For the last 11 years, I have been informally studying human behavior, partly in an attempt to understand why people do the things they do but also because I came from a place where I wanted to figure out how to function normally in the world after a major psychotic break and diagnosis of schizophrenia.
I have been endlessly fascinated with human behavior since before I could remember, and every aberration and weird thing I come in contact with only serves to more firmly establish the fact that, to me, the human experience is intensely complex and varied. In my experience, I think the thing that separates an aberration from seeming normalcy is self-awareness and self-acceptance. Accepting yourself is huge on the path to becoming a normal human adult, and it comes by way of a variety of factors, not least being in love but also coming to terms with the person you see in the mirror every day.
Still, a lot of people fight against themselves; a lot of people are afraid of the person they think they are, so they keep it secret and hide it from everyone else for fear of being ridiculed or for fear of retaliation. They think if they present themselves vulnerably to the world, the world will laugh. That said there’s tremendous strength in presenting yourself to the world when you’re tired of the fight. Accepting yourself is seriously one of the biggest things you can do in terms of finding happiness and autonomy.
How do you do it, though? My favorite way is bringing little chunks to the forefront, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still working on this. You slowly present yourself in bite size pieces to the world and, when they are accepted, you can build slowly into presenting the whole package.
Of course there are limits. You don’t want to walk into a crowded mall stark naked and yell at the top your lungs, “HERE I AM.” I’m talking mainly about personality. Think about it like being ok to made fun of. If you like something, but you’re afraid of being made fun of for it, you can prepare yourself by saying: “I accept the repercussions of liking this thing.” You can be a grown man and secretly like glitter. Don’t be afraid of that, though. If you like glitter, shower yourself in glitter and go to a public place. Or actually that might not be a good idea. The point is, don’t be afraid to like what you like, don’t be afraid to be an individual.
People will value you for your uniqueness, and any friend worth their salt will stand by you and shower themselves in glitter too. Accepting yourself in little doses and building on that is the way I’ve been doing it for 11 years, and I’ll be the first to say that I only really came to terms with my illness a couple years ago. I only really came to terms with the lonely and scared Mike when I allowed myself to feel the emotions I was feeling. Start by saying “it’s ok” and build. You never know who you are until you try to figure it out.