If you aren’t sure who you are, you might as well work on who you want to be. ~ Robert Brault
“Who am I?”
We keep asking this question over and over, some of us for a lifetime; as though it were an itch we can never quite seem to scratch.
If this sounds at all familiar, I have good news for you. Right now – today – you have all the tools you need to answer this question.
First it’s imperative that we lay a foundation of understanding; and that is…
All of your experiences up to now, each decision, good and bad, the heartbreak and triumph… each time you made the choice not to risk, and each time you found the courage to try new things and pushed your boundaries to experience greater understanding… you have been creating yourself in the process.
For better or worse, who you are right now is the culmination of all your choices and life experiences up to this point.
Time to Re-frame the Question
Your first step to gaining greater clarity about who you are is to re-frame the question from “who am I?” to “who do I think I am?” because the answers you’ve been looking for will be found in your stories.
We all have stories we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves we are too fat, too ugly, or too old, or too foolish. We tell ourselves these stories because they allow us to excuse our actions, and they allow us to pass off the responsibility for things we have done-maybe to something within our control, but anything other than the decisions we have made. ~ Eleanor Brown
A lot has been said about the power of self-talk as a way to re-frame our thinking for more positive results in business and life in general. In its simplest terms, positive self-talk can have an empowering motivational effect; while negative self-talk can damage self-esteem and adversely affect pretty much every area of your life.
Where we typically fall short in the discussion is in understanding that self-talk is merely a bi-product of a much larger reality – our personal narratives. In other words, the stories we tell to ourselves, about ourselves.
No matter how positive a spin you put on your self-talk about a particular situation; if it conflicts with the life story you’ve created, you won’t experience the results you long for. Our stories speak directly to how we make sense of our lives and come to terms with our connection to family, friends, society, history and culture.
We tell ourselves stories that explain who we are and who we’re becoming… similarly, we tell stories of our past “When I was a kid I used to,” our present “I’m having a bad day,” and our future “Someday I will…” The details and how we spin daily events and experiences into our stories largely guide us and determine how we see our lives, and consequently influence our perception of who we think we are.
Developing a better understanding of this process requires exploring the stories you are telling yourself now. In other words, how you see yourself as a mother, father, friend, employee, etc. Please keep in mind, whether your personal narratives are true or not, you believe them and then act them out (for better or worse in some cases).
I think of life itself now as a wonderful play that I’ve written for myself, and so my purpose is to have the utmost fun playing my part. ~ Shirley MacLaine
Here are a couple of examples of how someone might view a particular role in his/her life story:
- My role as a student: I am a hard-working student, though I am not a perfect student. Unfortunately, I need to work very hard for my grades. I wish I was one of those lucky people who could do all of my homework in an hour or not study for tests and get straight A’s. But that’s not me; I have to work for everything I get.
- My role as a mother: I am an involved mother. I spend a lot of time with my children and have never missed a school event. One of my greatest concerns is that I set a good example for them. The problem is in order to make sure they have a better quality of life than I had growing up, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot and I worry that sometimes I expect too much of them as a way of making myself feel better about what I’ve given up.
By identifying your stories and understanding how the narratives you create influence you on a daily basis, you will be better able to learn and grow, forgive and find compassion, rewrite stories that are no longer working for you, and most importantly, establish a better roadmap to the life you desire to create for yourself.