The forging of identity needs time. We all face the world through an image of ourselves, an identity if you like. That image is partly defined by us, and partly by our society and environment. Our confidence, socially, finds itself through constant negotiation between our so-called inner selves, and the environment we find ourselves in. We become comfortably assertive when we find a balance between our inner and outer worlds.
FORGING OUR IDENTITY
We are like an artist with tools. We don’t know what we will end up saying with our lives, only that we will end up saying something. We stare at a blank canvas of future, and at the tools we have, and back again to the canvas. We become afraid to make a mark. It is important that we start. if we don’t, we may fall back into timidity and depression. We need to engage with our self and our world.
It’s a nonsense, really. A fiction. But we have to label ourselves. It’s part of the culture we live in. Are we a student? A mother? A father? A brother? A sister? An artist? A driver? A runner? A lover? Left-wing? Right-wing? The labels aren’t reality, not ultimately. But they are signposts, showing ourselves and the world where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going. They make us understandable.
Don’t take your self-image too seriously. Don’t hold it too tight, like a diamond, or it will hurt your palm and make you fearful. Wear it like a favourite t-shirt. It’s useful for remembering where you are, and for hinting to others who you might be.
You might find that your self-image is inconsistent with how you feel. You feel inauthentic. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and makes you unsure of yourself. Listen to that feeling, and see if you can negotiate with yourself. See if you can adjust your self-image to better match your feelings. If you are pretending to be outgoing when you are actually reserved, then give your reserved nature a bigger say in your identity. Allow it to breathe.
You might find that the society you live in pushes you to adopt an identity your insides don’t go along with. Perhaps all your friends have one political view, and you have another. Try not to be embarrassed by this, or fearful of losing friends. Choose your moments, but don’t shy away from negotiating. You are negotiating for your future self, for your right to explore in your own way.
BECOMING COMFORTABLY ASSERTIVE
When you have found a good compromise, you might start to feel happier in your life. Try to build a way of living, acting and thinking that feels comfortable for you. Listen when your inner nature wrestles for more room in your life. Give it some of what it wants, but lightly, without giving up your existing ways completely. Also listen when you feel pressurised by others to do something. Weigh up their requests, give them some things, hold back on others. Negotiate.
Never forget to negotiate. Don’t give in mindlessly, neither to your own animal nature, nor to social pressure. The bit of you that negotiates… that’s your freedom. Constant negotiation is the vehicle through which you will find a workable identity.
You are like any work of art. Even before you were born, you were the result of billions of years of negotiation between elements. And that process doesn’t stop when you are born. The artwork isn’t finished yet. Keep arguing, discussing, considering, exploring, trying some new things out, giving some things a rest. Do it kindly, and with a light heart, but do it. You are making yourself. You are helping your later self to understand what works and what doesn’t. You are doing your future self a big favour every time you try something, learn something.
Finding your confidence is all about negotiation, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you fall asleep. Don’t give in completely – that’ll make you depressed. Don’t get impatient – that’ll make you anxious. Strike a happy medium. A middle way. See what’s there, see how you feel about it, and engage.