For as far back as I can remember, I rebelled, and not just for the fact that I didn’t like to be told what to do, but because I also didn’t like to be told what to like.
The popular music on the radio was strange and uninteresting to me, I would moan about the songs on the radio until I discovered Queen at around 6 years old, and the glorious moment at 8 when an older girl put a bass guitar in my hands and played me an Iron Maiden tape. I was found, and I never ever looked back.
Now in my 30s I still love metal, but I have also been through many incarnations of self, evolving between different peer groups, workplace groups, and relationships over the years which both added and diminished aspects of self. The world I grew up in was different to the world today, and our outer influences stemmed from these groups; from the boyfriend who told me to stop listening to metal because it was ‘juvenile’, to the colleagues who isolated and bullied me because I was different.
No, the world now has changed, and we are influenced by all and everything around us. My social media feeds have had a far greater breadth and reach of influence in my life than any of those groups that came before them. For the most part, it has super-charged my self-actualization, enabling me to access information and tools for personal growth and discovery like never before, but equally, it demands a constant exposure to other people’s identification with certain concepts, which can provide a very limited perspective and actually limit our personal understanding of them when they are still new to us. Sometimes, it is enough of a jarring opinion that we retreat and no longer investigate or explore particular avenues of self-learning, feeling the distance and disparity from our current understanding.
Put plainly, we absorb how others see things, and subconsciously this influences how we see them.
“Individuality is only possible if it unfolds from wholeness.
When I think about the time spent within these different groups- within my very own incarnations-I remember the social pressure to appear and present in a certain way. Anything from clothing and appearance, to my likes, dislikes, and sociolect; I find it insane now that I would have changed my image or the way I spoke to conform and feel accepted, part of the group, but I know that I did.Even when I thought that group was not part of the ‘mainstream’. I was internally conforming within my outer rebellion.
I allowed those outer influences to change how I presented myself to the world.
And in turn, that changed how I understood, reflected upon and, eventually, had a relationship with myself.
It took a series of traumatic events, becoming a mother and gaining the wisdom which comes with passing years to begin to reclaim all of the fractal aspects of myself which I had rejected or repressed. Defying varying levels of social conformity which I just didn’t understand within my understanding of self.
It took time to regroup and reintegrate the things that I liked, my dreams, the causes, and concerns which mattered to me, and allow my identity to unfold with a deepening connection to who I really was. And it wasn’t very pretty.
I tried things, hated them, changed them, tried something new and with time realised that this was a pattern that worked for me; like a trail of breadcrumbs from one realisation to the next, each linking to the other and all feeding into my process of individuation.
What’s more is that I realised that this process was so ultimately subjective and uniquely personal, that it would never look or sound identical to what anyone else’s journey and certainly not conform to a prescribed way of ‘how it should happen’ or ‘how it should be’. There wasn’t a ‘one guru fix-all’ solution.
It wasn’t enough just to read the self-help books, the personal essays or inspirational posts on my social media feeds — I had to weave together the pieces that spoke to me, that helped me understand the self which was trying to emerge, and not expect that self to look, sound, think or feel a certain way.
Could I be spiritual and still love death metal, eat meat, or want to be successful in business?
It was a process of allowing, being vulnerable and open with myself. I had to learn to trust myself again — a work still ongoing each time I write or paint or create something I am called to share with the world. But I know now that the work continues as life changes, as the world changes, and I will continue to change and evolve with it. There is no fixed ultimate attainment, but fluid self-understanding and growth which I hope will never end.
And the point of me writing this was, that no matter where you are on your journey, on your path or whatever you’re dealing with and healing from — don’t let anyone tell you it has to look, sound or feel a certain way. That is their projected understanding, and the real work is understanding what the concept in question means to you.
You don’t have to follow the visual aesthetic of Instagram to ‘be’ anything. You don’t need to jump on any bandwagons or dilute any parts of yourself to fit in and be accepted as the person you aspire to be; you are allowed to be different. You are allowed to defy stereotypes. You are allowed to be multi-faceted. You are allowed to express yourself within and out of your human experience of what stirs your soul and not be made to feel bad about it.
You are allowed to try things and make your own mind up, because true individuality unfolds from all of your experiences, loves and micro-understandings combined.
You are, and that is enough.