One struggle for me over the years has been letting things outside of me define who I am. It's very hard to get a clear picture of who you really are when we live in a world where you're always somebody's "wish I was” and somebody else’s "glad I'm not".
My particular struggle came from work. I inherited a gene of sorts that made me feel like I was important, like I mattered, when I accomplished things related to my abilities in a job. A few years ago, I read a book during the season in my life that I needed it. In Present over Perfect, Shauna Niequist said: "when I die, I don't want the best thing about me to be that I was organized."
Now let me be clear- I still love organizing, organization, and all things planning, but that quote hit me with it's best shot. It sent me down a bit of a journey of figuring out what, exactly, made up "me". It was easy to discover what I was not:
I am not a number (financial, weight, or otherwise).
I am not a relationship status.
I am not a mistake I've made.
I am not a stereotype of what I look like, my gender, or my race.
What was harder for me was taking it to where it hurt. Realizing I'm not even the things I value about myself:
I am not the good things people say about me.
I am not what people think about me.
I am not my job title.
I am not my reputation.
I am not my accomplishments.
I am not the sum total of what I got done today.
And one of the hardest of all:
I am not my work ethic.
It was easy for me to depend on my own abilities to get things done, to provide for myself, and to create a reputation for myself as someone who was dependable and honest. What was hard was realizing that even as I did those things 90% of the time, some people would still think of me as unsuccessful, or as lucky, or even as a bad person in general. If my worth was dependent on my reputation or the way other people thought about me or my accomplishments (or lack there of), my view of myself was never going to be fully up to... me.
That was a weird realization. As someone who's worth came from work, what I didn't realize was that the work alone wasn't my issue. Other people were in that mix, and when it came right down to it, what I really wanted was not to work hard, but have other people know about it.
As someone on the other side of the fence these days, standing on tip toes looking back over is strange. My life is much slower now. There are less people with whom I work closely. There are more days off. There is more time spend reading, playing, resting, and generally enjoying the life I have now rather than working towards one I might have someday.
These days I feel like I have a foundation about "who”a person really is.
A person is their soul.
A person is who they become each day.
A person is valuable.
A person is flawed.
It's a short list, and simple, but perhaps that's all we can really say with 100% truth. If our identity lies in these things, maybe we would do well to take care of our souls, let them rest, let them be silent. Maybe we would think more about who we become each day over the tasks we achieve, knowing that who we become cannot be taken away from us when most of the things we achieve can. If we thought of ourselves and others as valuable, of unspeakable worth, then perhaps we would treat ourselves with more grace and forgiveness than was needed since we're all also flawed. Maybe it would be easier to pass that forward to others. Perhaps the world would look a little different if we took these things to heart for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.
Today, I hope you can rest in who you really are.