Most people never ponder the question, "Who am I?" Instead, people regularly define themselves by their role in life. Father. Son. Friend. Girlfriend. Husband. Student. Secretary. Lawyer. Athlete. Who they are is what they do.
The problem with this approach is that these roles are not permanent and they depend on variables that are out of your control. You don't get to decide whether you keep your job when a layoff happens. You don't get to keep your spouse from leaving you. You can't make your adult child not move away. You don't get to choose which schools accept you. So, what happens when you stop doing what you do?
The result is...people become lost. They grasp for anything that will define and create new meaning. This can be other people, material things, major geographical changes, or just spending money.
Sometimes, people turn to control. Trying to control the uncontrollable. They hold on harder to what and whom they want. They use manipulation and put-down strategies to avoid or delay the inevitable.
To fully define yourself you must first see yourself. I mean really see yourself. See all your qualities. All your strengths and faults. Where you came from. All your education and the jobs you've held. The roles you retain. The places you've traveled. Your culture and traditions. What you have accomplished and where you have failed. The food you like. The traits you have. Your likes and dislikes. Know your values. The experiences you've had. Your spirituality. Your physical capabilities and limitations. What you look like. How people have treated you in all areas of your life.
Once you deeply see yourself the next step is acceptance. You must accept the good and the bad. See yourself for nothing more or less. Choose to stop wishing you were something different or more. Know that who you are is something unique. Who you are is perfectly imperfect. Who you are is enough.
A few simple suggestions to begin this growth process:
- Seek out the opinions of other's regarding you and your current/future path.
- Write responses to the areas identified above.
- Start gaining new experiences to learn what you like and don't like.
- Talk to a trusted confidant about your insecurities and experiences that cause you discomfort.
- Seek professional help.
By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA