Warning: Naughty language ahead!
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~ Alan Watts
I could call myself a sensitive soul.
An empath who struggles daily to stay afloat in an overwhelming sea of frothy feelings. A shy introvert who is occasionally, wildly, uproariously extroverted. And, hell, maybe that’s all true.
But, is it the whole picture?
I’m not so sure.
I think it’s just a single snapshot in an entire roll of film: one tiny frame in a beautifully confusing movie.
But, before we dive into these deep and murky waters, let’s reverse about a hundred steps, because there’s so much more to this story.
For the past few years, I’ve cherished certain labels in the same way I cherish a cup of hot tea on a crisp, slightly sunny Autumn day. Yay, I’m an empath! Yay, I’m an introvert! It was exciting; it warmed my insides. With every description I read, I felt unbelievably comforted. Loneliness loosened its clawing grip around my soul, and I began to connect with some amazingly supportive and like-minded individuals who I absolutely adore.
But, see, the story doesn’t end there; at least, I don’t want it to.
Because right now, in this precious moment, I see something not-so-pretty:
I see how calling myself an empath/sensitive soul/introvert can be a clever way to trick myself into thinking I’m being self-aware, when I’m actually just being lazy. Instead of being fully here, painfully present, and curious about my life, I can just chuckle and pin my behaviors to sensitivity or introversion. “Oh, that’s just me bein’ introverted!”
What about my experience, my real experience?
What does it really, truthfully, taste like?
Because maybe what I call my “cute little introversion” or “sweet sensitivity” is sometimes just me being a cranky, stubborn bitch.
I want to be wide open to seeing that.
If we really desire to explore ourselves, then we have to bear witness to the fucked up parts just as much as lovely, smiling parts. There is always more to the story; there is always a bigger picture—let us not lose sight of that.
I fear that these labels we eagerly stick onto our skin can turn into sparkly excuses to avoid looking any deeper. Pretty masks we put on to avoid grounding ourselves in life. Shiny badges of honor worn by devious parts of ourselves that scare the shit out of us.
No matter how much we identify with a certain label, will it ever truly capture who we are?
I’m not so sure.
We are all complex, messy, wildly imperfect human beings.
We are shadows and light, stardust and terror, beauty and pain, love and loss, sweaty tears and raw goosebumps. We are constantly changing kaleidoscopes of memories, mistakes, failures and smiling moments.
We are spirit.
We are soul.
What if, for one second, we stripped away our labels, like itchy layers of clothing, and looked a little deeper?
What if we laid our souls bare, closed our eyes and explored ourselves—with flashlights made of brutal honesty?
What if we asked ourselves a wildly powerful question:
Who am I, really?
Behind the labels. Below the surface. Underneath personality and preference.
Breathe in it. Ask it often.
That little question packs a punch; it can shake up our world and sprinkle some crumbs of curiosity into our hearts.
But, the delicious answer to who we are—-I don’t believe it can found in a beautiful definition we come across on the internet, at 2.am., in a moment of profound panic. I don’t believe it can be found easily, at all. Maybe it can only be slowly discovered by exploring ourselves deeply, by peeling back our layers and gettin’ down and dirty with our demons: our darkness; our light; our succulent truths.
Let’s not grow so attached to who we think we are, who we desperately wish to be, that we become blind to who we really are.
There is sun-streaked beauty and juicy darkness inside—can we be brave enough to taste it all?
It’s scrumptious and terrifying, but every drop is worth exploring.
At the end of the day, I say hell yeah, let’s embrace the descriptions we’ve adorned ourselves with. But, let them limit us? That seems tragic. Let’s be wide open to discovering more, exploring deeper, and seeing past what we thought we knew.
Because the labels we’ve given ourselves aren’t the end of our story.
They are just the beginning.
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Caroline Beaton