I’m not having one, not any more than anyone else is anyways. I think this is a problem we all experience on some level, whether we recognize it or not. If I ask you who you are, if we sit down and I say, “tell me about yourself,” how would you respond?
Take a second, really. I’ll post a picture so you can think about it without jumping ahead.
(picture of me in complete alignment while on vacation with my kids and holding my best friend's baby)
I asked a few people this question today. Their responses were:
- I’m a (working/stay-at-home) mom
- I’m a (fire/service/electricians/pastor’s…) wife
- I have a business….
- I want to help (women/children/humans) with…
- I’m a (insert job)
These all without a doubt help others to know about your life. They are all things that are important, both to you and to understanding you. The thing is…they are all just who we are to other people. They are surface-level. I’m not suggesting that when people ask us about ourselves that we delve into the inner workings of our psyche and what truly matters most to us in relationships and life. But…we should at least be able to, right? We should be able to define ourselves.
Truthfully, think about how you would respond if you met a new mom or person at an event and upon asking them to tell you about themselves they responded with: “I’m an empath. I take on the hurt and frustrations of others, I worry about how others are feeling too much and it freezes me at times, I’m working hard to harness this beautiful energy but also set boundaries so that I’m not hurt or taken advantage of, or just a complete mess of emotions all the time. I’m starting to realize my part in this and it’s a journey. I value emotional connections, deep conversation, and community over most things, but I also feel anxious when I’m in groups or I haven’t had enough time to myself, an extroverted introvert…or something like that. I love to write and play music, although it’s more for my soul than to entertain anyone. I’m silly, honest, and loyal, but learning that loyalty doesn’t have to mean sacrificing who I am. I’ve been through a lot in the last 5 years that no one really knows about and I’m growing from it because I have a passion for helping others grow, in every direction.”
I could go on, but you didn’t actually ask about me ;). The truth is that, depending on who you are, this response would maybe be refreshing, but it would be odd. You may start to look inward and consider how you had just described yourself. You’d probably feel a little uncomfortable too, for many reasons. My guess is that you would tell some people about this strange and unique encounter. Some you would tell with awe and reverence, others you would tell in jest. Funny how we do that, right? Depending on who the audience is we are honest about how we feel or we are just performing for their entertainment. What if we didn't do that anymore?
My other guess is that after learning these things about this person, although a little confused by the response and thrown off by the honesty and intimacy of it, you would feel suddenly compelled to explain who you really are as well. Would you? Could you? Would you just repeat what they said because it sounded nice? Would say you’re very similar simply because you can relate what they are saying?
Do you know what your honest soliloquy about who you are at your core would be?
Can I challenge you to start to figure it out?
Does that make you feel uncomfortable? It’s not easy to determine who you are at your core, maybe sometimes it’s not really something you’re proud of, not because it’s bad, but because it’s not fully developed yet. Maybe it’s who you want to be, but instead you act differently, because it’s easier and what the people in your life are used to.
It was Walt Disney's brother, Roy, who said:
When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.
A few things from my younger life stand out to me regularly since deciding to start a new career and become a better human, someone my kids will be proud to talk about in many ways. I remember driving somewhere with Brian and discussing whether I should go into my master’s program or not. He was always very supportive of me academically and professionally, he was trying to encourage me to pursue my educational and career goals. I told him “The thing is, no job will ever make me complete. The only thing that will ever make me feel complete is having a family.”
Ahhhh…if I only knew. Do you know how long it took for me to accept that being a mom wasn’t actually going to completely fulfill me? We suffered a miscarriage and then 18 months of unexplained infertility before our first baby. After all that, it seemed so wrong to feel like I wanted to be more than a stay-at-home mom. I had incurred debt from graduate school, gave up a career, and fought for motherhood, it was all that I ever wanted. So I must be bad for wanting more. So I fought back against the desire to grow.
The other memory is before kids. We would get together with friends. Everyone had their drink of choice and the plan was, essentially, for my girlfriends and I to drink wine and chat while the guys did whatever they do. At that time there weren’t big careers yet, and we didn’t have children to discuss, so while I’m sure there were some meaningful conversations, the most I can remember is talking about others. Talking about what frustrated us in relationships, talking about what someone else was doing. Feeling angry for one another because of something that happened. I loved my friends, but we were not sitting around talking about dreams and goals.
So two things happened around the same time for me, almost immediately after having my first child. I started working on my art again. I never considered myself an artist. I have artists in my family who put me to shame, but I’ve always loved art. I love being creative. I created a business as a stay-at-home mom. My husband was gone for work almost constantly. I had plenty to do, but no close friends at this point, new motherhood is so lonely without a village, I needed something for myself and this could fly under the radar of, God Forbid, admitting that I wanted to be more and contribute more. I saved all of my earnings to prove my time was worth something. My dad was my sole investor, he bought every single tool I needed and then some. His ROI was nill, he’s a good dad.
As most know, I moved from this personal business to a new business in the world of network marketing…something I swore I’d never do. I decided I would run the business online, and while I did one thing at that point that was pivotal in my personal growth, another thing happened that I wasn’t aware of.
The first thing I did was decide that if I’m going to start showing up, publicly, I was going to be a better person. I was going to do things and be someone who provided value, support, advice, and incredible life-changing tools…or just really cute clothes and great hair products sometimes. I was going to be good, authentic, and honest, I was going to become who I always wanted to be and I was going to take it seriously.
I wasn’t a “not good” person, I just wasn’t actively seeking ways to be of service outside of my family. Turns out you can absolutely do that just through social media. It started off by being funny and honest but led to mental health advocacy, business support, brand guidance, leadership, and getting to be a cheerleader for anyone and everyone no matter their career or goals.
The other thing that happened was that I suddenly had an identity outside of “fire wife and mom”. Something that was mine. The problem now looking back, and what I started to recognize towards the end of my last year in my first company, was that this identity I had found was the company’s identity. It was the identity of the group. It wasn’t mine. Some of it was not me at all. I wonder how many seek a community, business, or position simply because they’d like an identity, maybe even subconsciously, as I did. I know it feels good when you have it, but man does it make it hard to break away from that. Impossible for some. I wonder if this is a part of the plan for some companies, it's good, but it's not nearly as fulfilling as having your own identity. The problem is that it doesn’t actually help on a core level. It’s a mask of support and an identity that was created by someone else and shared by thousands. I didn’t feel like I was free to be me, and I desperately wanted to be.
Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality traits, appearance, and/or expressions that characterize a person or group. In sociology, emphasis is placed on collective identity, in which an individual's identity is strongly associated with role-behavior or the collection of group memberships that define them.
We should have an identity that is ours. A group may share some core beliefs, but if your identity is tied to a group, be it a church, a job, a mom’s group, or a team. You don’t get to be YOU. You are locked in. It becomes hard to separate your own beliefs and thoughts. It becomes impossible to make decisions that don’t follow along. It may not seem like an option to leave. You have one single life here, with a full understanding of who you are you are not only free to make decisions that honor you best, but also you have the courage to make changes and be who you are, become who you are designed to become. I think we all have a beautiful purpose in this life, but without an identity how can we ever truly find what that is?
A company or business having a vision you love and identify with is great, but your life's purpose is more, I know this for a fact. The business should help you to propel that purpose, support it, and be in alignment with it, but who are you outside of it?
Recognizing and determining your identity is something I urge you to do so. It’s allowed to change, it’s allowed to strengthen, and you are not locked into it, but I beg you to do it. The strength it will bring will be like a superpower. Be YOU. Learn who you truly are, who you want to be to others. What matters most to you on a core level? Not the people, places, or things, but the emotions. What drives you? what makes you happiest in life and relationships? Here are some questions to begin to ask yourself:
1. Who do you admire? Look to real-life examples for clues as to who you wish to be like.
What is it about them that inspires you? Be honest.
What qualities are admirable?
What behaviors and actions of theirs would you like to emulate
2. What inspires you to get into action? Our core values can be revealed through our actions. Have you stood up for someone or something?
What feelings did you have that have made you speak up or act?
What are/were you willing to risk in those situations?
What were the results of taking action?
3. When do you feel the most like yourself? When you are able to be YOU? Comfortable, at ease, and happy, this is a clue that you are in alignment with your core values. Think about times that you have felt or know yourself to feel this way
Who are you with?
What are you doing?
What are the positive emotions you feel?
What is going on around you?
This dropdown is a list of core values. They may all seem like something that would matter to you, but take some time to explore this and see if you can choose 5 or so that you feel are most important to you.
Working Smarter and Harder
Love of Career
Pride in Work
This too Shall Pass attitude
Giving people a chance
Another way to learn more about your true self and your identity is through some incredible and often free online quizzes. Such as this one: Find your Core Values
I also highly suggest the Strength Finders book and questionnaire. Just when we think we know ourselves...there is always more to learn. This book has allowed me to give myself grace and learn to appreciate and utilize my strengths.
All in all, I'm of the opinion that you can not begin your life's work until you begin to learn who you are, and then accept that it is beautiful and ever-changing. I wish for everyone to live the life they were created for. This is where we start.
Much of my thoughts in the last week or so have been driven by this incredible podcast with the CEO and founder of the Women's School, January Donovan. I hope you take the time to listen and be encouraged by her wisdom and knowledge.
As always my friends, Go Forth & Slay.