If I were to ask you in this moment right now how you would define yourself, how would you respond? What images and words come to mind? Better yet, take a minute and casually write down your response without editing yourself.
Where would you place the most weight? Your career? Your talent? Your relationships? Would you define yourself narrowly or broadly?
Does your current dream define you the best? The reason I ask is there is a dangerous trap in defining ourselves with the things that we do, even if they are excellent and praiseworthy, or the relationships we are in; even if they are priorities in life. When we define ourselves too much with what we do, our relationships, or what our BIG DREAM is, we are vulnerable to devaluing our Greater Self.
Your Greater Self is the essence of who you are as you evolve through life. Your Greater Self is incapable of being defined by anything that you do, but it does foster the fertile landscape where you plant your dreams, relationships, and vision of your best life.
Why is it important to examine how we define ourselves? Have you ever defined yourself through a loving relationship that wounded you? As a mother, I used to define myself mostly through my ability to be “a good mother.” I valued myself on my ability to not only raise my girls to become wonderful, thoughtful, well-adjusted human beings, (that should have been enough right there!), but also on how well I kept our home, how delicious our meals were, how much time I gave as a volunteer in their school, how my garden looked, and the list goes on. I was obsessed.
But one day, after years of practice as the ‘best mom’, I realized that my daughters no longer needed me to be involved in their lives the way that I had been for years. And it hurt, a lot. I had poured myself into this role, perfected it, I defined who I was through it, and now my identity was evaporating. Therefore, I didn’t know how to value myself and it took me a long time to discover that there was a lot more to me than the role of mom that I fixated on.
Now I am not saying that I wish I had been less involved with my girls, because I love the time I invested in them and I cherish it. But I wish I had known then what I know now, that my Greater Self was always the loving mom but also so much more. I just placed all of my self-identity into a mothering role and forgot to explore the other parts of who I was.
I have lost myself in romantic relationships as well. When I identified mostly as a girlfriend and forget that I was also an interesting person outside of that relationship, I shrank myself. And when those relationships ended, I had to rebuild the parts of me that atrophied as well as my self-esteem.
I have also tried to define myself mostly through my career path. I changed careers in my late forties and returned to school to obtain an MBA. It was a gut-wrenching, butt-kicking, three years of continuous stress, ugly cries, and testing. I persevered and believed that my dream of starting my own business and becoming a successful entrepreneur would be fulfilled immediately.
My self-worth was entrenched in this image of who I thought I would be in a short amount of time. But what I learned was that things don’t work out the way we plan most of the time, and just being able to stay fluid under the stress of unfulfilled dreams is a gift.
What I’ve learned from all of these experiences is it is self-limiting to identify ourselves through what we do or achieve.
Remember that You are greater than any one identity, dream or vision of yourself. When a dream dies, Your Greater Self will birth a new dream, because it is INFINITE. Let yourself evolve, and life Your Best Life