Changing who we think we are

Maybe you thought you’d be a trendsetter, a world traveler, an inspiring speaker. But then you found out: I’m just not. In Issue 36 journalist Peggy van der Lee tells us about how she believes it doesn’t matter; that this kind of realization can be the start of something new, something better.

Complex lives

It was years ago, but I still remember it clearly: “You can have a deep conversation even when you’re drunk.” A friend said that to me at a party, not meaning to be rude, but because she likes heavy conversations too. And after that exchange, we both understood more about our own complex lives.

Still, it made an impression. Because yes, I do like settling in for a nice long discussion with someone. I like to understand a person very well, but I don’t want to be the kind of person you can’t get away from, who—after six beers—still wants to analyze in endless detail how you’re going to have that long-term relationship, or whatever, while everyone else at the party is swinging from the chandeliers.

I do it anyway. Because I get energy from other people’s ideas. It amuses me to look at things from a completely different angle, and it comforts me to hear that we all worry about things a bit. So I actually do this far more often than I ever intended. Maybe I’m not the free spirit I always wanted to be.

Taking a fresh look at yourself

Saying goodbye to the things we thought or hoped to be is something that, according to psychotherapist Riekje Boswijk, we all have to deal with. Take a fresh look at yourself and your life. So, you always thought you’d be an extrovert, making friends with all kinds of strangers at a party, but you discover you’d rather head straight to the people you know.

Or you thought you were a real team player, but slowly you realize that you like doing things by yourself. Also common: You hoped to be flexible, but on closer inspection it turns out you don’t respond well to the unexpected or change.

“When you’ve just left school, you have lots of ideas about what you want and what you could be, what you’re going to do in life and the traits that go with it,” Boswijk says. “About halfway through life it’s natural to take stock. What does my life look like? What suits me and what doesn’t? What do I feel comfortable with? Then you may find the things you expected of yourself are not necessarily the ones that suit you.”

  • Read Peggy’s complete article on changing who we think we are in Issue 36.

Text Peggy van de Lee  Illustration Agnes Loonstra