by Khailynn Baker
Self-acceptance is hard for me. This natural concept flew out of my mind faster than it had come in when I realized as a child I possessed flaws I could not change. Today, as an adult, I do not feel like a functional person; it is as though I am missing some important piece of myself that never developed. This piece that never developed was discovered when a powerful thought finally hit me one day: I am terribly immature. I act like a ten year old, despite being in a twenty year old’s body. This is the only logical excuse as to what it is I must be missing. This is why I am dysfunctional as an adult, but how can I change myself? After this realization, my thoughts immediately pressured me to look to psychological development theories from Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson. Those two discussed the developmental stages of children into adulthood. They both concluded that failure to successfully complete a stage would leave a person confused along with possessing a tendency to act inappropriately for their age, which is exactly what I have.
Now it is understandable to doubt that I may have a problem considering that the Developmental Stages theories were shown to have some inaccuracies, but I believe they relate well to my situation. I’ve gone through countless personality tests, and asked my family what they thought of me as a person. What I mostly got from their evaluation was that I am immature, creative, close-minded, and melancholy. One of the personality tests I took was the Myers-Briggs four letter personality test. The test shows multiple statements that relate to different habits and pattern of thinking; questions are answered by indicating how much you agree or disagree with the statement shown. One question, for example, is “You find it difficult to introduce yourself to other people.” When I finished, the results described me as an INFP: introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceptive. This personality type is described as a person who usually excels at artistic pursuits. I suppose this is a fitting match, since I see myself as an idealistic individual who is not that social and trusts their own thoughts and feelings above logic and other’s views. But this makes me sound bad, doesn’t it? Apparently, this is a popular personality type for introverted females, which I definitely feel represents me well. Though I’m not alone, these results don’t make me feel any less dysfunctional as an adult or less confused about my childish interests.
Speaking of interests, most of my mine are connected to children’s media like video games and cartoons. Frankly, those childish things still have been the only activities that can ever make me happy. But is that wrong? Most people find joy in watching cartoons or playing games, but what I never understood is why many have grown out of it but not me. I don’t feel like I’ve changed much since childhood. Even my best friend, who is goofier than I am, managed to change her interests and hobbies to things more appropriate for her age, so I’m forced to assume that something important that took place in others’ childhoods didn’t happen in mine.
Here is where I should probably preface this by stating that I understand that comparing myself to others is an awful habit. But how else are you expected to gather an opinion about yourself when you naturally know who you are anyway? And as expected, whenever I look at others I perceive them to be much more secure with themselves than I am with myself due to the behavior they exhibit, which shows that they are interested in topics that are bigger than themselves and aren’t based around their personal satisfaction unlike myself. They talk about important things such as politics and the current news, things that matter because they affect the world. In contrast, those topics rarely cross my mind or interest me because I’d rather think about things like animation and video games, things that exist to serve as personal entertainment. Thus, other adults my age possess a broader perspective than I could ever care to possess.
As mentioned earlier, my current interests are focused to mostly two topics, but I think I always had limited interests during my childhood as well. In school, I would express my interest in art and video games by doodling ridiculous drawings of ugly people, or talk about new games that were out for the PS2 system like Rockstar Games’ titles, “Bully” and “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Naturally I attracted certain people to talk to me, but my conversations with them were usually short. Part of this was because I didn’t care about talking about anything else, which made it difficult for people to carry conversations with me. It was also because I held limited interests within the actual interest. For example, whenever a video game geek in school would talk to me about games, I’d have very little to say since I only played a small selection of one specific genre—3rd person perspective action adventure—while the other person would prefer first person shooters and many other genres: puzzle, retro, RPG. The same scenario went for just about anything else too: fashion, sports, music, writing. I hardly cared much beyond one specific aspect of the topic. Even in art, I mostly cared for cartoons and animation, rejecting painting, sculpture, and realism. Eventually, this limited interest problem got in the way of me having friends. As I got older, I started to realize that most people shared a good number of common interests with others, so much that they became friends and hung out in groups. Without the variety of interests for the only two things I enjoyed and because of my refusal to take interest in other things, I didn’t have a chance to belong to any group or clique. I had no friends and no people to want to be around me. A loner. A dreamer. Some kid without a label to hang on to. That was me, I suppose, and this is the stage I failed to overcome.
As a 20 year old student now in college, I see the same things happening in childhood happening in adulthood and I constantly question “Why am I this way? There probably isn’t a real answer to that, but the closest I can come up with is not exploring. According to Erik Erikson’s model, 12- to 18-year-olds are supposed to explore different social roles and learn about what they can do as adults. But I didn’t. I had a one track mind set on doing one thing, and I’ve only recently realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Are my parents to blame for that? I’d say no, but it’s likely only for my case. My mother repeatedly tried to get me interested in different careers and activities, but I declined almost every time. Four years later, I have only begun to learn my lesson. I look in the mirror now, and I can’t see the person who I was really hoping to see. Someone secure, confident, talented, smart, without doubt. I want to see that so bad, but I’m stuck with myself and these ridiculous theories that make me think I failed the most basic part of life.
I’m sure at this point, I’ve terrified whoever was unfortunate enough to read this self-deprecating text, but alas my self-discovery has not yet finished. In my efforts to right the wrongs of my past, I’ve neglected to consider that sometimes confusion about your identity is appropriate no matter what age you are. I expressed my troubles to my mother, and she admitted that she still has doubts about who she is, and she is nearly 40. She also explained to me that everyone goes through life trying to find the answer to who they are, but it doesn’t come immediately or necessarily easily, and that’s perfectly okay and completely natural. I see now what she is saying, but I can’t say I’m capable of fully accepting myself yet. My flaws—my inability to draw a variety of things, despite being interested in art; my dependence on childhood nostalgic things like cartoons; my lack of existential growth—they can never be “fixed” right away. I can accept though, that there isn’t some fool proof way of going through life without doubt; some things need to be talked about with friends, family, or counselors. Maybe the best way to “overcome” a stage is to talk to someone, and I plan to help accept myself by talking to a therapist or anyone willing to listen and help.