Tag Archives: Self-Image

Of Rogues, Knights and Mechanics

obiA short while back, I was asked to provide three fictional male characters that I self-identify with. Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars was first to my mind. I was always impressed with the character’s development with Ewan McGregor playing the part. Obi-wan seems more interested in finding solutions to issues with his mind than he does with his light-saber. I have always correlated myself as being of that same sort of ilk. I prefer talking and discussions where the genesis of a solution was to become.

My second choice was that of Seamus Harper, the seamusmechanic/programming genius on the short-lived TV show “Andromeda”. I have a huge affinity for the engineer/mechanic types on Science Fiction shows. Their problem solving skills are the stuff that I just marvel over. And in my job, what I do is very close to what they accomplish. People ask questions, I get the data that answers those questions. Plus, Seamus is a proverbial smart-ass with nearly every statement accompanied by some form of zinger aimed at a crewmate, the ship or an enemy. I see a lot of myself in these types of characters.

jaimeI chose Jamie Lannister. And it wasn’t for any quality that I could readily see in myself. Rather, it was due to my draw to characters with major flaws, and Jamie certainly has his share of those. Jamie has many smart-ass comments, but its not the smart-assery that pulls me in. Its the manner in which he deals with adversity, and how he tucks away the perceptions that others have of him as the “kingslayer” – a perception he tells to Brianne in the hot spas, shortly after he gets his hand cut off. His momentary loss of that wall of derision that he protects himself with, is a momentary, naked (literally) revelation of who Jamie is. I have a weakness for characters that display these areas of shadow in themselves.

I admit it, I love the concept of the anti-hero. But not because I grow tired of the Batman, Superman, Iron Man personas – though I really do. No, I like the anti-hero characters because of the stark reality of an individual that stands out against the rule of law, but does the “right thing” because it is exactly that – “the right thing” to do. These characters are direct fits for my own persona. Sure, I am setting myself on the couch now.

I am a rebel at heart. I have always bristled against following the rule of law, simply because it is the rule of law. I need to see a reason for the law to be, but it must be pliant. Laws are made to be bent, particularly when a circumstance arises where going against the law was for a measure of what is “right”. Rules and laws are shaped and tinged by circumstance, meant to bend to some degree. However, bent too far, and the law cannot break – everything comes set right back to where things started, and the law becomes rigid and unpliable. But I am also smart enough to realize that I am not the upholder of those laws either. I merely find a way to live between the line of the law, and the grey area where things remain pliable. A lot of this is why characters such as Jamie Lannister appeal to me. Those characters that try and remain within the law, while acknowledging that sometimes the rules just cannot be applied.

I am not sure that Obi-wan, Jamie Lannister, and Seamus Harper are really all archetypes of who I am, but I can see trace elements of these characters in myself. And much like I admire the complexity that each of these characters’ had within their respective mythic universes, I can also acknowledge that a similar complexity provides the makeup for who I am. I can be contradictory at moments in time, and each of those contradictions can clash at this particular moment – taken individually, none of those moments of opposition will cancel out any of the others. For they are/were all right and correct for that particular moment in time – consequences be damned.

Have you ever thought about what three fictional characters might be useful to describe you?  Who are they, and why? I wonder if you will come across a similar dichotomy as I did – a part of you that upholds the law, a part of you that utilizes the law to solve complex issues, and a part of you that rebels. This was a fun exercise for me, and one I will likely keep coming back to within my journals. Give it a try…see what you get.

–T /|\

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Who I Am Versus What I Am – Perceptions Versus Honesty

Over the course of the last day and a half, I have had a single statement rolling around in my mind. “I define who I am. Despite my best efforts, others will define what I am.” Its a really difficult statement for me to spend time looking over. I have fought very hard to learn the roles that I currently occupy in my life. Even when I want to shake that role off completely – such as my difficulty dealing with the conceptual aspects of being a Priest. I have spent an awful lot of intellectual – and spiritual – capital in accepting and (eventually) embracing who I am now, and who I am to become in my future.

I fought for the understanding of those roles, and damnit, that’s where I am going! I am not going to let a minor bump in the road dislodge me from who I am and who I will be. And that works for me. I understand all of that/ I even understand when things get a little overwhelming, and I need to take a break for a short while. Every bit of that has been difficult, including the parts where I have had to learn to adult when I didn’t want to. I have argued with myself, disagreed with others, and even had my moments of crisis, where I doubt everything I have done that has provided me with the steps on this Path in Life. But nothing prepared me for the shock of realizing that much of who I am to the outside world comes not from me, but from the perception of others. The outward depiction of me comes from how other perceive me. They get to define me in that manner.

Much like when anything comes about that is a major shock, even if just momentarily, I had my doubts. Uh-uh. No way. I manage the who of me. Those roles are handled by me. But the outward perception is not controlled by me – though I can provide some indirect effect. But let’s not head that far just yet. People get a perception of who I am by the way I interact with them, by the way I appear to them, by the manner in which we communicate with one another. And a large part of this comes down to the manner in which I dress.

See, I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of person. This is the most comfortable attire for me, and it places me in some sense of being “casual”. But that is not the most professional way to look; hence, the reason that I cannot dress like this at work. And when it comes to ritual, it is not the most credible way to dress. Yeah, whether I like it or not, wearing a cloak with a Ren-faire style shirt with black jeans tends to be a more appropriate manner to dress for public ritual than my “happier” attire of a “Dancing Terrapins” t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. that is not my expectation, but one that seems to be more appropriate in the eyes of others at public gatherings.

People are going to define what I am, by my outward appearance, and by the way I comport myself at public gatherings (and some private ones). There is a certain air of seriousness that one approaches ritual, as well as serious discussion. Even when you have two Trickster Gods around you, as well as one of the flirtiest Goddesses waving at you from the edge of the tree-line. Coyote, Crow, and even Fliodhas can make ordinary moments….well, “interesting” and difficult for keeping a straight face. And that can be rather testy when you are wanting others to take you seriously as a Priest, a Polytheist, and a Pagan.

But that’s what I mean – others will get the opportunity to define what I am by how they perceive me. And I can agonize over this as much as I want to – and I would like to think that I don’t – but the matter isn’t how I perceive myself. Its how they perceive me. Like I said…I would like to think that it does not matter that much to me. But it does, just not as much as I thought it might.

Which is why its a moment that really brought a touch of shock to me. I have always steeled myself against the opinions of others, by noting that what I define myself as was all that really mattered. The perspective of others didn’t matter. But when this thought popped into my mind, and I started to turn it over and over – I realized that I was shielding myself from an aspect of the truth. It may not be a big factor in how I perceive myself, but it is there. And honestly, its far better to be truthful with myself over something like this, than it would be to continue with my self-narrative.

 

So Here I Am

I have discussed in previous posts about getting messages about the coming Storm for the past two-plus years. Those messages came through in nearly everything I did that was tied to my Spirituality. Meditations, dreams, during rituals, and even while reading. But it didn’t happen every single day. Other days, everything was quiet – thankfully. But there were certain days were another message found its way into various parts of my life. And this has been around for far longer than the Storm messages have.

Become who you are. Be what you are to be. Be the Druid you are. Be the Priest you are to become.

Take a jog back and read some of the blog posts in the past, and you will see a few spots where I have had trouble dealing with all of this. Go on. Me and all the rest of the folks reading will hold on. Go on. Everyone else – coffee, tea, hot chocolate and lemon cookies are in the back of the room. Help yourselves. Ok. So, now that you have had a quick peek back, I guess the fair place to start is where I was versus where I am.

Most of my life has revolved around defining myself by the job position that I held, and the value that my employer held upon me. I have had some shitty employers in my life, and have had some even shittier jobs as well. Believe it or not, back in 2004 I actually gave tax advice over the phone for Intuit. Worst job I ever had. Hands down. But my own self-image and self-value came from what I did to make money, so I could pay the bills. Now, I work as an Institutional Research Assessment Analyst for a small college. But the reality is that I am a glorified Data Analyst. I don’t have time to do any real research or analysis of collegiate information. Most of my time is spent filing federal reports, gathering data to file state reports, or pulling data for other people’s research projects. In the private sector, I would likely be classified somewhere between a Data Analyst and a Data Retrieval Specialist. And the truth of the matter is….not one bit of that really matters.

My job is my job. I have the skillset to handle my job responsibilities. I have zero desire or inclination to climb the “ladder” within the college. If, in twenty years, I find myself in this same job position – I will be quite happy with my career progression within the college. Five years ago, I would not have said the same thing. I would be discouraged if I had not progressed within the structure to some Director position. But that was when I let my job position and the prestige behind it dictate who I was and the self-image I had. But like I said, my job is my job. It provides the money I need to pay the bills. It provides the healthcare I need to insure I continue to survive from my diabetes. It provides the monetary ability I have to attend Pagan-related conventions, music festivals, and OBOD gatherings every year. My job does not define who I am. My job does not define my self-image. I do that.

I work as an Assessment Analyst. I am a Polytheist Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Priest of Crow. And to me, those statements are who I am. My self-image is my own. I may not see myself as someone with any large shadow to cast – I am reminded by several people that there are those that read what I write, hear what I say, and weigh that in their own terms for themselves. And in knowing that, I realize that I need to slouch less, sit up straight, and continue to be me.

Recently, I finished my Bardic Grade studies and submitted my review. I spent nearly seven years on those studies. Because I didn’t believe that I could do what I needed to. Because I let myself be defined by something I am not. I was defining myself by something that I do. Once I reversed that; once I stopped trying to be what I do, and decided to be what I am – I found my freedom to move forward. The rest of the Bardic Grade studies were difficult, and eye-opening – but I no longer had the mental blocks holding me back in my mind and attitude. That ages-old saying – “free your mind, and your ass will follow” certainly holds truth to it.

So here I am. I’m Tommy. Better known as TommyElf. I am a Polytheist Pagan. A Druid. A Bardic Grade member (hopefully soon to be in my Ovate Grade studies) of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. A Priest of Crow. A follower of Coyote and Flidais. A Poet. I stand before Time and the Gods with my fist raised in the Wind. I define who I am. I live, learn and grow into what I am, and what I will be. I live free to make my own choices for my own life. All I ever ask of anyone else is that you do the same for yourself.

Words Have Meaning – Fighting My Own Self-Image

Words have meaning. Whether we intend or not, the words we use have power that affects even ourselves. In a recent post, I mentioned my over-use of self-depracating humor when introducing myself to others. I did this at the ADF Imbolc Retreat, when I made a light-hearted comment about the number of followers I have here on the blog or dedicated listeners on the podcast. I was attempting to make the mood light-hearted. By doing so, I didn’t lighten the mood, I reinforced my own negative self-image, and spread that out to others.

To those who know me fairly well, its not huge secret – I have a negative self-image. As a kid, I was the bean-pole-thin boy who didn’t have very many friends. I wasn’t very strong – either in strength or personality – which made me a perfect target for the bullies within the school. It didn’t take long for all of that to project deeply into who I was, forming the beginnings of the introvert that I am today. Even today, at 51, I have very few friends. Those that I do have as friends, I am fiercely loyal to. They may never see that loyalty, but it is there. Over the past four months, I am seeing where my negative self-image has come from, and I am slowly tearing down those curtains. I still have a lot more progress to do.

My self-depracating humor is a defense mechanism, designed to make my flaws into strengths. Or rather to take away the weapons of the bullies and use that as armor for myself. It works. But it cuts both ways. I take away the weapons by showing that I am not only aware of my weaknesses – such as my awkardness – but that lampooning those weaknesses to show that I am not afraid of them. But I am. That’s why I choose these as points to make fun of. It keeps these from being a weapon, because I expose those aspects and beat the bully to the punch by making fun of myself. Like I said, this cuts both ways.

In using this defense mechanism, I give power to the negative image of who I am. Many folks will not take me that serious when I do things like this. Hopefully, this drives away some of the people. Those who manage to slip through all that self-depracating humor – I provide them with an unseen badge of honor: they made it through all of that, which helps me relax around them. They want to be here and get to know me. But do did some of those folks I drove away because I was trying to be funny. And not only that, but much like Donnie, I begin to believe my own “press”. I begin to believe that I am an akward mess that people just don’t want to see or get to know. And that drives me deeper into my introversion. Because words are power. Words have meaning. Words are the magick we speak every day. What we say, if repeated enough – can be believed. Even if its not the truth.

A short while back, John Beckett put up a blog post about how Pagan Clergy need to dress their part. He’s caught some flak for it, even from me. I wear what I find comfortable to rituals, which is usually a tshirt and jeans. But John is right. Dressing for the role, for the intended audience, for the intended need can all make a difference in how you are perceived. At the ADF Imbolc Retreat, I wore my cloak to the night ritual. Still wearing my tshirt and jeans underneath. I honestly didn’t need the cloak to know I am a Priest of Crow. I have already accepted that role. But the cloak certainly made me feel a lot bolder than I normally would have. Its the same thing for the words we use to describe our own self.

Understanding how a simple description helps to evolve my own self image, my own projected self worth is something I will likely struggle with for the rest of my adult life. Being aware of it – that’s the first step. Reprogramming my brain to not do it. That’s the next step. And it won’t happen over night. Nor over the next year. It will take time. So long as I am aware of that…I can change this part of myself. That’s nearly 50 years of self-programming. It will be long, it will be complicated, and it will be tough. I can do it. And the best part? I have some damn good friends who will always be there when I stumble, to pick me up in a positive way.