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Western Oz Words: Who Do You Think You Are?

Are you the kind of person you think you are? Margaret Dunn muses on the nature of “self’’.

As children, we learn some strange phrases and expressions from our parents. In my family, if anyone wasn’t feeling well, or was in a bad mood, my Mother’s stock diagnosis would be: “She’s not herself today.” And I would wonder – well, who is she then? Whenever I was sick or out of sorts, I certainly felt different, but I was still myself.

But on the journey through life, it has often seemed to me that we have a variety of ‘selfs’. At one time I lived in London and applied for a job at a local hospital. In those days I was a rather shy and not at all confident, but I dressed smartly for the interview and tried to look efficient and businesslike. A few days later I was contacted to arrange a date for starting work, and soon felt quite at home as the new secretary in the admin. office.

Busy at the filing cabinet one day I came across a file called ‘Applications and Interviews’. My nosy little self had a quick look through it and found notes on my own interview. All the usual details of experience etc. were there and a pencilled note at the end… ‘Neat, well organised confident type.’ Neat was the only word I felt really applied. Shyness and lack of confidence were the little grey areas I always tried to cover up and I had obviously managed it that time.

Other descriptions I’ve had applied along the way were:
quiet and reserved, friendly and outgoing, a good manager.

Then, a boyfriend once told me, “‘Maggie you are the most disorganised woman I’ve ever known.” But he said it cheerfully and loved me just the same.

So – what was I? Which of these ‘selfs’ was the real me? Perhaps I was some kind of chameleon character who could adapt her behaviour to suit the occasion!

At this later stage of my life I don’t feel the need to play different parts to suit other people or particular situations. Surely it is more mature just to be ‘myself’, a more homogenised character But then – perhaps those who are with me on the journey don’t see me that way!

As Robert Burns so wistfully said:

“Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
Tae see oursels as others see us.”

So - who do you think you are?


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