Describe yourself in three words… How would your friends and family describe you? Which word best describes you, cheeky, mature, calming, funny, adventurous, dependable, shy, dramatic….the list of possibilities go on.
These are just some questions I have seen appear in magazines and overheard in conversations, asking us to package ourselves neatly into a descriptive bracket so we know best how to conduct ourselves in certain situations.
Am I odd in my inability to come up with one word to sum up friends, family and even myself? Does that push me into the ‘the odd one’ category?
Perhaps this urgency to identify with one major personality trait is driven by our need to belong, to feel wanted and accepted.
This need to identify with a group seems a current theme as Christmas approaches. Magazines are filled with double spreads of gifts for her and gifts for him suggestions, all neatly presented in either pink or gold glitter themes for females, or browns and tartan blues for males.
As adults, free will and years of processing and exploring ourselves has perhaps given us more support and courage to step out against these socially expected preferences as women/men.
But what about our society’s children. As parents we can be seen to impact our child’s sense of identity before we even meet them, often kitting nurseries out in pinks, or blues. This progresses after birth as we choose what to dress our children in, which toys we buy for them to spend hours each day playing with, even what activities we encourage and decided they will attend. We as a society are moulding our youngest generations into the very groups we often ourselves challenge and seek to explore out of.
Our sense of Identity cannot be predetermined or fixed, it shifts in response to our experiences. Biologically we are in a contrast state of change, by the time you finish reading this sentence, 50 million of your cells will have died and been replaced by others.
Working with children and adolescents I am painfully reminded of the anxieties of feeling like the ‘different’ one, the overwhelming sense of shame of feeling unable to relate to the things that you ‘should’ relate to.
So I urge us this year to pay attention to our assumptions of the ‘perfect gift’, to encourage the emergence of unique identities so that every body can resonate with a wider sense of acceptance and belonging.
Perhaps this year’s perfect Christmas gift is giving each other permission to just be. Time out from the expectation of what we must become.