This is a Big Provocation for a holiday week, but a month or so ago, I saw a quote that went something like: “Get comfortable with who you are when no one’s around.” I thought immediately about alone time, and how comfortable I already am in it. Last week, I enjoyed hours and hours (days!) of quality time with family, but I found myself craving small pockets of solitude along the way. One day, I sat in my office working quietly for a few hours and found myself wholly replenished, near-bursting with energy, when I rejoined the pack, as though I am an electric vehicle that just needs to be plugged in on a side street alone and stationary for awhile. I have known this about myself since I was little, when I would peel off from my siblings to listen to Brandy on the blue carpet of my bedroom or play Tetris on my computer or read on the Laura Ashley quilt of my lower bunk or sit in the bushes behind my parent’s home with a marble notebook, seeking intelligence for my own adaptations of Harriet the Spy. I enjoy my own company. I feel as though a palm opened. I am able to shed the occasionally exhausting attentiveness I carry with me when I am around others and hyper-aware of moods, opinions, pockets of silence, subjects to avoid or pick up, cadences, potential hurt feelings or happinesses. Because of this wide-eyed consciousness of those around me, I feel sometimes that I am not wholly or freely able to communicate myself to others, that there is a strangling of my own sensibility on its way out. This has happened a few times recently, where I am so focused on making my companion comfortable that I say bizarre things, or ask boring questions, or simply garble my own true opinions. I know this is because I want to be liked, to be companionable, to be considerate, but I would also like to be the me I am when I am alone, because I know that woman, and I like her. And so I guess the more interesting question to me is: Who are you when someone is watching? And does that person map to the real you?
I would say that often, I am a few percentage points away from my true self. Parts of me are there, but parts are submerged or obscured. Perhaps I am simply stating the obvious, and perhaps everyone reading this post is thinking: “Well, yes. We aren’t ever our full selves with others. We are porous, reactive, shaped by context and company. And that’s a good thing. It demonstrates social awareness, EQ, good manners.” Or maybe you are like me and in need of a kind of social calisthenic to find grace in my self-expression when I am with others. After all, in my late 30s, I have a pretty good sense of who I am, and what my failings and strengths are, and what I like and do not, and I would love to have that “me” communicated more roundly in company. And so I have been working lately to unlearn my impulse to fill all the gaps in conversation and rush to agree with or reassure others. Because I find it’s in those moments that I am least “me.” I am a strained version of myself. And I don’t think I’m doing anyone favors, either! It’s OK to take a beat to think about something. It’s OK to quietly disagree, or to let a lag form in the chat. It’s OK for someone else to help steward the conversation forward. I’m not saying that I owe nothing to the pace of conversation, but that I can also be a partner in the volley rather than a task-master/pace-setter/coach.
What do you think? Do you feel you are your full self in company? How did you come to be that way?
+This post made me think about the five second rule, and how it can also be applied to social conversations where nothing nefarious is happening, but I am not feeling like myself. I can just pause and bite my tongue and let myself catch up.
+Wait. I’m seriously obsessing over so many of Longchamp’s bags right now. Who knew this brand would boomerang back around? I love this pink bucket bag! Love the idea of pairing it with basic jeans and white tee and leather slides and letting it be the star of the show, or pairing with something unexpected, like this utility jumpsuit.
+Also Longchamp: this tiny mesh crossbody! AHH! How cute! A Magpie wrote to say that these bags are highly impractical and hold basically nothing but, like, with just my credit card case and phone?! AHHH.
+These striped tank dresses were just restocked — WILL sell out. Run!
+I just updated all my Shopbop picks. So many fab new finds!
+Just your yearly reminder to buy a Thermacell if you spend a lot of time outdoors in a mosquito-dense area. These REALLY work. We swear by them!
+I wear a hot pink belt bag from State Bags (no longer avail in my color, but this is the exact style, and I’m not sure why, but it’s $175 for the white/black but $58 for the gold?!) a LOT, and this Dagne Dover achieves a similar vibe. Just love a fun pop of color!
+LOVE this lavender dress. The smocking reminds me of Loretta Caponi, but under $200.
+Have been loving throwing my Mi Golondrina mini dress on over swim lately.
+How fun is this striped cashmere cardigan?! Currently on sale for a great price!
+Fantastic thing to keep in your trunk for stowing grocery bags, loose bits and bobs, toys/sports gear.
+Absolutely swooning over this floral smocked dress for a little love.
+I have this dramatic Sarah Bray sunhat — love it, but it does run a bit big on my tiny head. You can swap out the ribbons for different looks. I have also been hearing a lot of chatter (positive) about the hat brand Freya — love the look of this style. (Are you a sunhat person?)
+I know I have several die-hard Matteau swimwear fans among the Magpie reader set, and just found this solid suit on sale.