How to Overcome an Identity Crisis

Does How You Appear on the Outside Really Matter?

I just turned 42; and for the first time in my life I have decided to try a different approach to my exterior. Yes, I have started to “tone it down” a little. I have dyed my hair back to black and I have actually bought myself some “business attire.” No, I did not buy suits, or something that wouldn’t be me at all. I just merely added a couple pairs of nice pants, some nice tops, instead of t-shirts and a couple pairs of nice shoes. Nothing really prompted all of this, except that I now have different aspirations than the ones I had a mere 5 years ago and felt they required a little bit more of a subtle approach; at least until I have fully established myself.

I always and forever fought that people would judge me by my exterior. I wanted to prove that people who look different can still be, and do all the things the khaki sporting overlords could 😉 But the problem is that nothing I said or ever did changed the fact that everyone was going to “judge” me on first impression; and a first impression cannot be changed. I had such a loud way of appearing at times that it actually was pretty impossible to see who was behind all the stuff. My initial entrance usually caused stares (not the good ones) and shock value; as well as the literal thought “what is she doing here?”

Over the years I climbed the ladder anyway; but largely due to the fact that I worked in a company where people knew me and had long gotten over my funky outfits. Granted, I never dressed inappropriate; all of my body parts were sufficiently covered, no see-through, low cut or otherwise risqué attire was ever sported, but nevertheless, people who didn’t know me would often not make it past the initial shock. Unfortunately, this often hurt me more than it helped.

What really made me think was when someone at work recently asked me if all my friends were as colorful and eccentric as I was. I laughed and responded that all my friends are very normal looking; no crazy tattoos, hair colors or “gothic” attire. The same person was surprised and asked me why I don’t have friends that look like me, and before I could even think, I blurted out “Because they are losers!”

I felt like a douche saying it, but my experiences with any type of extreme groups had been more than appalling. The drama, the passive aggressive, talking-behind-your-back BS and their total inability to function “normally” for any extended period of time had been nothing but a disappointment to me. That none of them really functioned unless they were drunk or high didn’t help things either, when I had never been a drinker or drug user. Turns out, the same thought that came flying out of my mouth was probably the exact same thing a lot of people thought when they initially met me. After all, my exterior never once matched my interior. I was crazy on the outside, and extremely conservative and predictable on the inside.

What prompted me to start dressing like this to begin with? Well, like a lot of the “subculture” people I encountered, I had it pretty rough growing up, so a flamboyant, in-your-face exterior not only kept people at arm’s length, but also worked as an attention getter. Having been ignored most of the time when I grew up, while watching the popular girls get whatever they wanted, even though they were dumber than a bag of rocks at times, made me swear that I would never look like them. I did not want to be a pretty girl; or to say it in Tori Amos’ way, I never was a cornflake girl, but definitely a raisin girl. And after all, any attention was better than being the mousy, ignored, quiet thing I was before then.

Maybe now I feel I don’t have to hide anymore? Maybe now I feel I don’t need to be in your face, but have interesting enough things to say and do, so I no longer need an outrageous get up to support that I am different. Maybe now I feel that I am unique without shocking anyone into seeing it. And maybe now I know that first impressions count for a lot and I have a lot of goals and aspirations that require being seen for what I have to offer on an intellectual, spiritual and emotional level.

I guess it’s kind of like always yelling. When you always scream your point, no one hears you. But when you can share your point in a calm and collected way, people tend to listen, even if they don’t always agree with you.

I feel I have things to say now, versus having to prove or make a point in order to convince anyone. I want to help others and want to draw those who truly need and want my help. I don’t want to draw drama queens, victims or severely broken people who don’t want to hear, learn or grow, but merely require an opinion poll and enablers to validate their ongoing denial and BS.

It is difficult for me. There is still a small voice who wonders if I will disappear if I finally start looking the part of who I truly am. What if I don’t know who I am and what if? Alas, I don’t do happy mediums too well, but tend to happily swing in between extremes. And maybe now it’s time to celebrate my newfound freedom and happiness, and drop the shackles of trying to prove the wrong thing, to the wrong people, for the wrong reasons! And when I reach that point, I can still occasionally sport an Emily-the-Strange shirt and some pirate pants without feeling strangely inappropriate and not quite right.

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5 thoughts on “How to Overcome an Identity Crisis

  1. Rickey, Midpines,Ca.

    good article carmen,
    It seem to me there was no body home to guide you,growing up. Nobody to tell you it does make a differents how we dress and what kind of people we attract by our attitude,and how we talk, you never did out grow your teen-age years until now. Well its never to late to get it right,good for you to make a change for the better, the best of luck to you.

    Rickey

    Reply
  2. Kiley

    Thanks for sharing your story. We never stop growing & learning. I wish you all the best & I believe you will do well in your future. Stay true to yourself but always make your experiences a positive one, even though life can be tough at times & does throw us lots of curve balls. You sound like you can handle those times now & in the future. Best wishes!

    Reply
  3. gsdmom

    Great article Carmen!

    It’s only when we can show and be our true selves that we really shine. There’s a freedom that comes with saying this is me, I’m OK with it, and I have nothing to prove to be “worthy”. You will attract exactly the right people to help because you are shining through.

    Isn’t it great to reach that understanding? Being in my later forties, I can relate. I have been on the journey to allow myself to simply be me. We all have value no matter what our live circumstances have instilled in us previously.

    Rock on Carmen

    Reply
  4. Jesi

    I used to dress in a somewhat provacative manner and got tired of the superficial male attention. I still get it but I dont need to have it or look for it by dressing a certain way. Eventually I’ll be older and wont have that “validation” so I decided to get used to not wanting it. It feels better and more authentic…

    Reply
  5. Chrissi Matusevics

    I did things the other way round, always dressing to please either my parents or whichever guy I was going out with sometimes I hated what I wore but maybe someone had bought it for me, so I felt I shouldn’t throw their gift out even if it made me look awful when I wore it. I didn’t succeed in life, although I conformed, even as far as taking on jobs my dad thought I should and he always thought I was a loser anyway, that I never used my brains, especially when I married my second hubby, who didn’t even have a career he approved of,being a barman, and when we had my son as far as he was concerned, he wouldn’t be much either. Well my son is now at Uni, the first in our immediate family, so we can’t be all wrong, but, we always said he should be himself,and do the best he can, and he has, dad still doesn’t approve of how he looks but then he isn’t the one going to university and I’m now trying to actually find who I am..

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