We've all heard the saying "You can't judge a book by its cover" but how often do you take that into consideration when you think about yourself?
You see we tend to be better giving others the benefit of the doubt than we are giving it to ourselves. We are so much more intolerant and judgmental regarding our own perceived shortcomings. But here's the deal...
You are not your environment, behavior, capabilities, beliefs or values. You are so much more! What you do and how you do it does not equal who you are.
It's easy to sink into the belief that the roles you take on through your life form your identity. We label ourselves black, white, gay, straight, mothers, wives, rich, poor, fat, thin but they are not who we are. Unfortunately, when the way we self-identify is based on these items, they box us in and limit us. I mean, come on, aren't we are so much more than our skin color, sexual orientation, job, role, weight, bank account, and beliefs?
Still it's easy to get lost in these labels. Society loves to categorize us and we fall into the same trap. The problem is, when these identities are stripped from us, we can find ourselves no longer knowing who we are.
That's what happened to me. I used to identify myself by my roles and accomplishments. Then between 2003 and 2007, I lost my executive job, had my salary cut by $100K, my husband passed away, my son went off to college, and I lost our family home. Suddenly, everything I had thought I was was gone. I was no longer a wife. I no longer needed to be a mother. I was unemployed, broke, and homeless. And I had no clue, NONE, as to where to go from there. I was totally lost. I no longer knew who I was and I didn't know what to do about it.
You see the same thing happen when people retire. They struggle to cope with the loss of their job because that's how they identified themselves and their self-worth. But we are more than the sum of our parts.
We need to start thinking of ourselves in terms of how we want to be seen by others.
When you leave this world, how do you want to be remembered? What core values do you want to be known for? When people talk about you, what do you want them to say?
These are the things we need to determine for ourselves. These are the things we need to envision and then strive towards. These are the qualities we want to recognize and develop.
I know it can be difficult to separate yourself from the labels you've given yourself or been given by others so, here's an exercise you can try:
Draw 3 concentric circles (like a bull's eye). In the outermost circle, write down your roles - what you are. In the middle circle, write down your attributes, behavior, and capabilities - how you are. Now in the innermost circle, right down your thoughts on how you want to be seen - who you are. These are core identities that do not change. They can't be stripped away from you. They don't shift with circumstances. These attributes identify who you are at a soul level. You might not even be there yet because life has gotten in the way, but it's who you want to be.
Here's an example:
Can you see how the outer circle is more of a label? And how as you work towards the center, they can be either labels or attributes? Now, look at what you listed in the center. This is the important stuff. The things we want to be known for when we've moved on. Are you already there or is it something to strive towards? How can you create more opportunities to shine in those core areas? Is there work needed for you to become more of how you would like to be seen?
If there is, now is the time to take action.