Green Renaissance produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate Grateful Living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Annika Samuelsen.
Learn more about Green Renaissance through our Grateful Changemaker feature.*
Questions for Reflection
- What feelings/thoughts/questions surface for you in viewing Annika’s story?
- How does Annika’s story move you?
We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.
“Definitely…I wish there was a step-by-step guide of how to live your life. Ten simple steps to get it together. What was the question again, I’m sorry?
Who am I? It’s hard to put words on that. Um…During my life, I have had a little voice in my head that has been telling me to repress a big part of me and become someone that I was not. As we grow up for some or other reason we start losing ourselves in some way or we build walls around ourselves because we are afraid of being singled out. Changing yourself to fit in only enhances that critical voice.
The stress that comes with being someone that you are not is huge, and that starts eating away at your own body. Feelings bottle up. Everyone’s bottles are created by different materials. Some have iron — some people can bottle a lot of emotions and be very strong. And some people have paper cups.
Bottling these emotions up for long enough, you basically create something else. Suddenly what you call a critic becomes an enemy, and then suddenly it becomes your master. The only way to combat that enemy is to recognize that that is you. And you have to be true to yourself, and you have to try and start to love yourself. Even though you don’t like it that very much.
Somewhere along the line when I grew up a sparkle in my eyes disappeared. My father said it’s as if I was entombed. That little spark has slowly started to come back to me. I felt some kind of spark being ignited to try…when I thought about continuing my life being who I really was. It might just be an ember right now, but it started burning when I felt ready to come out of my tomb and start showing the world who I am and who I am going to become as a person. I chose to call my mom and tell her that I was coming to dinner and tell her that I was actually a woman.
I had these thoughts in my head that maybe I would be rejected, maybe my family would not really want to know about me. And something that I feel very bad about — because in my head, I have never been meaner towards them than thinking that they would ever do that towards me.
My biggest lesson in life would probably be that the people who love you unconditionally, even though there may be some tumultuous relationships in there, they will always be there for you. that’s the thing about receding into your own shell — you don’t really realize that you’re pushing them away until you get them back. Like, they’ve always been there…you haven’t — I wasn’t, and now I’m trying to get back.
Being afraid of losing someone is nothing compared to realizing that you have found someone … that you have actually regained these people in your life. My parents and my brother and my grandparents are the rocks that I get to cling to when the tide comes in. And honestly, I could probably have the entire world against me as long as I have them and my friends and the people that I have close, I could probably take on anything.
If we think about fairy tales, there are always very tough parts for the hero in the middle of the story. And in some way I always believe that life is somewhat a struggle, you can never win life. But in some way or another, at a time in your life, you will see the end of the tunnel, where you will finally have found yourself again.
My fairytale hasn’t ended yet. I’d say that I’m still in the tough part, but I’m finding myself through it. You could say that I’m waiting for the knight in shining armor, but I would probably steal his sword and battle the dragon myself. That’s more awesome.
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I never realized how important it is to my mental health that I allow myself to discover “who am I”. Since I can remember I have worn millions of different masks, facades or I have at the very least hidden or changed something about who I am in order to be accepted by different social groups or to meet others expectations as a intellectual white female who hoped to succeed in the medical research field where at least 90% were men (at least that was the case 15 years ago when I first graduated magna cum laude with 2 B.S. degrees in under 4 years as a member of phi beta kappa. I thought I had it made. In college my grades were private so I really only competed with those that shared their grades with me even though o never shared mine. I never wanted others to think I was full of myself or overconfident. Still I got a prestigious position within a few weeks of graduating in medical biotech. I was shocked that I only worked with men who mostly tested me for being an airhead, for filling a quota for female employees, and I was frequently talked to about my looks (fairly attracctive), my sex and dating life and they made it obvious that all women were incompetent and were hugely emotional and couldn’t handle stress. They frequently mentioned a female employee that left before I was hired bc she was “crazy”. I found out later she left on disability bc she had bipolar disorder. I’m ashamed to admit that in order to fit in I assumed the role of airhead by constantly making fun of m yself if I didnt know something in an effort to feel stronger by convincing myself as long as I said it and not them, i would be the funny person and not the idiot. It took me a long time to realize what a stupid mistake I made by assuming that persona. My employees never took me seriously even when I was being serious and I gave them the freedom to openly make fun of me to my face bc I did it anyway. My confidence as a successful graduate crumbled an d I was never the same. I still didnt learn from my mistake not to put on a facade as much as I wish I did. At my following jobs I tried things like being the nonconfrontational employee..which meant they treated me like crap bc I wouldn’t stand OP for myself. there have been many more that I’ve tried in my personal and professional life, but it wasnt until I read your article that I realized anything else I tried to be other than being my true self would always end up with regret and heartache. Now I hope to perk back all the layers of each person I pretended to be since I was a child and figure out who i really am now. Hopefully I’ll find some peace and happiness in that.
Thank you for so openly sharing your experience, Erin. It’s heartbreaking to hear why you felt you needed to wear a mask for so much of your life, and we imagine your story is relatable to many people. No one should be made to feel less than. How moving that Annika’s story has affirmed for you the importance of being your true self. We hope you indeed find peace and happiness in exploring who you really are. Sending love your way.