Are you who you think you are? On the surface, the answer seems obvious. If you have not taken the time to contemplate the answer to this question with a pen and paper, there is potential that you are living someone else’s life. The majority of people see themselves through the eyes of others. The image we have of ourselves is that of our spouse, friends, parents, and coworkers. We are always projecting an image to the world in an effort to get the world to see us in a certain way. This creates conflict and stress that too often goes unnoticed and manifests itself in the form of mental illness and disease, or just unhappiness. Our image to the world has been a creation of our ego. The ego is vulnerable and childish. It always seeks its way and gets angry when anything externally contradicts or conflicts with its image. Tiger Woods is an example of someone projecting an image that was in conflict with their actions. He appeared disciplined, focused, and unstoppable. Then, the veil that shielded his reality from the world was removed and revealed a side of Tiger that shocked us all. He has struggled to regain his footing since his image was shattered. Our ego often becomes a defense mechanism. We lack self-esteem, so we project confidence and make fun of others to protect our own image.
Another way that we define ourselves is through our stuff. We use our house, car, job, memberships, generosity, etc. to define who we are or at least the image we are projecting. There was a time in my life that I was a huge Jeff Gordon fan. I defined my Sunday happiness based on Jeff’s performance. I see this most often with college sports teams or soccer throughout the world. People get fighting mad if their team loses. Upon becoming an adult, this no was no longer acceptable behavior. As spectators, we have zero ability to affect the outcome of the game or event. Stop blaming the refs and accusing the other team of cheating, and just enjoy the game as it was intended, for entertainment.
Who we are is most often on display through our actions and responses. Our true selves show up when the stress of life reveals itself and we are compelled to respond. How do you respond when called to action? Do you run toward the challenge or away from it? Who we are shows up when nobody else is around.
You have the capacity to choose who you are and this activity can assist you in your discovery.
First, remember the objective – define who I am and who I want to be, on my own terms. This work requires a growth mindset. This means you will need to believe you have the capacity to change. This work also requires that you put your ego in your pocket and observe the reality of who you are today. Always remember that who you are today is not who you have to be forever. Who you are today is likely an image you have been projecting to the world. It is likely that the image has been fabricated to have the world perceive you in a certain way.
Grab a journal and let’s begin. Answer the following questions:
- Am I projecting an image to my family, friends, and coworkers that is inconsistent with who I truly am as a person?
- When challenges arise, do I deal with them or avoid them?
- Am I overly judgmental and critical of others?
- Do I allow my emotions to direct my responses or do I choose logic to direct my responses?
- When I receive negative feedback, do I accept it, reject it, or allow it to eat me up inside? Why?
- If I could spend my time on anything I choose, what would I do?
- Am I able to set my mind to a task and complete it?
- What gets me excited with anticipation?
In review of your answers above, how are you showing up? Are you in control of your responses or are you allowing the perceptions of others to direct your responses?
Something I find most interesting in working with people is our inability to objectively see ourselves. Frequently, people will complain to me about the behavior of another person while they demonstrate the exact qualities they are admonishing about others. It is far easier to point out the flaws of others than to honestly assess how we are showing up. Ask yourself – how would others describe me? Again, the goal is not to base our actions on the perceptions of others, but seeing ourselves from their perspective can help us to be honest in our personal assessment. You may choose to fool the whole world, but never fool yourself.
How do you want to show up? What are the gaps from how you want to show up versus the reality of how you are showing up?
What actions can you take immediately to begin to show up in a manner more consistent with how you want to show up?
Who we are is demonstrated daily through our actions, attitudes, and attention. The actions we take in direct response to whatever life delivers us best represents who we are. Talk is cheap and what matters is what we do. This is particularly true when responding to stressful or urgent situations. The attitude we choose is an excellent indication of who we are. First, we must command the maturity to recognize that our attitude is a choice. We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be miserable. Choosing our attitude takes a significant amount of emotional intelligence, personal responsibility, and discipline.
Where our attention goes, energy flows. We get to choose what we allow into our lives. This takes personal responsibility. Today’s world is one of distraction and entertainment. Too often we allow social media to steal attention from what matters most to us. When we recognize this reality, it allows us to step back and decide where to spend our time. Where we spend our time says a great deal about who we are.
Who we are is not the image we project for the world to see. Who we are is not the actions we take when the world is watching. Who we are is not what our Facebook page would have others believe. Who we are is how we act when nobody is watching. Who we are is the attitude we choose. Who we are is what we choose to invest our precious time and attention on at any given moment.