“Hi, my name is Renee and I’m the (long drawn out title) at (insert company name).” How many times do you utter that phrase upon first meeting someone? And then wonder, but that’s not WHO I am…do you even care who I am? The way we choose to present ourselves — and by that token, the way the world expects us to — can often crush us or confine us even before the words have even escapes our lips.
The hidden judgement behind needing to validate what we DO, the self-worth that lies in the very label that we feel defines us….these are all aspects of IDENTITY that puzzle and provoke me into deep thought.
I stopped today to think about a phrase, “wearing different hats.” Sure, I’m a ____ working at _____ but that far from explains the complex person I am and the many roles I play in the lives of countless people. A mom. A friend. A daughter. A mentor. A student. When I dig deeper, though, what I am and the function I serve to others only scratches the surface of who I am at my very core: what makes me tick, brings me utter joy, and completes my heart with a sense of purpose.
What if we challenged ourselves to ask bigger heartfelt questions of the people around us? Not “what is your job?” but rather, “what makes you smile?” or “tell me about a passion of yours.” What then? Would we know how to speak to each other as real, raw, unfiltered and imperfect people who cannot be shoved into a box with a tidy title on the lid?
Those larger questions are ones that carry weight. Whether it’s knitting sweaters for homeless dogs or tilling the soil for an organic garden that will bear fruit for our family. Photographing the night sky. Swing dancing barefoot. Building a treehouse for our kids. Simply sitting and being. What brings the sparkle to our eyes and the animation to our faces.
Because at the end of the day, we are more than the sum of our labels, roles and parts. Self identity can be a simple, unwavering foundation, a guiding principal that shows us the way. Or for those of us who are still searching for identity, it can represent a vast ocean of possibility where we challenge ourselves to float on a raft of our own construction. Passion and purpose are such simple ideas but ones that can define who we are beyond what we do.