I still don't know why I attended my 10-year high school reunion. No one really knew me back then - I was quiet, kept to myself in the back of the room, trying to be invisible but desperately wanting someone to see me. It's not like they were suddenly going to know me a decade later. In fact, at the reunion, my peers couldn't place me until I noted, "I was the girl who wore skirts all the time." The evening was only made worse when our table of my former classmates was sure they'd been in classes with my husband - because he seemed familiar. We didn't stay long.
To only be remembered because of what I wore during high school shined a light into my psyche. It's no wonder I've struggled to be myself. If I didn't even have the option to choose what I wore for half my life, what else have I not actually chosen for myself?
I thought changing the outside would "fix" it.
Looking at photos of myself in my early twenties, I can tell you exactly who I was spending my time with. I looked to my friends to dress me up and show me how to be. It's not a surprise most of those friendships fell apart. Copycatting distracted me from discovering my identity and accepting my true self. The change needed to start within but I wasn't sure where to start.
Conformity had become my safety net. I didn't want to do what everyone else was doing for the sake of having something to do. And yet, that was the only way I knew to operate. Religion taught me that being the same was good, and different was bad. But I knew I was different, and I was tired of feeling bad about it.
Being able to choose is a freedom I didn't begin taking full advantage of until my thirties. I run myself through exercises now, making lists in columns: Belief/Origination/Choice. Is this my thought? If not, whose is it? Where did it come from? Do I want to keep it? Or do I want to change it? I've been shocked at the subtle ways I've accepted someone else's beliefs. I've taken their word for it; their values, ideals, even their style. I've done it my entire life. So I've committed myself to an ongoing practice of assessing my beliefs.
I've changed my mind about my ability to choose.
Leaving the church - the constant inputting of information I wasn't sure I wanted - allowed me the break I needed from a religion I never chose for myself. Now, I decide my beliefs and the language I adopt and the methods that work for me, from what I wear to whether or not I like the taste of something. I change as I uncover more information, or just because I want to.
Over the next month, I'll be sharing 31 ways I've changed my mind for the Write 31 Days challenge. I won't be surprised if, at the end of it, I've changed my mind again about some of these things. It's an active process and I'm a willing participant.