As I consider my Happiness Project resolution to ‘create my definition’ I’m thinking about the different ways in which we define ourselves. As Brené Brown’s quote about the challenge she faces when posed the question ‘what do you do?’ highlights, there are multiple ways we can describe who we are.
“I’m a mom, partner, researcher, writer, storyteller, sister, friend, daughter, and teacher. All of these things make up who I am, so I never know how to answer that question” – Brené Brown ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’.
Even for those who work one job that’s fairly straightforward to explain, is this how you choose to define yourself? Because, yes, you might be an Accountant – for example – but that’s not all you are. As Brené points out, we are all a myriad of things not just what we do to make money.
Maybe it’s time for a new question
There are so many aspects that make up our identities, I’m beginning to wonder if the question ‘what do you do?’ isn’t a little limiting. It implies all we’re interested in is what somebody does to make money. When we consider it, though, is that true? I know from my side I’m generally interested in what somebody does for work because I want to know more about them as a person. A more appropriate question might be ‘so who are you?’.
I admit, that’s an intimidating question. But perhaps it’s only scary to us because we don’t know how to answer it, because we aren’t taught to define ourselves in our own terms.
The journey to find my definition
Maybe that’s why I’m having such a difficulty figuring out how to describe what I do for work. We aren’t given the tools to create anything other than a pre-written role in our society (see fence erector story for more on that). At the moment I feel like I’m living the quest to find my definition, and it might take me ten years to create the perfect nutshell sentence. Or maybe I never will, maybe I don’t want to confine my definition to a nutshell. As Brené Brown goes on to say
“…to be honest with you, I’m tired of choosing to make it easier on the person who asked”.
Finding your Dharma
The thing is, who we are changes everyday. One day you might ask me that intimidating question ‘who are you?’ and I’ll tell you I’m a kitchen-disco-dancer-ninja. Another day I might be a horizontal sofa slug. Each day is new, and we have the chance to create our definitions on every single one of those days. But, there is generally something that connects every aspect of your you. In yoga it’s called your Dharma ; it’s your purpose, the mission that you’re on, the thing that always gets you passionate, that makes your heart beat. I think if we take time to get to know ourselves, and figure that out – we can live a life that’s connected to who we really are, and our definition will be easy(ier?) to find.
An exercise, tell your story
I’m working on this bit, and it’s really fun. If you’re interested in getting started here’s an exercise I did recently that I found super helpful.
Write your story… Yes, from when you were a kid to now. Do it in five minutes. See what comes up. With the time limitation the stuff that comes to you will probably be the most important, straight from your gut/heart stuff. You’ll probably notice some sort of uniting theme. Somewhere in there, you’ll find your dharma.
As Gretchen Rubin says, the thing you loved to do for fun when you were ten usually holds the key to how to find work/a living that makes you happy.