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How Do You Stay Yourself? Sunday morning #Thoughts

As a writer, I do leave parts of myself in front of the public in general– sometimes concealed or disguised in fiction, at others on this blog or on the Facebook page— anyone who trawls through this 7-year old blog would know me, to an extent. It is hard to stay myself, yet be private when the blog is so public. It is hard to be a writer, and not rant on any of my social platforms on one of the bad writing days. The following post by Jamie Lee Wallace examines the challenges of being authentically ourselves. It is long, but well worth the read. She raises important questions: How is it possible to be yourself all the time, when your selves, your roles in life are disparate or fragmented? What if you’re a businessperson but also an artist? A doctor, but also a dancer? What about you– how do you express yourself? How do you stay yourself in the face of people’s expectations from you?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • That’s an interesting thought… I think to a degree you do have to put on a few different faces or hats, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. You can be yourself, but show off different aspects to yourself. I think if you’re in a profession where you need to protect yourself (eg doctor or business person) but you want to write about controversial things, maybe a fake name is the best way for you to feel free to write what you want to write! Thanks for the post!

    • Damyanti says:

      “You can be yourself, but show off different aspects to yourself.”

      This often a challenge, and different people handle it in different ways. Thank you for your response.

  • Kalpanaa says:

    You and Jamie have raised some very pertinent questions.

  • rialaa says:

    I nominate you for the Blogger Recognition Award !!! Really enjoy your posts πŸ™‚

  • Sonia Lal says:

    It’s not easy.

  • naushilmehta says:

    Thanks for liking my post. Your blog is an amazing place to be at to grasp some great readings.

  • How do I stay myself when people want someone else in place of me? I don’t belong anywhere. My wavelength isn’t the same as anybody. How do I be content in myself?

  • I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and I do share a lot of my past in my writing. I think all writers do, how can you keep from it? I’m not comfortable on FB, unless it’s sharing my work. As for sharing me, I’m not sure people are really interested, I find myself a tad boring. πŸ™‚
    Yes, we do play different roles, it’s all part of life but as long as we are authentic in each of those rolls, I think it’s all good.

  • Suddenly Jamie (@suddenlyjamie) says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Damyanti. You have a lovely and vibrant community here. I’m delighted to be included in the conversation.

    I can relate to your blogging experience – having so much of my personal life “out there” (I actually started blogging publishing a series of posts on a mom blog about my divorce), but still feeling like there are some pieces and parts that need to be kept private. The Internet has brought writers so many new opportunities, but those opportunities come with an increasingly complex set of personal and professional questions. I sometimes feel badly for young writers just starting out in this environment, although maybe they are better equipped to navigate these waters.

    The two-way dialog that exists in the digital space means that we have to be even stronger when it comes to knowing who we are and protecting that against both the malicious and the unintentional attacks readers. It’s definitely more pressure than the “old days,” but I wonder if it isn’t also an asset in that it forces us to get clear about what we are really saying much faster.

    I could ramble, but I won’t. Thanks again for sharing. Nice to “meet” you!

  • mdellert says:

    Sometimes I think the blogosphere is reading my thoughts. (More’s the pity for you if you are; I wouldn’t live in here if I didn’t have to!) Just yesterday, I was discussing with a friend some of the themes in my own creative work, and I was explaining about how the struggle to maintain one’s own “authenticity” against the external pressures of family and culture is a core issue in my work. It’s a particularly poignant issue for me as a writer. In the recent #tenthingsnottosaytoawriter thread, one of the most popular laments was “Oh, you’re a writer? So what’s your *real* job?” or some variation thereof. It’s forever frustrating that people don’t think writing *is* a real job. No one ever says that to a dentist, or an insurance adjustor. From now on, my reply is going to be, “If writing were easy, they’d call it professional football.” But this is one example of how cultural expectations and personal authenticity come into conflict. It takes courage and depth of character to stand for who one is.

    • Recniky says:

      I appreciate your post and relate. I’m going through chemo (2years steady now) and had to ‘retire’ as a professor and ESL Coordinator and am now writing a non-fiction book. I think I struggle more with seeing myself as having an occupation as a writer. My family does (totally wonderful!) – but I’ve heard those negative comments you shared so often I need to rethink things myself and take back my own power.

      Thank you!

      • mdellert says:

        “No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission.” – Eleanor Roosevelt. If you have the courage to face chemo, you’re light-years ahead of the herd. Don’t listen to them when they complain you’re getting ahead of them. They’re too scared to move any faster, and you’re too far ahead to slow down now. πŸ˜‰

  • pjlazos says:

    Since the whole point of life is to know yourself – “I am that I am” – it’s the process of evolution,, the striving not the end result of what we call ourselves that counts. Even though I’m not good at math, I read books on physics because I want to understand. I may never climb Mt Everest, but will look for other ways to appreciate the view. For me, life is a series of infinite upward spirals so it doesn’t matter what you call it. You’ll be back around for another look again sometime soon!?

    • Recniky says:

      I love your comment that “I may never climb Mt Everest, but will look for other ways to appreciate the view”! Such a positive outlook.

      I also like your use of the word ‘striving.’ We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s the journey, not the destination,” but striving fits so much better. If we just move through our lives -without this striving- we will miss out on so much, like your motivation to learn about physics.

      Thank you!

  • latawonders18 says:

    The only conversation that matters is the one you have with yourself in your head. Only that truly defines you. Though admittedly, the voices of people telling you who you are do intrude raising doubts. Are we anyway one person? We morph depending on our needs and the stage of evolution we are at, isn’t it so?

    • Damyanti says:

      the voices of people telling you who you are do intrude raising doubts.

      So true, and so discomfiting. I always second guess myself once I get criticized. I’m beginning to train myself to remain calm and take feedback for myself just the way I take it for my fiction!

  • Gonna read it, Damyanti. I think we put different face in public, at work or the private front among friends. As humans, we have a tendency to protect our vulnerable sense. But, at the same time, trying to be someone else is no good for we don’t live a real life.

    • Damyanti says:

      I try to remain the same self in front of all– which involves a lot of trying to better and calm myself. That way I don’t have to curb or curtail myself at more public venues. Win-win all around! Really hard to do though and I can’t say I’ve had (much) success.

  • Denise Covey says:

    I guess blogging is like growing up in public. We do metamorphise as time goes on and we are influenced by so many aspects of life, both on and offline. I don’t like to overshare, but some are happy doing so. πŸ™‚

    • Damyanti says:

      I do think private life and public persona ought to be kept separate– but public persona should be authentic, and stem from the private self. πŸ™‚

  • twainausten says:

    Good question. Brene Brown shares well in Daring Greatly that vulnerability is simply required to live fully. I do it ‘because’ its the richest life I can live.

  • Each of us is gifted with personality. It is largely a genetic inheritance though some of it is influenced by environmental conditioning. While what you say is true in that as an administer I had to often project a personality I was not comfortable with inside, the real personality flashed through and people understood the reason for those two faces. We really can’t help the real me flashing through for people to see. The unreal me acts in harmony with people’s expectations of me. The real me enjoys those quiet moments when I can retreat and just enjoy the sheer pleasure of being and doing those things that pleasure me.

  • Birgit says:

    I think we are always changing, evolving, learning….at least I hope we all are. I sometimes wonder who I am and what I would have done if I took art in school or travel, 2 things I love. I love film but found out that it is for my own entertainment not as a career. All we can do is keep striving for all we hope to be whatever that may be

  • What clues we hide in words for the world
    What insights into minds turned to creative cause
    Are in my writing embued

  • I’m as close to being myself when I’m not around other people. what a sad admission.

  • wow this so powerful -I am still learning to love me,thank you for sharing.

  • cjparsons says:

    This is the hardest truth to teach my students: who you are is not defined by what others say about you. Being transparent is a difficult balancing act–not just with others, but with ourselves.

  • blondeusk says:

    Great post – very thought provoking

  • Recniky says:

    I’ve been reading about the necessity to use your ‘real voice’ when blogging – actually, to write as you speak… and yet my voice/my ‘speak’ is a mixture of a poet, an person ingrained with pedagogy and academia, a mother/friend, and a person who was ‘forced’ into being quiet and submissive. I’m over 60 and just read this article, “I’m too old for this” – and I love it… but it’s difficult to find the real me amidst it all.

  • Shivesh says:

    I enjoyed reading this piece. Thanks for re-blogging!

    As I was reading this blog, my mind was constantly reminding me of my poem ‘Numb’ what I had written long back. Yes, we do play all kinds of roles in our life and sometimes we have to fake it which is hard. But still, I think we try to find one identity in our writing even though we live all those characters while creating it!

  • Interesting question… To know the answer, I believe (just my opinion) we have to stand outside of ourselves a lot, as an observer. I’m going to read the rest and see if that very thing arrises or not? I do know one thing: when I dream, I’m usually the observer rather than a participant.

  • We have as many personalities as we have friends, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Perhaps it’s not just friends but roles, too, which shape (and multiply) our personalities. Our selves. There is joy in that; there are people, and situations, that bring out the best in us. I like myself better with some people than with others. What I strive for — and I think this will be a lifelong striving — is to reach the self underneath, and be true to that one. Journals are my go-to tool for that… It’s funny how easy it is to cut the bullsh*t when writing πŸ™‚

  • New Journey says:

    Back in high school and my early 20’s I had a pseudo name, Roxanne Cuttysarc…I used that anytime I went anywhere and everywhere….but not in my home town…I never change my personality, I have always been me, take me or leave me, as I have lived by all my life…but I finally stopped hiding behind a name went back to my own…I am not sure why I did it, I wasn’t doing anything I would be ashamed of, or illegal, well smoked some pot back then, but really nothing to hide…just something to do I guess…sometimes when I go into Starbucks, I give them a different name, mostly Natasha, or Tiffany, once I said I was Popeye but I could tell they didn’t believe me…LOL later in life I found out my son who didn’t know that I had a fake name, did the same thing…LOL guess it was in the genes….LOL I am who I am on my blog…its all me…..kat

  • John Thekkayyam says:

    Every time I hear someone say, be yourself, it reminds me of this onion piece:

  • It’s really quite simple. Just make a personal policy of not trolling or bullying, and try hard to always be polite . . . part of that means never swearing. Other than that, sometimes you just have to say “fuck it” and speak your mind.

    There you go . . . very simple! ha ha

    Seriously though, I think it’s a little dangerous to be too concerned about what others think – we’re supposed to be “independent”. My biggest struggle is trying to constantly write about positive things when at the same time there are so many negatives that gnaw away at person. It can be hard to resist the urge to vent, but I find nothing good really comes from that.

    • Damyanti says:

      My biggest struggle is trying to constantly write about positive things when at the same time there are so many negatives that gnaw away at person. It can be hard to resist the urge to vent, but I find nothing good really comes from that.

      That sounded like me, absolutely.
      On some days, my writing makes me feel like tearing my hair out, but I don’t rant about it here (or anywhere else other than my journal). It does feel false on some days, the calmness.

      But as you said, ranting and raving did not good to anyone.

      • It’s not really being false. I think it’s more of a simple reality of our times – so many extremes – and so much information bombarding us. As individuals we can only do so much, creatively, and no said it would be easy.

  • dweezer19 says:

    The truth is we are all unfinished stories. There are just some who fake it, some who ignore it, some who embrace the uncertainty, some who lash out against it and then there are those who communicate about their inner turmoil, hoping to spark a flame of connection, camaraderie and mutual awareness. People like you. And me. And so many others who write, share our stories whether through fiction, poetry, biography or even photography. All are insights into who we came here to be. The real problem with knowing who you really are is the variable of “possibility”. I can see myself being many different things, much like putting on different clothes for various occasions. But I always come back to my favorite pair of comfy sandals in the end for they suit me best. As my third son would say, “Mom, there is no wrong choice but to do or be nothing.” Cheers to the “real” us Damyanti! And all of you others who feel the pressure to figure it all out faster than you are able to in a quick second.

    • Damyanti says:

      So very well said, Cheryl.

      These days, I feel the urge to be silent on my blog– just listen to the commenters, and learn– so much wisdom in your post: The real problem with knowing who you really are is the variable of β€œpossibility”.

    • It’s good to grow and evolve into someone new. Why must we cut off those parts of ourselves we feel others won’t or can’t appreciate? It seems to me that so much wrong in the world stems from a failure to love, really love and care for ourselves. We expect others to do for us what really is our task in life and then get disappointed because no one can love us better than ourselves. But hey! It’s taken me at least forty years to figure that out!

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