The question of self-definition grabbed my attention earlier this week, and has been an interesting topic of discussion for the past few days, prompted by watching “Jeopardy”. If you are not familiar with this American quiz TV show, at the beginning of the program each contestant is introduced by their name, occupation and where they live: “John Smith, Astronaut, Houston”, “Jane Doe, Lawyer, Los Angeles”. This week one contestant was introduced as a “retired homemaker” and that started the conversation flow!
But it also prompted the question: How do you introduce your Self? This is important because how you define your Self may also be what limits you.
I’ve been both a leader and a participant in many workshops. Generally everyone has an opportunity to introduce themself at the beginning. Some folks tailor their introduction to the workshop, suggesting what experience they have and what they want to learn. Lovely! Some just fumble about or get frozen, as the question perhaps digs deep into their consciousness…. What exactly am I? Who am I? What do I stand for? If you are not connected to who you are, can you connect with others?
Think back to the moments when you have introduced your Self. Do you define your Self by your job? Your marital status? Your culture? Your colour? Your income? Your gender or sexual orientation? Your religion? The way you think? Your values? Or perhaps you introduce yourself in negative ways such as “Well, I’m not really an expert at… “, or “I’m just a …… ”
Does how we define our Self make it true? Does it limit us…. or expand us? How would we be in the world if we were free of ANY definition? What would it be like to introduce your Self in a totally different way?
I am Jane. I love to garden because it brings me closer to nature.
I am John. I love volunteering my time at shelters because I once was homeless.
I am Aasif, I love to express myself through painting.
I am Hiroshi. My name means tolerant and generous, and that is who I am in the world.
Take some time to think about who you are and start defining your Self in a way that:
- opens you up to growth and possibility
- expands your world rather than limits it
- shares your passions and beliefs with the world
- is aligned with your values
As we grow and learn in this world, how we define our Selves may shift too… become more expansive, less limiting. So remember these words from Andrew Murphy,
You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.
Knock down those walls!