I’ve ripped off the label but still feel inauthentic

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I’ve ripped off the label but still feel inauthentic

Me: authenticity and assumptions.

The gray, foggy, blurry line between these two distinct halves has never cleared. This line is a never-ending rain cloud; it’s a lingering gray, a persistent fog, an unwavering haze.

The line was drawn when I was labeled as a shy kid. The label drew a distinction between authenticity and assumption. Before the label, I was just me. Whoever that was. No assumptions, no preconceived notions. Nothing that wasn’t who I truly was.

But it was what people saw me as. Shy. Because I didn’t throw words into the air to contribute to the tennis game that is conversation. Most of the time, I didn’t have anything to say, so I watched the games conversationalists played. Observed. A scorekeeper in the game of conversation, not an active player.

Shy was what people saw me as because I didn’t really know how to converse; I didn’t know how to articulate the abundance of words I gained from spending all of my time reading, I didn’t know the rules of the game that everyone seemed clear on.

Who was I if this label that formed the fabric of me had been ripped to shreds? Am I authentic? Or am I just an assumption?”

Was I actually shy? Or did I just believe everyone who told me I was, retreating myself further into a shell with each passing day? Sometimes, the retreat wasn’t voluntary. The people who saw me as shy pushed me into my own shy world—inhabited by other people who were supposedly just like me—by doing things they assumed I couldn’t do on my own.

My mom ordered my food for me at restaurants. I brought my shoulders to my ears and withdrew, letting this imposed shell envelop me.

People spoke for me instead of letting me talk. I got shoved further into a world that wasn’t truly me: my shy shell.

But I thought that world was the only place I could live. Because I was told it was where I should be. People force-fed me shy ideals and, for all of my life, I just accepted the fact that I was shy. That I was on the more reserved side, that I couldn’t order my own meals at restaurants, that I couldn’t introduce myself to new people.

The label slapped onto my shirt, reading “Hello. My name is Shy,” seemed to be permanently attached to me. The label is what initially drew the line, and my determination to unstick the untruth is what blurred the line.

Finally, after living a whole life with an inauthentic label attached to me, I ripped it off my shirt and threw it away. I exited my shell and entered the world I should have always been in.

I entered this new world, label-free, as a nameless face.

Who was I if I wasn’t shy? Who was I if this label that formed the fabric of me had been ripped to shreds? Am I authentic? Or am I just an assumption?

And that’s where the line is a persistent fog and unwavering haze. I ripped the label off, but my shirt is still sticky. The residue from the label remains; I’m not completely free from the assumption that forms the basis of me.

My shirt remains sticky, and the line remains blurry.

Because, really, who am I?

Authentically me? Or just an assumption?

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