Thoughts on: Identity and Reputation
If I’m going to honest I had no idea what to write about this week. I’ve been feeling so uninspired I couldn’t even come up with a make up look which I wanted to do since I have more time because I am on spring break.
For awhile I thought about talking about mental illness because some people don’t believe it is real which is so frustrating. Only because it’s something you can’t see with your own eyes doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I’ve had my own experience with it growing up and I know that people are going to claim “I haven’t seen anything yet” and that “ I’m too young to be depressed about life”. Depression has no age nor does anxiety or any other mental illness. Stop trying to put what mental illness should look like in a little box. A person can be smiling but that doesn't mean they are genuinely happy. People put on mask everyday because they don't want others to see the dark parts of them, especially with mental health still being such a taboo subject. Even with it growing more awareness, people tend to still think everyone who is depressed are faking it, people who are suicidal are selfish attention seekers etc. I want to make this very clear: Everyone has their own level of pain and it doesn’t make anyone feel better when they hear “people have it worse than you” because people who feel depressed or actually are suicidal feel so bad knowing there are people out there who are fighting to live as long as possible. I know because I used to be one of those people but I’m better now. I’m still improving but from the place I was, I’m much better. When I do these type of blogs I like to share my experience but I couldn’t bring myself to talk about that part of me.
To share my whole past is to be vulnerable and I’m not quite ready for that to happen yet.
Maybe when I’m older, in a better place and feeling stronger than I ever did but not now when I’m still going through it which is why I am writing about Identity and reputation today instead. The day I talk about mental health in my blog is the day I feel healed completely but until then I’m still growing and finding my identity.
Before I go back to the topic, I just want to say if you knows someone that is suffering from mental illness please just be there for them in the healthiest way possible... they are already fighting with themselves so please don’t be added to the list of battles. For the people going through something, it may feel lonely but you are not alone. Many people have gone through what you are going through and please accept help and support from the people who care about you because there are people who care whether you see it or not.
Sorry for the extremely long introduction but I felt like it was important to add because of all the tweets I've been seeing about mental health from other bloggers. Considering mental health, identity and reputation are all connected, I thought it would be healthy to acknowledge it as well.
So like always when it comes to these opinionated blogs I am going to break it up into sections: what inspired this blog, my personal experience with the development of my own identity and the impacts my reputation had on it, and the biggest lesson I learned from my past.
My inspirations- Examples in literature
Unlike most seniors in high school, I actually read the books assigned to us. The last novel and the book I am currently reading made me think in depth about these topics.
I'm going to start with the one that made me want to write about reputation. About a month or two ago, my college literature teacher made groups for Shakespeare novels and I got Othello. I was disappointed at first because I really wanted Taming of the Shrew because I love the adaption of it in a movie called 10 things I hate about you. Personally, I'm not a fan of Shakespeare because the dialect of old english, so reading the book was tedious for me. However within the reading, the way they spoke about reputation and how it was portrayed was like a hidden gem and it sparked my interest.
The most memorable line for me was this:
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash. 'Tis something, nothing:
'Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
(act 3 scene 3)
My interpretation of this quote is that a reputation is the most valuable possession a person owns. When someone attempts to destroy another person's reputation, the person doesn't have anything to gain from it but the person who is being destroyed has lost everything.
That line spoke to me because when someone spreads a rumor, they aren't gaining anything such as money or anything that has a price but the person who the rumor is about loses credibility, trust and respect which makes it harder for them to even have influence and become successful. I had my fair share of rumors spread about me and honestly because of how people acted towards me it affect my own identity by making me soft spoken, causing me to have trust issues and for the most part be alone because it just felt safer. I am going to talk about it more in the next section but before I go on to the next novel I want to add even if you don't like Shakespeare, I would suggest to still read it to expand your mind. You never know what you'll find enjoyable.
The book that I am currently reading is called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and it is written by Junot Diaz. The story follows Oscar Wao but the narrative changes between Oscar, his sister Lola, his mom Beli and Junior who is a character based on the author. The format of the novel is different than anything I read but I still haven't developed a full opinion on the it. All I have to say about it as of now, I feel like the book is relatable in sense culture can have a huge impact on a person identity. Identity is a common theme in this and you see it with Oscar as he wants to change himself to fit in because he is not the stereotypical Dominican male . So you see Oscar struggling with his identity which as a teenager soon to be young adult, I understand which is why I think my teacher gave us this novel.
I believe she wanted us to see how things such as body image, cultural beliefs, societal expectations etc. can influence who you are. Your identity and the actions you chose to do impacts reputation which plays a significant role in mental health.
My personal experience
Since novels inspired me I am going to talk about a time where most people's identities change: Middle school.
Prior to middle school, I was a quiet child, had about 3 close friends but still was open to socializing. Out of my three friend, I only had one who went to the same school as me but in 6th grade she wanted to meet new people and stopped talking to me all together so I was forced to sought out new friends which was difficult since most students went to the same school. Anyone who I went to elementary school with was in a different cohort than me and what was even more difficult was adjusting to the environment. My elementary school wasn't ethnically diverse and most students who went there were the same ethnicity as me or hispanic.
My identity was always different than what most people expected a black girls to be. I was not loud, I didn't use slang often, I hated sports but I wasn't into make up at the time, I loved reading, writing, drawing, shopping, cartoons, fan fictions and most of my friends were on a computer screen.
I always was different and always felt that way.
So it didn't help going to a school where I became the minority. Even though, black people are a minority percentage wise in America as a kid you don't notice those things until you're put in position where you're the darkest people in the room, where your natural hair is called unprofessional, where you are made fun of for wearing braids which some kids refer to as "yarn hair" ... I could go on but I won't. I always been so soft spoken about those things revolving my ethnicity because voicing my opinion would just give in to what the world expects from a black girl: to be loud, to have an attitude, to be aggressive.
Middle school and even now in my final year of high school because I've been with the same people for at least 7 years, there still isn't a place where I feel like I truly fit in. I have friends and I adore them with all my heart but the reality is the people I am closest to right now were new to school (with the exception of one) and I only knew them for 4 years. Everyone else who are my friends but don't even talk to me outside of school are people who knew me longer.
It's so sad that the people I knew for the majority of my life outcasted me and I love my friends that I have now more than anything but at times I can't help to wonder if they came sooner like during middle school: " would they had outcasted me too?".
My reputation from middle school was tarnished all because I had feeling for a boy of another race. At the time, I really did like him. I found him fascinating just because how outgoing he was and all the stories he would share with the class. However, as I matured and fell in love for the very first time in my life, looking back at the situation I loved the idea of him but not him as a person. I liked the storyline of the popular, outgoing white surfer boy going against the norm and being with the nerdy, shy anti social black girl.
When I think back to those times, I can't find a justifiable reason that I liked him. In fact out of all the crushes he was probably the worse because not only did he not even get to know me even as a friend, once I confirmed my crush on him while we were in a different school because hurricane sandy flooded my school (such a great way to start middle school shall I add, we were out of that building for 3 months until repairs were complete) rumors spread like a wildfire and all of sudden I'm just the crazy stalker girl.
Having a label like that on you while you are just starting to grow up is just so overwhelming and it led to a lot of self hatred. I remember the questions I used to ask myself:
What did I do to make people hate me so much?
Am I really that fat?
How do I become prettier?
What if no will ever care about me?
Then having thoughts like :
What if I just change everything about myself
I want to just disappear, not like anyone would notice
6th grade was the first time I even experienced anxiety. I threw up every morning but I wasn't forcing myself to, it just happened every time I woke up on a week day. This made me avoid breakfast because I was afraid to throw up again. Also I remember not eating lunch, I usually just stared at it and then threw it away (which I know is bad considering there were millions of people in poverty and starving, but I was an insecure preteen who hated the way she looked so bare with me). Eventually I stopped bringing lunch all together because when my mom realized I wasn't eating the food, she stopped packing it. Instead of packing my lunch like she used to she gave me money because she knew I wouldn't waste it and she became more observant to me eating dinner. Most times dinner was the only meal I ate unless I was too tired from school and just came home and slept. My mom was really concerned about it but wasn't aware of the road I was on because she grew up on an Island and came to America at 16 years old. Eating disorders and other mental health issues weren't talked about.
I remember some days not going to lunch because the period before I would be called into the guidance office. The guidance counselor at the time was so friendly and always checked on me because I had adjustment problems with changes and it was very difficult for me to make friends. I had a few but the friendship but they ended by the summer of 7th grade but that's a different story for a different day. On top of that I got bullied a lot especially online, a girl literally told me I was so dirty that is why my skin is so dark and that I should die in a hole.
The rumors had such a bad influence on me because it not only affected how people saw me but how I saw myself. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I just cried because I was trapped in a person I didn't want to be because all I could've saw was the labels other people me and it just felt like I was in a war couldn't win.
My Greatest lesson
The thing I want people to take from my story is you shouldn't let your reputation impact who you are. At the end of the day the only person who has to live with you is you. Be the person who makes you feel proud and fulfilled, do so very unapologetically. As long as you aren't harming anyone, it is alright to be who you are.
No matter what you do people will always have something to say, you can't please everyone nor control anyone. The only person who you are responsible for is you so my best advice to you, whether you are a teen or an adult: take risk, don't be afraid to show your true colors, allow yourself to feel, to experience until you can you say "I'm happy where I am" and don't settle for anything less.
My past was hard in the sense I’ve been through a lot of battles , not only with people around me but with myself. However the bad is what made me stronger, what made me want to spread kindness and what made me look for signs within people’s behavior because no one deserves to feel the way I did.
I don’t remember the past to stay there , I remember it to show how far I came and how much I want to keep growing till I become the person I’m happiest being.
Well that is it for today's blog!
I know it is very long but I really hope you enjoyed it. It made me emotional to write so please share with friends and family and spread awareness on issues such as mental illnesses, self harm, cyber bullying etc. these things to be talked about to prevent the same issues in the next generation. Don't forget to read previous blogs as well.
Until next time,
xoxo Lay 💋