By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Who are you?
Three words; so simple to read, so difficult to understand. People spend decades trying to respond to this question before they eventually realize that it’s unanswerable—who we are is always changing.
So we come up with a stopgap. We describe ourselves as mothers, daughters, employees, spouses, caretakers, etc., answering the question of who we are by pointing to the most prominent role we play at any given point in time.
This way of thinking—while convenient—has its drawbacks. It doesn’t take long to feel pigeon-holed, trapped within the narrow confines of the very definitions we helped create.
“People are fluid,” says Janice Taylor, author, columnist and life coach for Virtual Shoulder.com, and we need to start seeing ourselves that way. “We are not defined by one role,” she says, “We think of ourselves as nouns—but we are really verbs. We are beings.”
Beings in motion are stressed
It should be easy for us to see ourselves as verbs. After all, thanks to the full-throttle nature of modern day life, we’re always doing something.
We bounce between dozens of daily tasks: working, driving our kids to soccer practice, making dinner, trying to find to time to go on a date with our spouse or significant other.
And our sense of self is often the first thing that gets sacrificed to the gods of stress and social pressure. “Society tells you what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to feel,” Taylor says, “But you need to tell yourself that it’s okay to have fun and be true to who you are.”
Portrait of a whole person
You can’t be true to yourself until you know who that self is. Which brings us back to that original, eternal question: Who are you?
Taylor offers some advice for re-connecting with and getting to know your true self:
1. Engage your core: No, it’s not an argument for taking an extra Pilates class. An important part of the re-definition process is thinking about your core set of inner resources. Define yourself by the things you like to do. For example, you may be a creative person who enjoys writing, singing and practicing yoga. You may also be a wife and a mother but, as Taylor points out, those labels describe your relationship to other people, not your relationship with yourself.
2. Talk about yourself: I may sound unusual, but engaging in some third-person self-talk can help you come up with alternative definitions of who you are. Taylor says this method creates a sense of inner spaciousness and freedom that may clear your head and help you plug into your true self. “It puts you in a place where your mind isn’t hijacked by what’s going on, where you’re more than your thoughts,” she says.
3. Connect under the covers: Re-tooling your self-definition doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours sitting alone, meditating on the mysteries of life. Taylor suggests taking a few minutes right after you wake up to connect with your inner being. “Remember who you are before you get out of bed,” she says. Just don’t forget to set your alarm back a few minutes to accommodate your under-the-covers contemplation.
4. Talk to strangers: There’s perhaps no better way to re-invent yourself than by being around people you’ve never met before. Look for groups and clubs in your area that are focused on things you’re interested in. That way, you can explore a personal passion while introducing yourself to people who have no pre-conceived opinions about who you are.
5. Set some goals: Setting personal goals is a great way to explore and re-ignite your passions. This doesn’t mean that you have to draft a comprehensive five-year plan (unless you really want to). According to Taylor, the most important thing about goal setting is consistency. Take ten minutes a day to work towards your target, whether it’s writing the next great American mystery novel or growing an herb garden in your backyard.