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#WhoIAm: I’ll Take a Rain Check on That One

In high school, like a lot of the kids here, I was an overachiever. Overachievers, as a species, have this nasty habit of wrapping their identities around their successes. Not only is this culture of success a breeding ground for inflated egos and pretentiousness, but it, paradoxically, cultivates deep insecurity. Because, when you are constantly achieving (in academics, sports, clubs, internships, the works), what happens when, all of a sudden, you fail? Overachievers must really be masochists because, when college application time comes around, they tend to apply to the most selective schools and scholarships. They are just asking for rejection. And, when that time came for me, it shook me to my core. All my eggs were in one flimsy basket that was annihilated by an Indiana Jones-style steamrolling boulder of reality. And it was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Before I entered college, I had reconciled with this change in self-image. I realized that I had ingrained this narrative of successful, overworking, driven overachiever into the fabric of my identity. I realized the dangers this brought on to me: overloading myself with work, inflating my ego with successes, being crushed when rejection came my way and not giving myself time to relax. I also realized that wasn’t quite who I was anymore. At the same time, I was thrilled. You know that phrase “you can be anyone you want to be”? Well, it actually seemed true. I wasn’t stuck in some distorted image of myself. Instead, I had a few traits about myself I knew to be true, but, largely, I was a blank slate.

I’ve come to a couple conclusions, since then. Number one is that your identity is never set in stone. Who you are now holds no permanence, not if you don’t want it to. People change all the time. Don’t let who you think you are now hinder your working on who you want to be. That leads to the second thought I had: you need to work on your identity – it is an active interaction.

The point here is that you don’t have to know who you are all the time. In fact, it can sometimes be worse to have a rigid self-image. Think you are too introverted? Too talkative? Too slow? The largest obstacle to being who you want to be is giving into the misconception that you have a set character that you cannot alter. Be who you want to be! Don’t worry so much about your identity! You have so many other things to stress over. Don’t get stuck up in the trap of “searching for your identity.” It’s not hiding out in the woods somewhere, just waiting for you to follow a cute treasure map to find it at the red X.  In life, you get to create your own identity, and, if that isn’t empowering, I don’t know what is.

My identity is TBD, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not going to rush something I have the rest of my life to figure out, to create and to shape. Knowing who I am? I’ll take a rain check on that one.


Katie Jackson

Chapel Hill '23

Katie is an undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill. She is part of the Campus Y Outreach Taskforce and HYPE Tutoring. Interested in sustainability, economics, and global culture and policy, Katie plans to study business, public policy, and environmental sciences. Katie loves her kitten named Hiccup (yes, from How to Train Your Dragon), her two dogs, her other kitten (even though it is technically her sister's) and her cat.
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