Several weeks ago, at the ripe old age of …, well…, let’s just say I’m not 21 anymore, I began a quest to discover who I am, what I stand for, the values I hold dear, and to identify where the integrity is in my life. These things have been implicit in my life, I know they’ve been there to guide me but I have not consciously considered them as a means of giving my life direction, meaning and purpose.
Once the lid was lifted on the issue of identity the questions started coming thick and fast: What is identity? What is my identity? Is it important to have a personal identity? How do I define myself: wife, mother, sister, granddaughter, daughter, teacher, friend? What happens when all this falls away; when family fractures, people pass away, jobs no longer draw us as they once did? Who am I then? What is left? Easy: I am female, Australian, Christian, a lover of art, a tea drinker, a vegetarian, a yogi, a collector of tea canisters of crystals and other strange objects. Is this enough? Is this the foundation of an identity?
Part of my exciting journey was to develop a personal vision statement; a personal philosophy if you will. I’d always been fascinated that some people had one, that they could articulate their motto, the philosophy they lived by. I didn’t know how to even begin to discover, create or mould a motto by which to live my life. Why have I waited until now you may ask? Well, by way of explanation or excuse, depending on your thinking, I was so busy being a wife, a mother, a student, a teacher, a granddaughter, a daughter, a sister that I lost myself in the busyness of life. I never allowed myself a quiet space of my own to contemplate – “who am I?”
Upon reflection it is strange that I didn’t stop earlier to consider these questions, to discover myself. I remember when my much loved grandmother passed away seven years ago I suffered an identity crisis. She was the one adult in my life who valued me, loved me and accepted me just as I was. Her unconditional love was so very important to me that when she left this world I felt stranded, lost. But I regrouped and continued on.
Not long after that my son left home and I remember knowing what was meant by ’empty nest syndrome’. I felt it as a physical emptiness, an ache deep inside my body, my heart. I hadn’t realised I had tagged myself so strongly as a mother that I had put all of my self worth into that role. When the immediacy of playing the role was taken away on a day to day basis, it was a huge identity crisis. I crashed again.
Like a trooper I put on a mask and carried on. I then threw myself into my work. My role required long hours, important decisions to be made, often in crisis situations. I dealt with a wide gamut of people, juggled many tasks, played mediator, mentor and manager. It was all consuming. One day I woke up and realised I no longer identified with that role. It was no longer satisfying or rewarding. I no longer wanted to label myself with that job description. I needed a change. Wow. Who was I now? I was no longer the favourite granddaughter, daily care giver, important person with an important job. That was sobering. How does one carry on without a label? A tag, a focus or direction for ones energies?
Perhaps I had been lazy and defaulted to living through others as well as living behind a mask that wasn’t truly me. Betty Friedan’s words rang loudly in my ears;
“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.”
It is scary to be alone with that voice in your head as a constant, nagging companion. And so finally, after several missed opportunities, I set about to ‘find’ myself, to draw out what I valued, what made me unique and the contributions I wanted to make to the world. I enlisted the help of a friend and professional to step me through this process.
I created my own personal vision statement: a motto, a philosophy. This was no off the shelf, pre-existing adage but a statement designed by me in consideration of all I value. I also created three affirmations, written as action statements that provide me with daily inspiration. These four simple statements designed and developed in just under two hours have transformed me.
I now have a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for my place in the world. I was feeling lost and directionless. I needed focus and meaning. The process of identifying my own personal vision has allowed me to identify what it is I want from life and the contributions I make to the world around me. This is the springboard I needed to participate more fully in life with passion and enjoyment.
If you are feeling lost, I highly recommend creating your own personal vision. Recall those things you value, the things that set you apart, the things that make you special. We are all special in this world, yet at times, we are the only ones who don’t recognise it. It’s time to remember your strength, your inner beauty, your essence.
Coco Chanel, arguably one of the world’s most elegant women, said, “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” Why not create the life you want to live? Knowing who and what you are brings a certainty and a grace that makes life meaningful, joyful and terribly gratifying.
If you would like some guidance in this process, I fully recommend Lucretia from The Start Up Marketing series who expertly supported me, challenged me and guided me in uncovering my personal identity. I know she can help you, she helped me immeasurably. (The Start-up Marketing Series, call Lucretia on 0431 094 852 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)