Who am I?
If you’ve read my bio, then you know who I am, and what and why I write.
But who am I really, and how do I control or shape the “version” of me that I show to you? On the internet and social media, I show the parts of me that I am comfortable sharing with the world. Some of what is out there I can control. Comments about me and my writing, people’s opinions of me, and stories (real or imagined) about me, I cannot control. When writing these posts, I may choose themes, topics and images that reflect what I am writing, are youth friendly, visually appealing, and more likely to connect with my readership. But things that don’t feel like a good fit for me are immediately dismissed, because even if they appeal to you, they still have to feel like me.
But what does that even mean?
I started this post because I was working through a search / consider / hold / shortlist / choose / discard process for images for my webpage, and I began to question whether an image appealed to me because it reflected a part of myself and my identity that is separate from the writer in me, and whether it was suitable for the page, or whether I simply liked it. This got me thinking about identity and authenticity.
Writing is not the only thing I do. When I am not writing, I work in mental health. I am also a mother, a friend, a woman, a sister, a wife, an aunt, a teacher. I am many things, and I am most certainly a real person.
Keeping it real has always been one of my goals in my work and in my life. Indeed, a key ingredient in my counselling work, in successfully engaging with people in an intensive therapeutic dialogue, is being genuine and bringing an authentic, caring self to the work, while maintaining boundaries of privacy and professionalism. That is, being myself without becoming a friend to the client.
Being true to yourself and your values is also what I believe to be the absolute key to happiness. But that is hard to do if your identity is skewed or if you are not real – or if you don’t know who your real self is. I have always tried to maintain congruence between the person I am and my ‘work’ identity, keeping who I am and what I do in life outside work private, but sharing enough of the ‘real’ me to connect with clients, students, readers.
Ultimately, I am still me at work. Sometimes I might need more diplomacy or caution, for example, when dealing with the parent of teenage client compared with talking to a friend who is a parent to a teen. But I am still me when I write. Sometimes I am writing a professional report. Sometimes a story I created in my own head. Sometimes a blog post. Sometimes a message to a friend full of emojis and hashtags. Sometimes I am a counsellor, sometimes a writer, sometimes just a person with something to say. Most of the time, I know who I am.
It’s no secret that I use a pen name. But Tess Wilson is still me.