invalid if there isn’t a term that defines them exactly. The thing is, most labels never fit a person perfectly, but that is okay. You can just be queer, or you can just be gender-nonconforming; finding a label that suits you can be difficult or even impossible. It’s all about how you feel, not how others want you to label yourself.

LTI Experience 

This past summer, I got to be a peer mentor at GSAFE’s Leadership Training Institute (LTI) camp for LGBTQ+ youth around Wisconsin. I met so many new people from different backgrounds with different identities. The kind of people who will become friends for life. LTI was one of my favorite experiences ever. Even though I was there as a mentor, I still learned from everyone else, adults and campers alike. I learned about activism, restorative justice, consent culture, intersectionality, race, healthy relationships, calling out the oppressor, and more.

I knew all these workshops were happening, as I had gotten the schedule a few weeks in advance. Something I didn’t know would happen was how much more comfortable I would feel with myself after it all. I felt more comfortable sharing how I felt about my sexuality. Everyone there was part of the LGBTQ+ community, so conversations there felt different and more accepting than the ones I have had with my friends or family. Interacting with queer adults was inspiring, and listening to people share about how they discovered they were gay or lesbian, or queer or trans, or gender-fluid or non-binary, helped me reflect on myself.

I’m no longer caught up in finding a label that can define me perfectly. Earlier, I said people get caught up in labels, and I was definitely one of those people. I now understand it is okay to not have a label that completely fits me. Even though I still don’t know exactly who I am or who I will become, I am confident that I understand myself just a little bit better than before. Maybe finding your identity is understanding yourself just a little bit better. Maybe it’s just knowing one more thing than you did before.

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