Truth Series, Part I: How Do You Define Yourself?

Who are You?

Today is the first of a three-part series that I’m calling the Truth Series.  It’s about knowing who you are deep within your soul and owning up to it.  Over the next few weeks we will dive into how to figure out who you are, how that relates to how you should define yourself (hint:  they should be the same), how to own up to it (and what I mean by that) and the benefits of doing all the above.

When I was undergoing cancer treatment, I met some people who were so encompassed by their cancer diagnosis that they defined themselves primarily through a cancer lens.  And for many, this continued after treatment ended and they were cancer-free.  They were lost in the disease and allowed themselves to be completely consumed by it.

To be quite honest, this made me sad and a bit scared.  Why?  Well, I had already been through a long journey relating to how I define myself.  One that ultimately led me to believe that defining oneself through life’s circumstances leads to misery – because it isn’t aligned with our inner soul.  These people broke my heart.  They were unhappy and wracked with fear and worry.   And they scared me a bit because I was concerned that I would go down that same path and become engrossed by my diagnosis.  And I didn’t want to go back.

When I was a kid, I defined myself through the circumstances in which I lived.  We weren’t rich (in fact, we struggled).  My mother was an alcoholic.  Some of the men in my mom’s (and therefore my) life were not the nicest – and that’s being very generous.  Thus, I thought of myself as someone who struggled and had a hard life – a victim.

In fact, for many years I wrapped myself in a blanket of victim-hood.  And it infused everything that I did, how I viewed the world and, most importantly, how I viewed myself within the world.  As a result, I was pretty miserable.  But God must have had different plans for me because over time I decided that being a victim pretty much sucked.  And I needed to stop playing the victim.

I came to realize that I had a choice in the matter.  I discovered that I could define myself however I wanted to – and I could live by my own definition.  This was truly empowering.  It changed everything for me.  With this discovery, I realized that I could become the person I wanted to become.  Because what I wanted was to be in perfect alignment with who I really was on the inside – based on my inner needs and values.  Not who I thought I was supposed to be, based on someone else’s definition.

I also learned that our way of being within the world tends to revolve around how we define ourselves.  But if we define ourselves in a manner that doesn’t synchronize with who we really are on the inside (our needs, our values and our personal standards), we will forever be searching for a satisfying life to no avail.  Because we won’t be living our lives based on who we really are.

So, I had to figure out who I really was.  Which, to be quite honest, took a fair bit of time.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I finally got to the point where I knew exactly who I was. And I became pretty good at ensuring that my decisions and actions honored my inner soul – my own personal needs and values.  Thus, I got to the point where who I was and who I wanted to be were congruent.   This doesn’t mean that I’m perfect (because I’m not – just ask my husband).  I’m not talking about perfection here.  What I’m talking about is knowing who you really are – and owning it.

It turns out that my initial fear that I might redefine myself through the lens of cancer was unwarranted.  Instead, because I had already gone through the metamorphosis described above, it was easier to stay true to myself and live within my own values and standards.  Even in the toughest of times.  And it made my cancer journey simpler to navigate. I learned that it’s much easier to deal with the curve balls thrown to you by life when you know who you are.  This knowledge was my compass.  And it allowed me to be true to myself regardless of my circumstances, which was truly comforting.

And that is what I mean by owning who you are.  It means that you are true to yourself.  But to be true to yourself you’ve got to know who you are first (that one’s obvious, yes?).

Now that I’ve (hopefully) impressed upon you the importance of figuring out who you are and defining yourself accordingly, I want to ask you to answer a few questions.  How do you currently define yourself?  Is this who you really are on the inside (e.g., the real you) or does it represent a role you play, the circumstances you’ve found yourself in, qualities you think you should have (but don’t necessarily have) or something else?  What emotions are coming up for you when answering these questions?

Take some time to really think about the answers and be completely honest (because they will do you no good if you don’t answer them honestly).  If you feel like it, feel free to post your findings in the comments section.  Next week I’ll discuss how to figure out who you really are and why that’s so important in how you live your life (hint: it makes for a much happier existence).

Until next time…


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  1. This is great food for thought. Not only do we have to deal with what we are telling ourselves about ourselves, we also have to reconcile what other people are telling us about ourselves. As I recently read in a book about positive self-talk, “We are ships with countless captains, all seeking to direct us on their own courses, for their own purposes, not even knowing they are leading our ships astray.”I look forward to the rest of the series. Cheers.

    1. You are correct. We need to get really clear on our negative self-talk AND on how we are allowing others to define us. Before moving onto figuring out who we really are and how to truly define ourselves we need to recognize where this comes into play. That way, we are more able to clear away all of the other stuff and truly figure out who we are (and want to be). Thanks for the comment!

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