If I were to ask you right this moment who you were, how would you answer?
Linda Gray, actor of Sue Ellen Ewing fame and author of “The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction,” recently asked attendees at the 2014 Ultimate Woman’s Expo in Dallas to answer the question, “Who are you?” with an added twist. She challenged the women to define themselves apart from the roles they played for other people. In other words, immediately answering with a job title or as an extension of another person (as someone’s wife, for example), was off limits.
Well, yikes. I have no idea how to answer, then.
I play a lot of roles in my life. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, stay-at-home mom, marketing professional, Michigan State University graduate, Colorado resident and American citizen, for starters. When I filled out the “About You” portion of this blog just a few weeks ago, I added a whole bunch of words describing various roles I play. Further, I’ve always seen it as my duty to fulfill those roles and to be a good daughter, a perfect sister, a caring friend and a responsible employee. I honestly don’t know how to answer the question of who I am without using those labels.
I’ve always defined myself in relation to other people or things, and I’ve defined my successes in the same way. I considered myself successful when I landed a cool job, got married and had children. As I achieved each of these things, I initially felt excited, and then I expected to feel happy and fulfilled. Yet, each time I achieved one of the external goals that I wanted so desperately, and which I thought would bring me lasting fulfillment, I was a bit underwhelmed. The utter completeness and complete contentment I was seeking wasn’t there.
Is that because the goals I was seeking were external?
If I can’t define myself solely in relation to others, then the futility of trying to achieve fulfilment externally is truly revealed. I realize now that I’ve been searching for meaning and happiness in all the wrong places. I won’t reach fulfillment by playing roles for other people. I have to find happiness within, and the way to begin doing that is by figuring out who I am in the first place.
So, I’m asking you, dear reader. Maybe you are my mom, my colleague, a classmate or a relative. I already know that. Who are you? What are you passionate about? What do you get excited about? What comes naturally to you? What makes you feel deeply? When do you feel the most alive?
I want to hear about your roles and achievements, too, but please don’t stop there. Tell me more. Tell me about your greatest strengths, fears and passions. Those are the things that I can learn from and truly appreciate. Those are the things that bring us together and show how we are connected. Those are the things that matter.
That’s what I want to really know.