A month or so ago I had the pleasure of attending one of Firefly Creative Writing‘s workshop (if you are a writer definitely look into them, they are AMAZING!) and our lovely facilitator Jenna, walked us through an exercise of Identity. Who are we to others? Who are we to ourselves? What labels do we give ourselves and fit into and what labels do others give us that we accept?

We did a map of our identity and things that branch from us and then some free writing about ourselves with the prompts “When others look at me they see...” and the prompt “When I look at myself I see…‘ , here is what I came up with. I’d like to share this with you all because I feel that self-growth and looking back at how far you’ve come is so important to your mental and spiritual health. It’s important to not be hard on ourselves and to look at how far we’ve come and also, to reclaim ourselves, faults and all.

When others look at me they see… a smile, sometimes, usually a big one. I’m sure they take not of my ethnicity, my skin, my style They see me as I want to be seen, sometimes cute, sometimes sexy. I  wear my clothes as an outward expression, I sometimes have the mood for a more sassy, loud look and at other times I want to sit back and blend in; remaining unnoticed.

When others look at me they see someone who is confident, I am not shy about who I am or my beliefs. I’m sometimes loud but really I am shy, I swear. I am unabashedly me, I don’t really know who else I’d be. I notice people looking at my tattoos, especially at work when I’m buttoned up and pressed fine like a suit, I wonder what or who they see?

When I look at myself I see, surprisingly a woman. I’m not a girl anymore. I see a face that I have known for 26 years, a face that I’ve sometimes hated, one that I’ve wished I could change, one that I’ve compared to glossy models – and now I see a face I love. Someone I know, inside and out, someone I’m still learning. I recognize my eyes and the lines of my nose, I enjoy the soft pillows of my lips and the glow of my skin. I like the darkness of my eyes, even when I used to wish they were blue or “not so Asian”, I love them now and like that they are dark and shaped the way they are. Then I look and see someone who has lived a few lives, here and there with a hundred stories to tell, some of them from her past and some from her wide, vast, multifaceted, kaleidoscope like imagination.

I look at myself and see a woman who is finally, maybe figuring herself out. Someone who knows what she cares about, who knows her passions and the fire that burns within; she knows now to tend that fire, feeding it, caring and stoking it, knowing not to let it go and knowing not to let it burn itself out as she’s done before.

She is someone who has been ashamed, who has done wrongs and hurt people but she is someone who has grown and learned from her mistakes. She is someone who has been through the bottom depths of her mind, crawling through a dark mist and someone who has learned a hundred things or more; who’s worked a ton of jobs and held a hundred titles. She’s someone who’s overcome pain and self-loathing and someone who has found love and light and happiness.

She is someone I can be proud of, she is someone that I am proud to know. She is me.

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