Ingrid Nilsen and Self Identity

If you’re on the Internet somewhere, you’ve probably read or heard about Ingrid Nilsen’s 19-minute coming out video. Though I haven’t followed her specifically – beauty videos aren’t really my thing – I’ve known of Missglamoratzzi for a couple of years. However, in this video she talks about more than just make-up and hairstyles. Ingrid looks into the lens of her camera and, without yelling or patronizing, tries to explain all of the complicated emotions she’s distanced herself from over the years and how that’s affected her happiness as a person. She does this because she wants her audience to know and not because she was in any way obligated to share her personal life. It’s a beautiful video and if you haven’t seen it yet, seriously go take a break and watch it now.

There were many inspiring moments in the video, but one of the things Ingrid said really struck a chord with me. She said:

“From my earliest memories, I have always been this way. And the part of my life where I was in a prison that was built for me, and then I, at one point, took over the construction of that prison and kept the building going myself – that was the phase.”

Ingrid uses prison as a metaphor for denying her preferences and her identity, but the language is such that it can be applied beyond that. It got me thinking about all the other things that people deny to themselves and about the parts of who we are that we falsely perpetuate.

Ingrid describes in her video how her feelings about homosexuality were at first taught to her by her environment and how she learned “appropriate” behavior from those around her, even though it wasn’t instinctual. Eventually the learned behaviors became self-perpetuated and because she was confused and scared of who she was or what other people would think, she eventually became her own prison warden.

We as people are adaptive. We learn from others and our environment as easily as we breathe. But we don’t have to be anything other than the way we want to. We don’t have to stay in a prison of our own construction, locking away who we are and denying ourselves because someone else taught us to do it first. We can have the freedom of self-expression if only we’re bold enough to put down the hammers and leave.

I don’t have to stay in a relationship with someone that makes me unhappy. I don’t have to work at a job that I don’t love. I don’t have to be anything or anyone other than what I am and that’s a more powerful and empowering statement than I think Ingrid initially intended. She used the metaphor to refer to one specific aspect of her life, but actually it’s bolder than that. Her words suggest that we have the power to break free of our self-perpetuated prisons, that our natures are stronger than what’s been nurtured for us, and I firmly believe that to be true.

We already have the freedom to choose for ourselves. So we, like Ingrid, just have to find the will to do it.

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