Who Are You?

In my therapy practice, clients always are asking me, “Is how I feel (you can substitute “think” or “behave”) normal? I usually ask, “Is it normal for you?” Constantly comparing yourself to others not only is tiring, but limiting and destructive.

Some of us live life based on others’ expectations. Those “others” might include a boss, family, friends and associations with a group. We let other people dictate our morals and what we value - in essence who we are and what path we live. Do you ever find yourself acting out some script someone else has written for your life? Ask yourself why you do what you do. We all have responsibilities to our personal and professional lives, but do these get in the way of being who you really want to be and doing what you really want to do in the world?

I recently watched a video from the NOOMA® series produced to help us think about how we define our life path and whether we are allowing others to define our path for us.

Author and educator Rob Bell aptly points out that asking what is normal in comparison to other people is asking the wrong question. The question to ask yourself is, “Am I living the life I am called to live?” To answer this question, it is helpful to know who you are.

We all come from somewhere. I don’t just mean what continent, which country, what province or state. Our experiences and the experiences of our families make up who we are - our strengths and limitations. How do you invite others to know who you are? Do you define yourself by your name or your job or some other label such as runner, writer, mother, Buddhist, cancer survivor - the possible labels are endless.

Bell says, “You and I have pasts......things we’ve done, mistakes we’ve made, and where we’ve been and what we’ve done has shaped us into who we are today. So we have to embrace our story, our history. You don’t have to be proud of it, but you must claim it because it’s yours.”

Can any label truly describe who we are and what path we are on? Do any of the labels you wear distract you from your true calling? Do you embrace your strengths? How about your limitations - do they define your life’s calling?

I’m not sure why many of us are preoccupied with comparisons to others. Maybe because that is how we know if we are alright. I’m not sure it should matter what others are thinking, saying, doing or being. I know that for many people comparing themselves brings anxiety, depression, resentment, greed, envy. At the very least, often comparing ourselves to others distracts us from our own true self.

In relationships, comparing often breeds resentment. According to highly regarded couples therapist, John Gottman, resentment will kill a marriage. I think, as individuals, comparing yourself to others breeds envy and that will kill your soul.

My challenge to you is to do the work to discover your uniqueness and peel away the labels and comparisons to people who have more, can do things you can’t or who look different than you. May you find the path to being comfortable in the skin you live in.