In general, I have noticed that people have a hard time separating an individual from those around them. They often can’t or don’t see people in their unique lights. This may be because of our natural evolution as social animals. Just as one may not know a pack of wolves as being different, we tend to see everyone in a group as the same.
However, there have been times when not being seen as separate from someone else has deeply bothered me. I desire to be seen for myself and my accomplishments, so being seen only for those around me can be upsetting.
I am their child, but I am not my parents
A recurring example in my life of not being seen as an individual happens in conversations with my grandmother.
I have my mother’s face. We have similar noses, mouths, and facial structures. My eyes are different from hers, and while I am fair-skinned, my skin tone is slightly darker than hers was.
My mother passed away when I was 22 years old. She was 47 years old when she died. She had been an alcoholic my whole life. And it was her excessive drinking that eventually led to her ending up in the hospital.
My grandmother has had a lot of loss in her life, so I can understand why she might cling on to something as small as someone else, looking like one of the people she’s lost.
Every time I speak to my grandmother, she mentions that I look like my mother.
I wouldn’t be bothered by this if there wasn’t a lack of recognition for my achievements. My grandmother’s tone of voice, the context of the conversation, and the look in her eyes when she says how much I look like my mother remind me that she is not complimenting me; she sees her dead adult child who disappointed her.
I’ve learned to accept this and that no matter how hard I work, I will never receive the recognition I used to want from her. I’m okay with that.
Giving myself that recognition and the pat on the back that I long for are so much more satisfying than someone else giving it to me because I know it’s genuine.
I am not just someone’s partner
Another example of this is when dating someone, I’m often seen as so and so’s girlfriend or partner.
In my twenties, I was in a relationship where I was never seen as much more than “his girlfriend. ” No one said much to me or about me, and I was easy to forget. I was nothing more than his representative.
Ending that relationship also meant destroying the image that everybody had in their heads of me. Many people stopped talking to me because they realized I was not who they thought I should be.
Because of this, I have learned how important it is to separate yourself from your partner and to have interests, hobbies, and friends different from theirs. It is so easy to get wrapped up in someone else, but once that gets to the point that you lose yourself, the relationship can quickly become toxic.
I am not my friends
There’s the saying that you are the most like the top five people you spend the most time with.
This could be because we try to be pleasing to our friends by taking on their personality traits or saying yes to things we would typically say no to or choose not to speak up about, but we would prefer to do.
I have made the concerted effort to be myself no matter who I’m with outside of professional connections. I see no reason to filter my real personality, no reason not to turn down things I know I would not enjoy, and no reason to try to fit in.
By choosing to be me, I limit how many people I become friends with, and the friendships I do end up with are much more satisfying.
My work is not who I am
It can be even harder to separate ourselves from what is expected of us at work and in our careers. From the time I was 17, I’d been an employee in various jobs.
Every workplace has its own culture, and depending on the job that you’re in, each place may even have a specific personality that they would prefer that you display while working. At many of the spas that I have worked at, this has been common.
It was tough working in those places if I didn’t take on the personality traits they considered most beneficial to their vision. While I understand that they do this to create a specific image that their clients become loyal to it can be frustrating because it limits self-expression. Working in such places, I felt like a cog in the machine and nothing more.
It took a lot of work to become self-employed, but the fact that I get to be myself is worth all the time and effort I put in.
If you are in a workplace where you can’t be you, it may be time to look for another workplace.
You are you
Being an individual is a blessing.
Not everyone will appreciate it, not everyone will recognize you as an individual or your achievements, and many may even dismiss you because you choose not to identify as part of something or someone else.
Sometimes being yourself can leave you on the outside completely alone. But even being alone you never feel lonely because you know yourself so well that you’re your own best company.
What makes you an individual? Leave your answer in the comments below!