I’ve spent a lifetime so far being me, cultivating – consciously or unconsciously – what makes me ‘me’ and yet this week I came across a line in a book that made me throw it all up in the air and think again.
It was a line in ‘Women who run with the wolves: Myths and stories of the Wild Woman archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She was examining the ugly ducking story, and the many, many stories in many, many cultures that echo a search for others who are like us, our ‘true’ family as opposed to our birth family.
And she spoke about survivors – a word which has many meanings. How many of us who identify with that word grow to love the label ‘survivor’ so much that we hold on, and hold on, and hold on to it so hard that it actually stops being useful. Instead our tight grip on it stops us moving forwards, stops us growing, stops us thriving as we should. We become locked into one identify rather than allowing it to be one of many; it becomes our defining role and not simply one aspect of our complex identity.
Within the disability movement, many of us have had to fight to survive – to get access to what should be ours by right. I wonder if some of us have fought so hard for so long that we’ve become welded to the word. If we’ve become stuck on one role, and stopped ourselves growing and developing on.
What would happen if we let go? If we reframe how we chose to view ourselves? If we didn’t forget that oh so vital part of ourself, but instead recognised it for what it was – a period of transition – as all labels and identities are – as we move and shift through our lives?
If I want others to see me differently – to see my potential, recognise all my possibilities – then first perhaps I need to change how I see myself. And let go of some of my baggage.