Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Who do you think you are? Identity and Success

"To remember who you are, you need to forget who they told you to be."
The media is constantly bombarding us with images of how we should look and what we should believe and who we should aspire to emulate.  You know what I say to all of that hype?  I say, "Phooey!"

Look at the women along the left side of this post.  What do you see?  What is most obvious to me is the variety - we are not the same.  Many things influence who we are and who we are changes as we age and learn from new experiences, both ours and by watching those of others.

However, before we can consider any outside opinion, we must come to accept who we are without all of that external pressure.  When we look inside ourselves, there is no denying who we are, yet we seem to be more able to let others decide who or what we should be.  We have some strange desire to please everyone else at our own expense, to forgo those things which make us truly happy so that we can make others happy.  There are many problems with this approach to living our lives.  For one thing, we rarely succeed in making others happy, especially in the long run.  For another, when does it stop?  Who do we have to appease?  How many people do we need to satisfy?  What do we do to ourselves in the process?

The quote at the top of this post struck me, because of its honesty and directness.  Too often, we let others decide who we are or what we should be doing, especially as it pertains to the idea of success.  What we often forget in the process is that we determine who we are and what successes we will have.  It is our choice.  That is not to say that others cannot influence our choices, but those influences should come from inspiring support, not disapproval of who we are at our core or by them trying to force us into the image they have of us.

Who we are affects the successes we have in life.  Therefore, how we define, or allow others to define, who we are affects those potential successes as well.
I speak from experience on this subject.  Once I finished college, I jumped right into "AAHH!  I have to get a job!" mode, even though at my core, I knew I did not want to work that traditional 9-5 cycle.  That is not to say that I did not have successes within that framework; I had several.  The problem is that they rarely mattered to me.  Of course, some mattered.  For instance, I was very happy to know that I was helping to protect the environment in much of the work I did.  I enjoyed helping others and working in teams.  But, there was something deep inside of me, a constant dull tugging or a grip that refused to let go of whatever it was holding onto, that I could never quite bring myself to let go of or ignore.

A few years ago, I paused and reflected on that grip and what it was holding onto and I realized that what it held was me, the me I truly am, the dream the natural instinct I've had since I was a very small child.  "I want to be... no... I am a writer."  I embraced it completely at that point and began to let go of what everyone else thought I should be, of the society-level images of who I should be as a woman, wife and mother.  I began my retransformation back into who I knew I was.  Through that process, I came to understand myself and, perhaps most importantly, to accept who I am and recognize that I do not need to defend that to anyone.  I needed only to build on it.

As I have gone through that process, it has been a struggle; of that there is no doubt.  But, it was totally worth it!  Because, today I am a writer.  I am a published author.  I am an editor.  I am an entrepreneur, in charge of my own company, skills, successes, and myself.  Of course, it doesn't hurt to meet someone for a second time, a few months after your brief first encounter and have them say, "I remember you.  You wrote a book."  With that one sentence, I realized that who I am influences others' impressions of me, instead of allowing others' impressions of me to determine who I am.

The only thing I had to do to achieve this was to be honest with myself... oh, and believe what I saw and then work really hard to be successful with it.  That is a challenge I would take a hundred times.

Practice Engaging Your Inner Wisdom:  Take some time for yourself, maybe five or ten minutes to begin the process (and remember, this is a process; you may have to do this several times), and ask yourself this question.  Am I being true to myself?

If you are, how can you build on that experience?  How well does your external representation of you reflect your true internal self?  How does knowing and embracing that true self affect what you're doing to be successful?

If you are not being true to yourself, what do you see when you look inside?  How can you get past all the layers of crap that's a result of external influence and just look at who you are?  Spend a few minutes every day working to re-engage with that true inner self.  What can you do to accept your inner identity?  How will that affect what you're doing to be successful?

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