The Layered Contours of the Self
About two months into seventh grade, I fell in love with books and instantly decided that I was going to be an English and history person. You might be asking yourself: “What does that even mean?” The answer is nothing.
About two months into seventh grade, I fell in love with books and instantly decided that I was going to be an English and history person. You might be asking yourself: “What does that even mean?” The answer is nothing. It is a meaningless category with which we may or may not identify, but to twelve-year-old me, it felt like a way of life. It meant staying up late reading anything and forcing myself to write poetry simply because I was desperate to be the type of person who wrote poetry in her free time.
By defning myself in this way, I confned myself within this image when in reality I like a good math problem just as much as a good book. Telling myself that I don’t like math is taking the easy way out; it is so much harder to admit that, though I struggle with math, I do enjoy it. It is so easy to say we love the things we naturally excel in and hate the things with which we struggle.
What I failed to realize in seventh grade is that no one fts perfectly into a single category. As much as we might want to, it is impossible to sum up a person with simply one classifcation. We are all infnitely complex and varied; we are spread into thousands of categories, and when we try to confne ourselves, we limit our sense of who we are. We can be a math enthusiasts who also love English and or English lovers who enjoy science. If we stop trying to put ourselves into confning categories and just be ourselves then we will eventually discover who we are.
Categories may make us feel safe and secure, but they give us a false sense of ourselves when in reality most of us are nowhere near figuring out who we are. We confate who we are with who we want to be. While this categorization of self can momentarily make us feel like we know exactly who we are, in the long run it can be detrimental to our growth as people.
Categories are used as a shortcut to self discovery, but defning ourselves as a singular entity is not the same as fnding who we are. Trying to rush personal growth by conforming to a singular mold often serves to slow it down in the future; discovering who we are is something that takes time and cannot be rushed. Forcing ourselves to be someone we are not simply for the purpose of growing up faster will limit the full development of our true selves.
As high school students, we are all trying to figure out who we are and where our place is in the world. In seventh grade, when I looked up at the older students, I thought they all knew who they were perfectly and had fit themselves into categories. Now that I am an older kid, I realize how false this assumption was. We are still just trying to figure out who we are and fnd our place in the world. So let’s take time, be ourselves, and not rush it.