Who are you? And who are you becoming?
There are so many ways to answer the first question of “Who are you?” A big part of it is how you define yourself. Do you see yourself primarily as your gender, family, work or community role? I suspect it’s an AND. We are not just one of these things, but rather a blend. We are women and men volunteering in the community when we are not nurturing our relationships and working to earn our keep and make an impact. This blended definition is often reinforced by the way people in our lives see us.
To what degree do you allow others to define you? Often how we see ourselves and allow others to define us becomes entangled. There is an interdependence between ourselves and those in our circles. We have roles that we expect and others expect us to fill. Ideally, these expectations are in alignment to allow for greater satisfaction and happiness for all.
At the same time, who we are isn’t just about the roles we play. Who we are at the Core is why we do these things and what values they represent.
How we express ourselves is a choice, intentional or otherwise, of what parts of our Core we share with the world. There are many among us who are very open and even insistent about sharing their Core to a wide audience. Others hold these values and motivations closer to the chest only exposing themselves more fully to their inner circle. These choices of expressions are, in and of themselves, value selections.
Who you are becoming occasionally begs reflection on
- How do you need and want to define yourself?
- Who are you at the Core?
- How do you need and want to express yourself?
How others define you comes later.
While reflection can be both helpful and necessary, we are becoming everyday. We are choosing, consciously or not, in every moment who we are going to be. Sometimes we will decided on superficial changes like a new set of clothes that adjust our “look.” Other times we make deeper decisions. For example, for those who are aware of their sadness or anger, some will choose to actively manage it, becoming happier or kinder. Others will choose to ignore and deny their sadness or anger, becoming more entrenched.
As we become, whether by reflection or default, we change how we interface with the world. Changing your wardrobe may create a more professional interface. Changing you sadness or anger requires a shift in how and with whom you interact. For example, being surrounded by glass-half-empty kind of folk will require you to set better boundaries.
As for me, I have been thinking a lot about all of these questions recently as a result of my health challenges. Historically, I have defined myself as a strong independent woman trying to raise a happy, healthy family while lifting up other women and making a tangible professional contribution in a large technical organization. I have primarily expressed myself through the left brain attributes of detailed time and data management, concrete facts and precision. I have relied on a strong, resilient memory and a gift at being able to bring people together and integrating their ideas. I’ve defined myself as an avid reader, life-long learner with a strong spiritual beliefs.
More recently, the left side of my brain is not working as well. I don’t feel strong in the same way I used to and my sense of independence has taken a beating because I am not currently driving due to unpredictable intermittent intense dizziness. Some significant household responsibilities have shifted to my husband and, as appropriate, to the kids. Time and data management along with coordinating other people and their ideas has become very challenging. Even an old favorite of spending time with numerous friends building our thoughts off on one another is no longer enjoyable because of my sensory overload.I no longer read fiction on my own because I can’t retain the pieces of the storyline and my mindset with nonfiction is that I will remember what I can. Learning courses in person or self driven are both very challenging.
For a couple of months, as these changes took hold, I fell into the darkness of fear and helplessness because I kept trying to be who I had always been, trying to do the things I had always done. I was failing over and over. It felt really hard. I was incredibly frustrated and angry; fighting to hold onto who I and others defined me as. I was grieving the loss of myself. I wasn’t allowing the becoming. I wasn’t allowing new expressions of myself to emerge. Realizing this allowed for a significant shift in how I am now able to look at my situation with hope and optimism. I am focusing on what I can do. I am also building new skills through occupational therapy to improve my functionality around fundamental daily skills such as cognitive load management. Both of these efforts have helped to boost my confidence and sense of resilience.
In reality, I hadn’t lost myself. I had lost several of my major roles and skill sets. Like a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, I hadn’t lost my Core; I had just lost sight of it and its changing expression. I am still strong, but it is coming through in different ways. The strength is in owning my vulnerability and asking for help from my family, friends and doctors. My strength is in my courage to face the unknown and accept the current lack of definitive explanation for my challenges. My family now gets my attention in different ways. I have moved away from time and data management to a more right-brain creative expression of myself primarily through writing. I am refocused on spending quality time with friends and family one-on-one rather than in groups. I am still an avid learner, but I have shifted more heavily towards looking inward for the learning rather than depending on others to tell me what I should know. My spiritual beliefs have broadened and my faith has deepened. And even now, I am still becoming in major ways as I learn to adjust even better to my challenges and make the most of my capabilities.
With all of these shifts, large and small, the piece I am currently struggling with most is how does this new me fit into this world among the friends and family who have always known me a certain way? I have changed, but mostly in ways not readily obvious to the casual observer. My push-pull is both wanting others to recognize and embrace the changes I am going through and having a deep desire not to need that validation. I have relied on other people’s definition and validation of me for so long, but now I no longer want to need it. It’s exhausting and unfulfilling. I am well aware that is a choice and a process. I can choose to get my validation from myself and a much smaller inner circle, but it’s a process to let go of lifelong habits of being and defining. In this way and many more, I am learning to navigate life as the new me that is becoming.
So, who are you becoming?