Every year in the day of my birthday I choose a song to guide me during the next year. For instance, my 17th song was “17” by Avril Lavigne, because I was hoping to have a year full of friends, constant party, an active social life and excellent memories to remember one day when I was older. I spent a year seeking a good family and strong friendships. However, I didn’t find any of these things. In fact, my 17s (together with my 16s) was one the worst years of my life, when comes to my emotional and social life. I never felt so lonely and it was frustrating. I worked so hard to make friends. I worked so hard to engage with my family. I basically worked so hard to be likeable by everyone. And nothing went fine.
I must admit I did make a few friends, but I can’t meet any of them regularly. My main focus was making friends in college, but I just… couldn’t. When comes to family, it came to a moment in which I got fed up because my future was in danger. And since then, everything went down. The worst part of this failure wasn’t the failure itself: it was that, somehow, I lost myself during the process. I became someone I weren’t. I tried to be feminine, submissive and traditional for my family to accept me. I tried to act like the rest of girls in my college, wearing make up and all that stuff, just to make friends. In front of others, I would repress my thoughts and feelings, because I knew they would be rejected or I would receive strange looks. For instance, my family wanted me to be a stereotypical classy girl, and I was in for it. I went into wearing make up every day, using body shapers, threading my eyebrows regularly, and tolerating unfair house chores divisions at home just for the sake of being a female. I have nothing against these behaviours, but they are just not me. I’m not that type of person. And I will never be that type of person.
When I realised of my failure after all the hard work, I went into a spiral of confusion. Then sadness. And finally anger. I became conscious of the fact that faking a personality didn’t get me very far, and the journey to being me again would be hard. However, as I evaluated my life more and more, I realised I didn’t like who I was, even before my changes to fit in: that person was the one I was in Spain, before coming to England, and trust me, it wasn’t any more realer or better. In Spain, I also followed the current quite a lot, and I did a lot of things I didn’t like just to please others. It is funny, because in England I had more chances to be myself than I ever did in Spain, but for some reason, I didn’t take them. In Spain I was only real with my friends and with my classmates, because many of them were people I had known since I was three years old, so there wasn’t much I could hide. During primary school I would try hard to be “popular”, but in secondary school, it came to a point in which I was like “f*** it” and I just acted naturally most of the times.
Due to all this, when my 18th birthday came, I no longer wanted a strong network of friendships or an active social life or a perfect family. I wanted to establish my identity. I wanted to accept who I was, and only change for the better. I wanted to start having a set of aims and goals for life. I realised that I would never able to make true friends if I kept faking my attitude and repressing my views. I realised that my family may never accept who I am, and I can’t allow their opinion to be a ghost haunting me during my whole life. I realised that my happiness was more important than fitting in society. Being fake and following the current didn’t get me anywhere but to misery and loneliness. So, I decided that I would have to find myself, before trying to find anything else. And that’s the piece of advice I want to give you all.
You will never be comfortable in a place if you fake your personality and your likes. It is ok to adapt to situations: of course you are not going to act the same in your workplace and with your friends down the pub. But if for instance, you don’t like sports, don’t act as if you like them just to be accepted by your colleagues. Make them know sports aren’t your favourite thing in the world, but you enjoy other things such as reading or cooking. If you don’t like what your friend has said about a topic such as feminism, don’t just nod and accept it. Tell them you don’t agree and share your opinion too. If your parents want you to study an academic subject, but you rather study a vocational/artistic course, just follow your heart. It is your life, your decision.
What is the point in pleasing others, if you are not pleasing yourself at the same time? Since we are little we are taught to do things to make our parents proud, to get a good job, to achieve a high status, to make money, to marry and have children… However, what about our OWN dreams, goals and desires? Not everyone wants to be rich. Not everyone wants a high status. Not everyone wants to have children. Not everyone wants to marry. There is no “correct” way of living. Just a traditional way which is diverse across different cultures and societies. And you don’t need to follow any of those ways. As the unique human being you are, you can create your own one.
Religion and spiritualism are one of the main approaches to discovering who you are, because they offer wisdom and a non-scientific view of life, which is often needed for people to make sense of what is going on in their surroundings. However, there are other methods. If you feel lost and you don’t know who you are, my advice would be trying new things. Submerge yourself in new experiences, having your main likes as reference. For instance, if you are interested in cultures, you could try and save money to fund yourself a year of travelling. Or conversely, you could look for organisations in your area that work towards the promotion of multiculturalism and integration, and work/volunteer for them.
So yeah: find yourself before finding anything else. In order to be happy, this is a step that must be taken. And, how can you find yourself? Easily: Be yourself. Do your thing. Speak your thoughts. Accept your body. Dress as you like. Have your own dreams. Only change for you. And for the better.
Sharing some advice,
Emilie H. Featherington