I Need To Be More Authentic Now (um, once I’ve decided who I am)

I really, really want to be more confident.

OK, so I’m pretty feisty when cornered and I’ll swear like a navvy if you cross me, but I wish I were gutsier in general day-to-day life. I wish I put myself out there more often and took more risks.

And I’ve decided, now that I’m forty, that it’s time for me to stop talking about being more confident and actually, well, just be more confident.

In the pursuit of the (admittedly ambitious) goal of giving my entire personality an overhaul in the general direction of confidence, I recently attended a fell running course. It had a section on empowerment and female confidence, which is where I learned that one of the key traits a confident woman should possess is authenticity. “Just be yourself!”, in fact as all the self-help literature would preachily have it.

Unfortunately, I’m not one hundred percent certain what my self is.

I’m embarrassingly malleable, that’s my problem. I’ll chat to friends who are heavily into clothes and fashion and I’ll start to think yep, that’s me, I’m a total fashionista who must subscribe post-haste to Vogue and keep a closer eye on current trends. Where’s my credit card? What’s a shacket?

Then I’ll flick through the Instagram feed of some eco-warrior types and remember that no, I actually eschew fast fashion and all the horrific waste it stands for. I’ll go the other way, in fact! Just watch me! I will buy one new coat every decade and get my boots re-heeled every season so I never need new ones. Hooray! I’m about to become a one-woman army waging a war on the scourge of Western consumerism and its byproducts of slave labour and endless landfill!

I don’t eat meat, but that’s not for ethical reasons. It’s because I was raised without ever eating it, by my hippie off-grid parents, and now I can’t stomach it. But I’ve no axe to grind with carnivores, not really. Bacon smells quite nice, and if it drips on my fried tomatoes, that’s no problem, I wouldn’t make a fuss. Plus, I eat fish. And pescatarian really isn’t an identity, is it? Not like vegan is. So I can’t have that.

I do yoga but not very much of it ,and I am not stretchy enough to look good in the poses. I run but I rarely race. I cycle but I don’t much care for hills and I don’t do triathlons because swimming freaks me out. I hike but not in a hardcore way, not the sort of hiking where I’d own, you know, crampons and stuff. I just like to be out in nature, basically, and hiking is an efficient way to get you right up in the grill of the natural world.

I’m really into folk music because I stan Laura Marling and her cleverly poetic lyrics, but on the other hand, Stormzy did make that excellent jab at Boris Johnson, so maybe I am in fact all about the grime life? Should I be wearing corduroy and Fair Isle, or Adidas track pants and high-tops? Or neither because I’m old?


Sometimes I’ll even say to the people who love me “How would you sum me up, as a person, if I died? I mean, like, just give a mini obituary. What sort of a person would you say I was?” I’m hoping their answers will tell me who I am, but all anyone ever does to this question is laugh and say they really hope I don’t die. So that’s no good at all.

I blame my home education for all of this vacillation on the personality front. Being homeschooled meant that I never got to have a tribe. If I’d been at school sooner, I would absolutely have identified as either a goth or a geek or a cool girl. (Probably not a cool girl).

I’d have had a spiritual home with others of my kind, and developed some herd-based opinions and viewpoints to cling to throughout my life, rather than gathering miscellaneous snippets here and there, predominantly through books and newspapers.

It might be time to face the fact that my identity is an amorphous thing, shaped daily or hourly by outside influences. Perhaps to be truly, bravely, gutsily authentic I need to just accept that my core self holds strong opinions only on a few things (politics, justice, books) and is entirely malleable on others, including the ones that people notice (fashion, music, food).

It’s literally painful to admit this floating identity of mine. It feels like some kind of defeat.

But maybe that pain is the bravery coming out? Maybe even writing this is me, being truly authentic for the first time? Maybe this post is me, putting myself out there, taking some very early and tentative risks?

Let’s see. I’m fairly sure this is a productive thing to focus on in a pandemic, so I’ll give it some serious thought.

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