This is me.

Photo credit: Lara Cornell (Instagram @laracornell)

Giving a description of who are as a person seems to be a somewhat difficult subject for some. That, at least, seems to be the rather unoriginal point that begins most of the writing on this topic. Myself included. Describing oneself asks a lot of questions. Likely because it’s difficult to know where to begin, or even to know what is it that makes us: us. Many others have chosen to start with something along the lines “Hi — my name is Nicola, I’m 22 and I’m a student living in Canterbury.” But what does our name, age, occupation and location really say about us?

Throughout our life span, our cells will have been replaced many times over and will have gone through all kinds of experiences — much like ourselves. Which brings me to my next question: is it our experiences and influences that define us? Well, we carry the same name and body for the entirety of our lives and consider ourselves a relatively stable unitary entity, but is it right to call ourselves the same person throughout a lifetime? Will I be the same person today, as I will be in a years time? Probably not: I am different to the person I was a year ago. One thing is sure: we change, grow and adapt, physically and emotionally. So, once again, self-reflection begs the question: what is the essence of us?

Really, it comes down to our own representation of personal identity; the light and dark in which we see ourselves. Looking at the issue of personal identity from this philosophical perspective makes things a little trickier. It asks questions about who we really are; beyond the pressure and constraints of that which is external to our inner-self. Stripping away the physical, allows for speculation on the emotional and I would argue that it is this that is far more telling than anything else. Yes — I do agree that we are all products of our physical experiences and influences — that is exactly my point. I believe it is how those things make us feel that determine the character we choose to assemble for ourselves.

But, for me, here comes the main battle — I have established that we are ever changing and that we alone truly decide who we are… However, I would argue that we are restricted by self-doubt. I believe that self-doubt is born from the unrelenting and underlying pressure that is imposed upon us by society and its exploitation of our insecurities. I was given this title as part of a ‘Writing In the Media’ module and the first time I read it through, I thought how am I going to write a thousand words about myself? Even the title itself was presented to us as a challenge. The title makes us look at ourselves and that is not something I feel entirely comfortable doing and sharing publically. And it seems I am not alone. Why is that?

There is a sense of undeniable insecurity surrounding this topic. Why is it that some of us can list a million things wrong with ourselves; our lack of ability and achievement — at the drop of a hat — but we find it so difficult to give ourselves praise where it is due? Ironically, even the title itself questions my security as writer. Would I be judged by you, the reader, if I were to write an entire essay singing my own praises? And if so, what is wrong with loving oneself? Is it a crime to find your place in this world as an individual, and cherish that individuality? You are you and that is your gift. Are we all programmed to find each others flaws, or is that something that society has engrained in us? I would argue it is the latter.

I asked my very best friend and closest confidant to describe me in five words. She chose:

· Vibrant

· Giving

· Worldly

· Empathetic

· Kind

Those are not qualities I would immediately value in myself, but I do recognise them to be true. When I asked myself the same question, I immediately chose qualities that, although were true, were more valuable to society. Why is being diligent worth more to me, and to society, than being kind? To me that highlights a real sickness in our society and the way it drips poison into the way we perceive ourselves. We are not robots, we are individuals but our society legitimises the pressures we face to be a perfect version of ourselves, be it through marketing, politics, unrealistic expectations of the body.

In the darker corners of my mind I considered the more vulnerable qualities that are often highlighted to me by others: “You always have something to say” I can hear a few friends joke. However, there comes a time when conversation is flowing, and I get the distinct impression that the person with whom I am conversing feels a sense of conscious detachment from me; an unwilling. On more than a few occasions I’ve had friends and family tell me that I hold things very close to my chest. I don’t like to talk about things concerning myself, but I’m always the first to offer kind words to someone when they trust in me and talk through their own issues.

This has been offered as both a great compliment and the harshest of my criticisms.

Which is why this was always going to be a rather difficult topic for me to talk about. For some, this essay will seem rather deflective and un-telling of whom I am, but that is how I often feel when a light is shined on me — deflective. Not because I am scared or unaccepting of who I am, but because how I perceive myself should be something I should be able to decide for myself, without judgement, or fear of judgement from others. Therefore, almost immediately this essay made me ask why I feel that way. It is because society casts a blanket of judgement on all of those who don’t conform to an idealised model of what it thinks we should be. I feel judged in a way that is not aimed at me personally, but feels personal to me. I think that is how a lot of us feel everyday as a result of a force that is unapologetically trying to define us. What really matters is that we know inwardly who we are and we learn to love ourselves for those ‘me-ish’ qualities.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, this title makes me question how I immediately feel when asked to write about myself and why that is. And to ask you as the reader to do the same. It’s a challenge that we all face, whether consciously or not, everyday. For we are ever changing and with that our perception of ourselves is ever changing alongside so many societal expectations that question us. Would it not be a healthier happier world if everyone was asked to ponder, who am I? And be able to confidently and concisely state: This is me.