“What do I need to do to be comfortable with who I am?”

This question was submitted to Kids Help Phone by a young person and answered by one of our professional counsellors.

Question

I feel like I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to do with my life. I’m hiding everything I’m scared if this is not the real me. Do I need to change, how should I change? What do I need to do to be comfortable with who I am. I feel like I’m being controlled by something in my head that’s not really me. The people around me all expect something from me and expect be to be a certain way. But would if I want to change,would if I’m not what they want. Will I disappoint them? Is what I’m doing right? I’m torn between two ways one which is supposed to be who I am and the other the one deep down inside I know I am. I’m not brave enough strong enough to speak and tell anybody. Instead I keep it to myself confusing myself, not knowing what to do with myself. I’ve done things I know I shouldn’t do but I can’t tell anyone I’ve shut down. I’m paralyzed and where are my feelings,where is the real me, I’m lost and it kills me, inside. I’m lost and I’m stuck. Am I making this a big deal when it’s really nothing. I don’t want people to think badly of me. I don’t want to be classified as an outcast or someone who’s not “normal”. But what does that even me? Why should you tell me if I can have short hair or not. There is nothing wrong, dishonorable,or shameful about a girl with short hair. Having short hair docent mean I want to be a guy, but in reality some times girls freaking annoy me and I don’t understand why, cause I am one.so I guess i annoy myself also. I guess I’m just different. I grew up thinking that I could only be good friends with girls. I don’t know anymore.

Answer

It sounds like you are feeling a bit confused about how to find the balance between being authentic and who you ‘really are’, but also being someone who is accepted and what others expect you to be. I’m wondering if someone said something that started you thinking and feeling this way. You mentioned other girls annoying you and someone telling you that having short hair was not okay. It sounds like someone (or maybe even more than one person in your life) has made comments that made you feel bad about yourself or how you were expressing yourself. If that happened, I’m sorry to hear it. I agree with you 100%, there is nothing shameful or wrong about a girl having short hair. Equally, a boy can have long hair if he chooses. What we do with our bodies, and how we choose to express ourselves and present ourselves is personal, and really, it’s up to us. Ideally, other people would mind their own business (or even better, be supportive). Sadly, sometimes others feel that they have a right to tell us their opinions, often not stopping to think that maybe that opinion is hurtful. In your post you brought up a very common concern. How do we find the balance between being ourselves, and what if who we are, or who we want to be, makes others think we are different? I think one helpful thing to consider is that no one, and I mean, no one, is universally liked. Think of your favorite music artist or band, I bet you think they are great, and lots of other people you know might also, but I’m sure you can find a lot of people who don’t like them too. Just because some people don’t like your favorite music artist, does not mean that you are wrong, or that the artist is not good, or even that there is something wrong with the other person for not liking them (although we like to think that sometimes). The reality is…there are a LOT of different people in the world, with a lot of different views, and it actually makes sense when you think about it that we can’t all agree or like the same things. In fact, it’d be kind of boring if we did. And so, who you are, who you want to be deep down, that person who sometimes feels scared to show herself, WILL be liked by some people. And, unfortunately, some people won’t necessarily think that she’s great, but that does not mean she does not have value, it just means that to a certain group of people, she’s amazing, pure gold, and to some others, she’s not their taste. I realize it’s hard to stomach not being liked, as I think we are raised to be kind, and to get along, and to like others when we can. I think however that if we are true to ourselves, and as long as the person you want to be is still kind and respectful of others, that people can value who you are, even if they don’t feel your choices are the same they would make. I hope that makes sense. So, using your hair as an example, someone else may prefer long hair but can respect that you prefer short hair right now, and if that makes you happy, good for you. Equally, their right to enjoy having long hair should also be respected. Sadly, we can’t MAKE others like us or respect us, and we can really lose touch with who we really are if we try to. When we are ourselves, and we try our best to be a good person who expresses ourselves in the way that feels right for us, part of growing up is learning to be okay with others not accepting certain things about us, as their dislike of that part of us is more likely about them, and their own insecurities than it is about us. I hope this was a bit helpful. Figuring out who we really are takes time, and hopefully you’ll continue to take risks and express who you are and see how that feels. Bye for now.