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Who Are You Allowed To Be?

Who Are You Allowed To Be?

It doesn’t get any more personal than your own identity.

However, who we are is shaped by many factors, most especially our genetic material and our environments. How much of who you are is simply the consequence of who you have been allowed to be?

From the moment of your arrival, the people around you will have treated you in particular ways. You will have learned about what it means to be a person of your gender (or assumed gender). You’ll know what it means to be part of your religion, or not a religious person depending on what your parents believe. You’ll learn the implications of your race, class, abilities, disabilities, and all of this starts to shape you long before you’ve any scope to think about it.

Families pass down stories. Families that have been subject to trauma often pass down the trauma. Ancestral wounding can continue between generations when people don’t know that these cycles exist, much less how to break out of them. If you’ve grown up being taught to feel ashamed of yourself, that’s going to impact on your sense of self.

Don’t get too big for your boots. Don’t get ideas about your station. It’s not for the likes of us. It was good enough for me so it’s good enough for you. Do you think you’re better than us? 

Some of this is meant to be protective. Disadvantaged parents may try to shield their children by giving them what seem to be realistic expectations of life. All too easily that can turn into a feeling that you don’t deserve nice things and it isn’t worth trying. Disadvantaged communities may try to protect their own by refusing to go along with anything they associate with their oppressors. There are no tidy answers here.

It is all too easy to absorb what’s in your environment and let it be who you are. This is a significant feature in domestic abuse, where the victim absorbs messages of fault, uselessness and their own responsibility for what’s happening to them. When your abuser gets to define who you are, it is hard to think that you could have a good or happy life. There’s no point escaping if you think you are the problem.

We are shockingly easy to persuade. If you’ve not had someone rob you of your sense of self, it may seem to you that only a week or foolish person would let that happen. Human minds are malleable and we respond to what’s in our environments. You can take a person apart with a steady stream of tiny cruelties – little put downs, little acts of mockery and derision, droplets of criticism and regular blame, and the person won’t see it happening or notice how much harm it causes. Day by day, the old sense of self is replaced by feelings of incompetence, and of deserving the constant small blows. 

Humans are social creatures. Our sense of identity is very much informed by how other people treat us. If you’re used to being treated like you’re a problem, then you’ll have a hard time imagining that you aren’t one. Equally, if something like having a lot of money means you get treated like you’re clever and important, if your ego is boosted at every turn you can end up with an inflated sense of your own worth. This is in no small part how we come to have such incompetent people in governments.

Onwards!

Credit

druid life

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
Credit: druidlife.wordpress.com
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