“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ e.e. cummings
When was the last time you paused to think about who you are? I don’t mean what you are, how you feel, why you did something. I mean under all of that – the WHO. I’ve been doing that lately. I’ve been taking a sort of personal inventory to assess the who of who I am.
It’s a funny – and really sort of difficult consideration to make. I mean, think about the last time you went somewhere and met new people. How long did it take someone to ask, “So what do you do?” I’d bet it was within the first 10 minutes of the conversation. Am I right? I ask that question, too. It’s a casual ice breaker; one of those questions we learn to ask to demonstrate an interest in another person. The problem with the question is that people often respond with their job title. “I’m a teacher,” or “I’m a lawyer,” or “I work at Target.” And from that response about how they make money, we make judgments about WHO they are.
You’ve only had to live on this earth and deal with people a short amount of time to know that WHAT someone does for a living and WHO they actually are can be complete dichotomies. For example, I’ve known teachers who really don’t want kids of their own and healthcare professionals who make poor decisions related to wellbeing. And so, especially in this day and age of online everything, I think it is so important to look beyond the titles to understand what makes a person tick.
The real challenge in all of this is that I don’t think most people stop to think about the WHO of themselves, separate from the titles they hold. Additionally, the WHO is often clouded by the expectations of others, the list of things we need to get done, or the things we think we need. We spend so much time trying to be all things to all people that I fear we are completely losing ourselves in the process. It is easily plausible to think that today a person woke up and within the first two hours of the day was expected to be dad, husband, carpool driver, bill payer/provider, and CEO … all within the first two hours! When did that person even have a chance to think about his “who”?
But the consideration of the who is, I think, so important to our overall happiness. I mean, how can we really know what we need, how we should spend our time, or even with whom we should be friends, if we don’t have an understanding of our authentic selves? It is so easy to lose ourselves in the day to day. And when we do, we are left open to make decisions or choose courses of action that ultimately leave us unhappy. A year or a decade suddenly goes by and we’re left looking in the mirror at a person we no longer recognize. This, I believe, is the greatest cause of anxiety and depression we face. And I don’t think people even think about it.
And so I am taking that personal inventory to understand my “who.” I am considering my values and trying better to understand what motivates me. It is not easy work. But my goal is to live a satisfying life – and through that life I’d like to add value to the world around me. Do you know your truth? If not, maybe it’s time to start looking. You might not always live perfectly within that truth, but at least your life won’t be dictated by what everybody else thinks you need.