“You are more than you know.”
This is a phrase that invokes the same positivity as other common mantras and catchphrases we often read or tell ourselves when we are feeling less than great—or just straight up terrible. What is different about the phrase “you are more than you know,” though, is the questions that may come after seeing the phrase. You are “more” what, exactly? How do I know I am “more” of that thing?
In general, the “more” refers to being worthy of happiness, satisfaction, and respect. Being “more than you know” typically means you are better than the bad situation you are in, or you deserve better than what you are being given, or you deserve more respect than you are being shown, etc. Or “more” can mean you are greater than what you are told; you are “more” than the systemic oppressions you face, “more” than the bigotry you wade through, “more” than the stereotypes you fight against constantly.
In short, the “more” in “you are more than you know” can mean many things, but what holds true for any “more” you are trying to remind yourself that you are is that it has to do with who you are as a person and your identities, and it has to do with how others perceive you and make you feel, whether it is upfront and in the moment or a lasting negative effect on your psyche.
So when you see or hear or repeat the phrase “you are more than you know,” the first thing you have to understand is what is going on in your life that you feel is holding you back from feeling happy, worthy of respect, or even just stable.
“I Am More Than My Mental Illness”
Oftentimes this leads back to mental health issues, and whether diagnosed or not, those issues can instantly make you feel as though you are “less”: they make you feel as though all you are is that mental illness, that depression, that anxiety and stress. It is, of course, much easier said than done to just convince yourself “I am more than this mental illness,” especially as it eats away at your mind and often makes you feel immobilized mentally and physically.
When it comes to feeling “more” than your mental illness, one effective tactic is to have reminders of better moments, tangible items that help you hold on to reality while you struggle with the spiraling effect of your mental health status. Sometimes that is a picture of your friends, or a childhood memento, or your favorite album, or a movie you love, or a video you enjoy watching, or anything along those lines. The point is to identify and have readily available something that reminds you that there is more to life than your mental illness, there are many reasons to live and enjoy living, there are things that make you “more” than you feel in those hardest moments.
“I Am More Than My Identities”
Our identities are more often than not a big part of how we make our way through the world, whether we or not we realize it. Our lives are shaped heavily by our identities and traits surrounding race, gender, sexuality, nationality, size, disability, class level, etc. Unfortunately, as your very well know, there are systems in place that enable the use of hierarchies that decide your treatment and privileges, typically without giving you much of a say in the matter. People or color, women, trans and non-binary folks, fat folks, etc. are treated as “lesser-than” in relation to their privileged and “ideal” counterparts (i.e. white people, men, cis folks, skinny/fit folks, etc.).
This ever-present veil of subjugation based on identities is enough to leave most people feel as though they are limited to what society has deemed as the “truths” for those identities. Stereotypes and prejudices rule our lives, and are purposefully put in place to make those who are seen as “lesser-than” feel that they can never overcome that position.
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There are two things to remember when you are facing the harshness of the world: you are more than your identities, and your identities are more than they say they are.
The first point is meant to be a reminder that beyond how you identify, you are still a whole person, and while your identities have affected the way you think about and see the world, you are autonomous in your life and decisions beyond what the politics of identity have dictated.
On the second point, it is extremely important to remember that despite the negative outlook society has on you and your identities, those identities do not start and end with that negativity and subjugation. People of color, women, trans folks and non-binary people, fat people, all of us extend far beyond the limitations our society has set upon us, and we can work toward making each other’s lives better, and “more” than we are told is possible.
“I Am More Than Where I Come From/My Past”
The past always has a funny way making us feel worse about our present and future. Past mistakes, family upbringing, and traumatic events are all common culprits in making us feel “lesser-than” in relation to our worth in the world. It is hard to get past the notion that those mistakes, that upbringing, that trauma are all that you are; you can never be “more” than any of those things because they consume your mind and, eventually, your life.
While the easy answer would just be to “forget the past,” to “move on,” that is almost always impossible, and extremely oversimplified. The past does define who we are and exists as a reminder of all of the bad moments in our lives that we wish we could “just forget.” But the past also holds all of the good and positive aspects of our lives, even when they seem to be few and far between. Our lives exist in a constant teetering between the “good” and the “bad,” and the fact that you have survived up to this point is something that needs to go in the “good” column. Because that is one of the biggest ways of overcoming the struggles and negative aspects of our pasts: accepting that we have lived through many bad, terrible, and traumatic events, but understanding that these events do not define our worth as humans.
You are not defined by that mistake you made, or the way you were treated as a child, or that traumatic event; those parts of your life are just that, parts. You are so much more than those terrible moments in your past, and any terrible moments in your future that may continue to make you doubt this idea.
You are more than you know, so much more than you are willing to admit at times. It may be hard to realize, and it is hard to remember many times, but it is true. You are more than you give yourself credit for, and you are definitely more than others will give you credit for.
***[Feature Image: A black and white shot of a dark skin individual with a low haircut and baseball cap. They have on a graphic t-shirt and are smiling while looking down to the left with earphones in Source: Pexels ]