I have a little bit of a split personality. (I’m sure this is true of a lot of people.) Sometimes I am as bold and gregarious as a person can possibly be; other days, I live like a hermit and jump if someone speaks to me. My posts since our arrival in Canada have shown the adventurer side of my character, the part that goes, “New vegetables? Erotic life drawing? Yes! Bring them on!” But today I write from my quieter self, the fearful side that wants to withdraw to safety at the first sign of the unfamiliar: “OMG everyone must be looking at me. I’m going home rightnow.”
[By the way, regular readers: I am thinking of putting Open Mic Fridays on hiatus while we are traveling. Any questions or protests about this? Let’s talk in the comments!]
Traveling brings out the full strength of both these sides of my personality. With so many new places to explore, people to meet, and things to do, I’m eager to jump in and experience as much as possible. But at the same time, I’m also afraid (Aughhh! So many new places, people, and things!). I get awkward. Even in a diverse, relaxed city like Toronto, just the consciousness of being a foreigner and a newcomer is enough to fill me with a teenager-like sense of being on unwanted display. Why didn’t the cashier return my smile? Are these wide-leg trouser jeans hopelessly passé when everyone else is wearing skinny jeans? Am I counting out my change in ways a Canadian wouldn’t do? Maybe I am doing it all wrong! Maybe I am all wrong!
Of course, it’s not that I came to Toronto and suddenly became the world’s most neurotic self-doubter. This happened to me at home, too. It’s a form of imposter syndrome, wherein you can’t be convinced of your own validity even in the face of evidence; I tend to feel that people won’t accept me unless I prove myself in some way. And in a strange place where I’m bound to be a little wrong-footed a lot of the time? Ack!!!
The reassuring thing is, since I know I do this at home, too, I can acknowledge that this is just one of my habitual patterns of behavior: I hate being wrong, I hate being ignorant, and I hate standing out unless it’s on my own terms. What all this means is that I am looking to others to validate me, instead of looking to myself. After all, “wrong,” “ignorant,” and “different” are terms that only have meaning in comparison. If I look at myself alone, there is no value judgment in the things I don’t know; shame only comes from thinking I am under the gaze of others. Do I feel comfortable and secure in myself, just the way I am? Or do I value myself only because others do, because I am presentable and knowledgeable and have a place in the community? My adventurous side does the former, but my shy side does the latter — and once the self-doubt has started, it’s hard to shut up. I need to work with that before we leave Toronto for someplace even more scary, like Glasgow, or Reykjavík, or São Paulo.
Notes to self:
It is okay to be wrong. It is natural. Everyone is wrong sometimes.
It is okay to not know things. It is inevitable. No one knows everything.
It is okay to be me, even if I stick out a mile and everyone thinks I’m weird and I do everything all wrong (which I don’t and they don’t, anyway, but if so it would still be okay). It is okay to be exactly how I am. No matter where or in what company.
Just relax and stay with it. I am okay.
Ack! That sounds like me:)….Okay….deep breath. Just relax and stay with it. You are definitely okay.
Re open mic: your call. You can probably use that time to better advantage while you are traveling, Just keep posting! Loving your adventures and observations.
Thank you for the Open Mic feedback, Sherry, and the mutual deep breaths. 🙂 I’m glad to have your support as always!
Maybe it’s not good to use the word “wrong” in a lot of those cases when you feel awkward. Maybe the feelings of being different are apparent to you since you are in a place that is very similar to home in many ways. But it isn’t home and the culture is different. When you go somewhere “more scary”, there will be too many differences that you don’t have to even worry about people thinking you might be different because immediately in their eyes you will be different. You’ll be the tourist. Everything you do, will be a curiosity to them and you won’t be “wrong to them, just different. I’m not sure I’m making my point very well. I guess the best I can say is it’s like when I go to china or even Chinatown. I feel comfortable to some degree because it looks like I could fit in and I know the culture to some degree. But ultimately, I end up feeling very unsettled because I can’t live up to the pectations that I believe people have of me – to know the finer details and nuances of truly belonging there. That goes away when you travel somewhere totally different. I had no problems in Peru, for instance. Because everyone call tell right away that I do not belong. But the thing is, probably in China, everyone can tell I’m an out of towner anyway, but my brain fools me into thinking that maybe I could blend in. Basically what I’m rambling about is… don’t think about it too much. You’re not wrong, you’re just not from there.
It’s true — there could be comfort from sticking out really blatantly as we will in other places (like maybe Scotland? I don’t know!). It’s weird; I liked being in Asia (and I like being in Chinatowns when traveling) because I like the possibility of fitting in. The expectations don’t bother me that much. But I think that’s because I know enough bits of Chinese and our various dialects to feel comfortable.
Anyway, I keep forgetting we’ve only been on the road for three weeks. ;b No doubt everything will change a lot as we keep on.
I hope your travels help you see and shift and grow as much as possible. The only way to see yourself is to get outside comfort. I’m glad you’re taking the opportunity to see.
One thing that takes the sting out of self-consciousness for me is to think that this–whatever is happening– might make a good story. When I think this, I feel less worried and more interested to see the story.
Thank you, Anna! It’s true; the outside-comfort place is a good place (and maybe the only place) to grow. I think there always needs to be a balance, though: too much discomfort and I withdraw completely. But we’re not nearly there yet. 😉
The good story thing helps me too.
This feels a bit like my manifesto a few days ago. I feel I am in good company. Learning to be all of ourselves, wrong or right, is what it’s all about. Thanks for making me feel I’m not on this bandwagon alone. 😀
Thank YOU for making ME feel like I’m not alone. 🙂 You always do that for me. You’re a wonderful psychic traveling companion. 😉
Thank you too for the Open Mic feedback. And congrats to you and Rita!!!! So exciting! 😀 😀 😀 Can’t wait to hear about your VONA experiences this year.
btw, re the Open Mic. I will miss it but I totally understand. Do you! Btw 2, Rita and I both got into VONA. I will miss you this summer!
You are better than okay, woman! You are beautiFULLy you! Bring your full self to whatever it is you do, wherever you are! Of course, you know this. Most of us do; however, there is always that seed of self-doubt that creeps up when we feel like we’re on display, especially in new places, where others don’t know us personally. ‘Tis natural! Expressing this “conflict”, dichotomy, or whatever we want to call it, explains half of it; the other half, I believe, is addressed by understanding that no one is really judging us, that we’re sometimes harder on ourselves than we need to be. I know this is true for me.
Thanks for the reminder, Lisa. I’m in great company. 🙂
Thank you, Empress!! I’ve been thinking this over again, and have realized that the only way I’m going to really live this experience is if I let go of all the filters that protect me from the fullness of it. Filters = censoring my behavior in public, not trying things that scare me, not talking to strangers. Better to just act boldly and go forth, and stay with it when things get uncomfortable, because that’s where the richness is.
Love to you. 🙂
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