My Recent "Identity Crisis" - Cupcakes & Cashmere

My Recent "Identity Crisis"

Why my own strong self-perceptions (and judgements) were only hurting me.
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A few days ago, Jonah and I bought a T.V., which sounds innocent enough—except that it sent me into a minor identity crisis. Like "cat people" and "dog people," I'd considered "T.V. people" and "book people" to be in two separate camps—and I saw myself as squarely in the latter. Growing up in a house where T.V. was on at all times, I rebelled from it as soon as I left for college. I rarely used my laptop when I wasn't writing an essay, and silently judged a friend's family over Thanksgiving when the entire dinner conversation revolved around "their shows."

But after graduating, I slowly found my own shows. Jonah and I binge-watched Game of Thrones during our first New York winter, I found camaraderie with Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha, and developed strong opinions about which contestants on The Bachelor were "there for the right reasons." But over the four years Jonah and I lived together, I was adamant that we not own a T.V., instead watching shows on a laptop that we could easily close and put away afterwards. I took pride in the fact that I could casually reply, "Oh, we don't own a T.V.," but the truth is: That statement doesn't carry the same weight that it did ten, or even five, years ago. While "not owning a T.V." used to mean never watching television, these days it often means just watching shows on a smaller screen (yep...).

As we began to seriously consider a living room refresh, Jonah and I debated whether we wanted to incorporate a T.V. into it. We talked at length about the cons: They're an eyesore when they're off and owning a T.V. may encourage us to watch more of it. And about the pros: We could invite our friends over to watch shows and movies, and we already watch about four hours of T.V. a week on a tiny laptop—why not improve that viewing experience? 

After spending two hours in Best Buy on a Saturday (which, in my opinion, is a better relationship test than travel and IKEA combined), Jonah and I returned home with a 43-inch T.V. and a new speaker. Our first night with it, we spent three hours trying to decide what our inaugural show or movie should be, before getting overwhelmed and going to bed without watching anything. I stacked books around the screen in our living room, which felt like an intruder.

The next evening, we fared better. After setting a ten-minute time limit on deciding, we purchased Mad Max: Fury Road, an action movie we'd passed over dozens of times because watching such a big screen movie on a tiny laptop felt like a waste. Within minutes of turning it on—the sound booming from our new speaker, the movie crystal-clear and vivid—Jonah and I turned to each other half-joking and said, "Wait, is this what everyone's been up to, while we watched Game of Thrones on a 12-inch MacBook?" (We sometimes had to pause between scenes when the laptop fan got too loud.)

A few weeks ago, I had another identity crisis when I decided to cut out alcohol, gluten, added sugar, and dairy from my diet for the foreseeable future. The idea stemmed from a few reasons, including the fact that my skin's been breaking out lately, despite doing everything "right" at surface level, I was feeling unusually lethargic in the afternoons, and I wanted to break my daily habit of an after-work beer. I immediately felt really good about my decision to take care of my health, but hated that for the first time, I was "that girl." At dinner with friends, I asked a million questions about whether the vegetables were cooked in butter, or if the grain bowl used gluten-free grains. "Oh! And I'm pescatarian... is there bone broth in that?" I apologized profusely between every question, to both the server and my friends.

It reminded me of something Shira, a contributing nutritionist, wrote years ago about how much of our identify is wrapped in our approach to food. She wrote about Emily, "It was clear that being an LA girl who wasn’t afraid to embrace sugar and carbs—in a juice-cleanse and teatox world—was an important part of her identity." Similar to Emily, I saw myself as the cool, fun, "yes" friend who never says no to an order of fries or a bottle of wine for the table. But I've recently found that placing too much importance on being seen as "this kind of a person" or "that kind of a person" is a waste of time. I'm more complicated than my current label of a "television-owning, mostly vegetarian, gluten-free, cat person." Just a few months ago I could be called a "book-nerd, omnivore, dog person." 

It's been a month since I started my "detox" and about a week since I purchased my T.V.—and I feel fantastic. My skin has cleared up, I have more energy, and my fears about becoming a T.V.-watching zombie have proven to be irrational. I'm healthy, with a living room setup I love. Still, I recently considered not going to dinner with friends at a restaurant where I knew I'd have a hard time finding a healthy menu option. When I told Jonah I felt embarrassed about asking the server about the ingredients, he said, "Then don't." I assumed he meant "then don't ask about the ingredients" until he clarified, "Then don't feel embarrassed." It made me realize that all of my beliefs about my identity are wrapped up in my own projections—I believe people will think less of me because I own a T.V. or ask for gluten-free bread, but the truth is that they don't care (and if they do, that's their problem). 

Most importantly, the shift in my own perceptions about my 'personality identity' have made me less judgmental when someone reveals a personalty identity that I don't immediately relate to or understand. When I silently judged the family who hosted me for Thanksgiving years ago, I failed to recognize that, yes they watched a lot of T.V., but they'd also warmly invited me into their home, fed me, and taken care of me without hesitation. By removing the importance I placed on how I'm perceived, I've also lifted the weight I placed on others—and, let me tell you, it feels good to be here. 

Now, does anyone have any T.V. show or gluten-free recipe recommendations?