It’s all about me

Thankyou papoose, mummymanda, marcal and even Riani for inspiring this post!  I was struggling with one yesterday, it just wasn’t going where I wanted it to, but this has whipped off the keyboard this morning.

I define myself. 

I am the only person who chooses what I do and how I do it.

I make myself the person I want to be.

I had a particularly liberating experience in my second year of teaching.  I realised I could let the 14 year old student have the last word.  It sounds silly but those of you who have dealt with a teenager will know what I mean, when they go on and on and keep answering back and you really just don’t want to let them win because they’re whining little so and sos who have no idea.  And in the middle of this I had an epiphany, let her finish and walked away.  Of course I kept her in at recess to deal with the original problem!  But I realised there are some conversations you don’t have to win, and I don’t want to be the adult trying to win against a kid.

The next experience was a much bigger deal during a fairly nasty situation I was involved in.  Someone was spreading things among a group of workmates and mutual friends.  I don’t blame them and understand why they were doing it, and everything they said was even true – from their perspective.  But of course there are at least two sides to every story and I desperately wanted to give mine.  I chose not to, because that’s not the person I want to be.  I don’t want to be someone who starts a public fight over something private.  So there are people out there who have what I think is an unfair view of me, but I made the decision to let it go because I’m the only one I have to live with.

Moving to a new town and joining a playgroup was interesting, new people, new ways of doing things, the only thing we have in common is having children.  I don’t do well in groups, I’m very self-conscious and never know what to do or say.  So I sat in a corner for a few weeks, then took a deep breath and went and played jigsaws with the kids.  Or voiced my opinion in a conversation.  Or even started a few! They’re a pretty good bunch although I don’t think of any of them as friends, but I don’t shape my behaviour to them, I shape it to what I feel like doing and what my kids need.

The online world is another adventure, so many chances to dip in and out of conversations, so many opportunities for misunderstandings.  And so many ways you can think you know someone then realise you don’t at all.  It’s very easy to worry.  Should I say this?  How will that be interpreted?  Who might be listening to that?  And it really forces us up against it.  I think all of us have ingrained ways of reacting – if my sister or friend said this, I would do that.  But now we’re not interacting with people who have the same set of cultural, emotional or family baggage we do.  We are used to using others as a barometer and adjusting our behaviour accordingly.  But on the internet you never know who is out there and how they perceive you, so you can’t use them as a guide.  You have to be completely sure of who you are and your position, and accept that sometimes people will misinterpret, and sometimes people just won’t like you.

I’m not talking about being inflexible.  I’ve changed my opinions many times through reading and thinking about what people are saying.  And definitely don’t be insensitive.  But both the least and the most I can do, is be as Deb as I can.  Don’t try to project an image of the way I would like to be, don’t say something because I think people will like it, don’t hold back because others might disagree, but be me.  If I don’t put me out there, how can I get anything genuine back?

It’s taken me many years to be able to articulate this, but now as a mother I find it even more important.  My daughters need strong role models, and I want them to be confident and happy in their own skin.  So I need to work very hard on myself, I am the one who has to look in the mirror, and I want to respect the person I see.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by perfectmum on July 10, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    This is so true Deb, especially in relation to what we want our children to pick up on – do we want to teach them that we have to change who we are just so we can ‘fit in’ or do we want to give them the strength of character to be who they are all the time, no matter in whose company or whether in real life or within the anonymity of cyberspace.

    As you know, I’ve been in a similar situation to you – moving to a new town, trying to work out where and how I fit in the social network again. I’ve had times, desperate for more social contact, where I’ve seriously questioned whether I should try to tweak myself to see if I can fit in a bit better. In the end, thankfully, I didn’t bow to that pressure, and while it’s now taken well over a year, I have found my place and some friends that I can just be me with – and this in turn has given me the boost I need to be honest about who I am and what I am when in the company of other people who parent very differently to myself.

    Ultimately, it is a tremendously liberating experience to really KNOW who you are and BE who you are, no matter what.


  2. Posted by MummyTiff on July 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Oh Deb so much of your post rings true for me!

    The part about not having to win against a kid……….that is a big part of how I parent. I see so many people view their children’s behaviour as something that is occuring to annoy them or to be naughty on purpose because they know it’s naughty. I really don’t assume that – I assume they are either testing the water, trying to be funny, perhaps having a bad day themselves, or just plain not sure of the appropriate way to behave in a certain situation. My Mum would fight to the death with us as kids (particularly with me as I had and still have a tendancy to battle back) and it really was totally unproductive and not only that it made me personally feel so powerless. I can udnerstand if a child is being rude and aggressive that you need to tell them what theyr’e doing is wrong but to argue for the sake of arguing because children should be seen and not heard was so upsetting!

    The other thing that jumped out was just accepting that not everyone will like you and being able to walk away safe in that knowledge. I am happy with not everyone liking me and half expect that to be the case however I really struggle to do what you did and just walk away Deb. I tend to battle to the death and it really is POINTLESS but I can’t help myself! I feel like my point is really valid and I want the other party (usually my Mum!) to understand my point and see my point-of-view. I don’t want to disreguard their point-of-view but I just really want to be heard.


  3. Trust me Tiff, it’s really hard. I have a bit of a mantra, “that’s not the person I want to be.” When I’m really about to lose it, I repeat that lots of times. I find it easier to let personal stuff go, possibly because I’d rather avoid controversy. In fact I tend to bottle things up and avoid, which is a whole other problem! Things like vaccines I’ll fight on, it has the passion but not the personal danger IYKWIM.


  4. Posted by Coran on July 11, 2009 at 12:33 am

    I’ve found it works both ways too. I’m not naturally one to get involved with conflict. I don’t like to get involved in arguments. Yet, in the last year or so, I’ve decided that there are a few things that are really important to me and I’m allowed to say so and defend them. I can respectfully disagree with people.

    Thinking about being yourself – when I trained as a Community Educator for the Australian Breastfeeding Association it quickly became obvious to me that as one of the few men in the association I would be a role model of sorts. As a role model I was going to have to pay more attention to what I might opine, since people might actually pay attention to it. Of course, that was the point of becoming a CE – I want to help educate parents-to-be and I certainly hope they pay attention. Yet at the same time, I can only be myself. One of the reasons that I don’t use a pseudonym on-line is that if I’m going to be a role model, then dammit, I’m going to be a real-life, honest, human role model, with good bits and bad bits, but a will to always do better.

    I understand too about making a conscious decision to be the person you want to be, or not be the person you don’t want to be. It takes some introspection and honesty with yourself. Sometimes you have to consciously decide to do things that you know will make you uncomfortable in order to be the person you want to be.


  5. You’re so right, Coran. I have a huge tendency to avoid conflict with the people who are most important to me, and unfortunately parenting makes it easier because it’s so hard to find time to disucss things and I have an excuse to let them go. So that’s something I’m really working on too – speaking up calmly when something is important.


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