When I consider who I am and the constituent elements of my personality there is a clear correlation with the people who have had a strong influence on my life.
When my children (or anyone for that matter) are upset I comfort them as my mother did for me, with warmth and reassuring words. When I take my children out for the day I encourage exploration and inquisitiveness just as my grandfather did during my childhood. My approach to practical and financial matters are in most cases influenced by my father, both pragmatic and responsible.
By no means are those examples exhaustive and there are other people from whom I derive my approach to life. However, I feel certain that my father, mother and grandfather are the foundation of who I am.
Often my actions or speech are driven consciously in comparison with those of the people who have shaped me. I find this a little disconcerting in hindsight – are the things I do and say artificial, or more precisely not entirely natural? I wonder if I stripped away the mimicry (for I see it as that sometimes) would I behave differently. I am aware that when I comfort someone I am usually mimicking my mother, but since I do feel empathy I consider my behaviour validated.
There are many aspects of myself that I feel are my own, largely uninfluenced or at least not driven by conscious thought.
I love to take an element from a conversation and expand upon it with a wild, and sometimes lengthy, story as a humorous juxtaposition. I do it with everyone close to me and they may laugh, roll their eyes or simply ignore it, yet I enjoy it at the least. This I feel is something developed independently yet influenced, amongst other things, by the irreverent TV comedy my grandfather introduced me to, and the radio comedy ‘The Goon Show’ and others of it’s ilk that me and my friend would listen to as teenagers (recordings I might add).
My romantic nature is another aspect that is independently expressed and is very much in opposition to the stereotype of the male mindset. I know I’m not unique but I have been surrounded by family members and peers throughout my life who have been stifled by guarded emotions and driven by ego and bravado. I have no problem with blubbing at the end of a romantic comedy and enjoy making romantic gestures.
Then there are the things I consciously oppose. Natural responses and behaviours that I attempt to block regardless.
For example, criticism is something I remember receiving as a child from my father and teachers but later in life from managers and peers. It’s something that I try desperately to avoid expresssing even though I may feel a natural urge to.
Sometimes I may feel tired and reluctant to engage in household chores and would much prefer to leave them to my partner. However, growing up with a father, brother and others of both sexes who surrender to selfish urges to the detriment of others has driven me to refrain wherever possible. A conscious decision driven by negative experience but also by a desire to care and please.
There is also the person I become for different people – consciously changing my body language and the way in which I speak.
When working in an office I avoid speaking in a colloquial fashion so as to normalise my communication in line with colleagues and to improve understanding. I also avoid showing emotions or expressing any feelings of negativity.
When in the company of other men, either family or work colleagues, I tend to interact in the way my father does, both serious and knowledgable, even when speaking to my father.
With my children I behave like a big child as I still enjoy many aspects of childhood. I engage with them in play and show interest in their toys. I can be silly, and make jokes and I avoid as much as possible the seriousness of parenthood (except where safety and behaviour is concerned).
Even with my fiancée there is a tendency to portray myself as the man who knows what to do in all situations or the person she can lean on (which of course she can).
Some of the ways in which I portray myself to different people feels unnatural and takes effort. Other ways are closer to my natural self but are generally frowned upon in some circles.
With all the influences on the person I am and the variations I portray I sometimes wonder who I really am.
What parts of me come from nature and what from nurture? And what is a result of my BPD?
Rather than having different personalities I see myself as having facets. Some people simply never see all of them.