It’s a question as old as the hills: Who am I?
Go through the divorce process and you’ll ask yourself this many times. The titles and roles held previously seem to disappear all at once. I went from being a wife, romantic partner, business owner, back office manager, CFO, and web designer to being none of those things. When Husband #2 left, he ended our personal and business partnership. We were no longer spouses. We no longer ran a business. There was a void created in me.
If I wasn’t any of these people anymore, who was I?
Even my role as parent was disappearing as my kids progressed through the teen years and Son #1 started college. Oddly enough, I’ve been prepared for the kids to leave since I brought them home from the hospital many years ago. My changing role as parent was one I knew about already. Husband #2’s leaving was the more devastating void.
As I pondered the question, Who am I?, I came to the conclusion that who I was really didn’t matter. I was no slave to my past. Just like a young child, I could daydream and become whoever I wanted to be. The future was my journey.
One of my favorite quotes – don’t look to the past, there’s nothing new back there – reminds me that understanding where I came from doesn’t make me a better person. There is a difference between understanding and purpose-filled action. I can know that I’m afraid of heights because I fell out of a tree when I was young, but will this knowledge help me to live my life with integrity or honesty? Probably not.
In the words of Don Draper, “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.”
Rather than ask, “Who am I” again and again with no end in sight, I decided to change the question to “Who do I want to be?” Almost instantly, I felt the shift in perspective from a victim-like question to a control-driven question. “Who do I want to be?” puts me in the driver’s seat. I can make my own personae.
So I sat down with pen and paper in hand and came up with my list of values, goals, beliefs, ambitions, and interests. Starting with values, these are the things I want to be remembered for. I want my values to be ingrained in my personality and actions.
I thought long and hard about the values I liked and admired in others. What were the values that I, myself, found….valuable?
Here are the characteristics I aspire to:
Going forward, I can change who I am by acting in ways that support my desired traits.
Facing the dilemmas of daily life, choosing the actions that are in line with my values, will ensure that I never get caught in a situation where I’m fighting against what I want to be going forward. Becoming reliable means being the person who keeps their word. I will think long and hard about giving my word to someone who I don’t think I can support. Ex. Making a commitment to help a friend clean out their garage. I can be reliable by saying yes AND keeping my promise. But before I make that promise, I’m going to double check my personal calendar and work schedule. And if something better comes up, like tickets to a hockey playoff game, well, I’ll just have to decline the game day festivities since I already gave my word to another project. I realize this is a simple example, but it illustrates the type of choices we make every day.