I’ve called myself “conflict girl” since I was 18. It was my username on lots of forum websites and I’ve had numerous blogs with that name. It’s just how I’ve defined myself.
The origin of the name is not because I enjoy conflict. I actually really hate and try to avoid interpersonal conflict. Rather, it represented the duality within me, my ability to always see both sides of any issue.
Even if I was personally liberal, I could understand why people would be conservative, as just one example. I was really good at studying people and trying to assess their motives. Sometimes this trait has worked to my disadvantage, when I have given people the benefit of the doubt when they didn’t deserve it. And sometimes people were able to keep secrets from me well enough that my skills were completely useless in seeing the real person underneath and what they were hiding.
I often forget that not everyone else looks at both sides of every issue. Not everyone is able to put themselves in another person’s shoes as easily as I can. My tendency to do so almost automatically meant that I often felt like I was constantly pulled in two different directions simultaneously. It was both a blessing and a curse, but I felt it defined me better than any other trait.
But I’ve mentioned that I’m clearly in a major transitional phase now, a massive life shift. A lot of things about me are changing — or maybe more accurately, not changing as much as they are becoming more refined and clarified, like sharpening the focus on a microscope. As a result, I’m rapidly getting a really strong sense of clarity about who I am and what my gifts and strengths are and what my priorities are.
But as the focus sharpens and zeroes in on a few things, things on the outer edges fade. Some things and relationships are moving outside of the range of vision altogether and are ceasing to have any importance. It’s both exciting and liberating but also a little scary.
One of the things I’ve come to realize is that I don’t think “conflict girl” describes me anymore. For one, I think it conjures up images that I’m in conflict, like fighting, which was never true. But now even the mistaken impression that it could be true bothers me.
There’s also the fact that at 44 years old, I’m obviously not a “girl” of any kind anymore — I’m a woman. I always thought it was kind of cute and sassy to call myself a girl (and not to mention, “conflict girl” seems to sound better than “conflict woman.”) But I’m also trying really hard to stop referring to grown women as “girls” in general and for some reason, it’s surprisingly hard for me so far.
One of my pet peeves is this widespread idea that “adulting” is so bad, like we’re collectively in a state of arrested development. If we call ourselves a “girl” well into our forties, when do we actually grow up? Are we afraid of growing up, on some level?
I’ve realized that I am no longer afraid of growing up, afraid of growing older. I’ve accumulated a lot of wisdom in these 44 years and I think it’s worth something. I don’t want to be stuck in perpetual girlhood forever. Being an adult actually doesn’t suck.
There’s also the issue that I’m not sure the chronic indecision still fits anymore, either. Although I can still imagine myself in another person’s situation in a good and empathetic way, I now feel like there is a definitive truth. Even feeling as though I think there’s a definitive truth seems like a bold step, as I think society views anything less as intolerance.
It doesn’t change how I treat people. But I do have a clearly defined sense of what I believe now. I don’t feel as unmoored anymore. And having a clearly defined set of beliefs means that a persona which embraces all possibilities as equally valid doesn’t really make sense anymore.
I can easily say I’m not the “conflict girl” anymore. But how should I express my identity instead?