A humble narcissist

It was cool at the time

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I’ve always been surprised when people tell me they admire my confidence. Somehow, the same girl who used to hide behind her mom’s legs can also appear absolutely sure of herself. For a long time, I thought my tendency to come off as incredibly confident despite being so shy meant that I was being fake or inauthentic. It didn’t seem logical for two warring traits to exist so fully in the same person.

But as it turns out, that very dissonance between constant self-doubt and fiery self-assurance is at the core of who I am. I can tell you different stories from my life, and you’ll start to see a pattern of inconsistency.

I am both the prideful egomaniac and the uncertain wallflower.

There’s a saying that we call it a “forehead” because the average person can fit four fingers in between their eyebrows and hairline. By this definition, I’m a sixhead.

In sixth grade, I got into a fight with some eighth grade boys who tried to take my friends’ lunch spot. We threw things at each other, and the boys spit all over the bleachers to mark them as their territory. We also exchanged insults, only one of which I actually remember.

The tallest of the boys turned to me and said “Could you introduce me to your dad? I’ve always wanted to meet Frankenstein’s monster. When I saw how big your forehead was, I knew you two must be related.”

When he said that to me, I crawled onto the bleachers where he was laying down and sat smack on top of his face until he begged me to get up. I never forgot about it.

Five years later, I walked into a salon armed with $20 and three pictures of Zooey Deschanel’s thick, blunt bangs. It was the haircut that changed my life. My bangs became the center my signature style; they were chic, bold and sexy. They were a symbol of two very contradictory things: insecurity and bitterness leftover from middle school bullies and a triumphant display of self-love.

I am both the trailblazing trendsetter and the daughter of Frankenstein’s monster.

I’ve done theater my whole life. My first show was a ballet production of “The Wizard of Oz,” and I played a poppy. After 14 years of mostly playing old ladies, I once again returned to another production of “The Wizard of Oz.” That time, I played the tornado.

As I got older, my theatrical skills led me to the world of improv comedy, and I learned how to create a story out of nothing but an audience suggestion. I was successful because I could keep up with the only mission-critical mandates of improv: total commitment and absolute certainty. I could always convince the audience that everything was under control.

But then, if you asked me to sing a song or tell a joke to a room of just five people, I would freeze up and turn bright red. I can confidently perform in front of 400 people, but not to just four people. In intimate settings, I naturally revert to my shy, uncertain self.

I am both the brave performer and the bashful artist.

I’ve been told that I’m a terrible driver. Charges against me include: doing 85 mph in the right lane on the freeway, knocking off my sideview mirror while backing out of the garage and momentarily driving on the wrong side of the road to swing into the Starbucks parking lot. There’s a reason I have a tendency to drive so carelessly — my stereo is always on full blast, and I’m singing along at the top of my lungs.

I’ll belt along to Bruno Mars and Sia as I whizz down the freeway in my red Ford Focus. I’ll haphazardly swing into a parking space while spitting Eminem lyrics. One time my mom said she had been coincidentally driving behind me and honked three times, but my music was so loud that I didn’t hear her horn a single time.

But I have a second playlist titled “For Emergencies Only.” It’s filled with Kanye West, Drake, The Chainsmokers and other artists I don’t actually listen to but keep around in case I don’t want people to find out about my mid-2000s pop guilty pleasures. I won’t sing along; I’ll lower the volume to an appropriate level and use my blinker when I change lanes.

I am both the reckless driver pop sensation and the mirror-checking music connoisseur.

Contradicting yourself is natural. We’re all a bunch of hypocrites, not because we lie to ourselves but because we’re more complex than an adjective or a single emotion. Our personalities can be as turbulent as public opinion of Taylor Swift. Authenticity isn’t synonymous with consistency. It’s synonymous with truthfulness — and two things can be true about you at the same time.

Shannon O’Hara writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on growing up through entertainment. Contact her at [email protected].