Yesterday was Easter Sunday. Many years ago, at least where I grew up, Easter meant new ensembles, complete with hats and gloves for the girls. Even though my family didn’t have much money, Mom always made sure that we had those outfits for the special day. Yesterday, my (just turned seven) grandson Ethan was sporting a very dapper “Easter hat”. It reminded me of fifty years ago. It also reminded me of how the “hat we’re wearing” sends a message.
We wear many “hats”: parent, spouse, partner, friend, student, politician, nurse, writer, artist, banker, chef, construction worker; the list goes on and on. We often allow ourselves be defined by the hat we wear.
Under those hats we wear even more masks: serious, happy, successful, peaceful, in control, available, generous, confident, approachable, knowledgeable, sweet; this list goes on and on too. When we’re wearing these masks it’s often because we’re in a place where we feel that we can’t, or shouldn’t be ourselves.
If we do enough parading around in our hats and masks, we lose sight of who we really are; who we are unedited, at the core. We end up being who we think we’re “supposed” to be: the person who will be accepted, who will “fit in”, who’s doing a really great job in the role being played. We’re so busy pretending, putting up fronts, and “doing” that we forget to BE.
Some roles are imposed before we ever have a chance to develop a sense of self. Children are told things like “don’t cry you’re a boy”, “you’re so smart that you’ll always excel in school”, “of course, you have to go to college”, “you have to carry on the family name”, “I know that you’re going to be an artist (or attorney or plumber) just like me”, or even worse, “you’re bad”, “you’ll never amount to anything”, “you’re fat (or skinny, or clumsy)”.
Many of us have spent our entire lives in “wardrobe and makeup”. It’s tough to walk through life always playing a different part. Maybe you’ve played so many roles that you’ve never even figured out who you really are.
When I’m meeting new people and introduce myself I now say, “my name is Kay McLane”. I don’t say “I’m Kay McLane, because I am not my name. For a long time, when people asked me to tell them about myself, I would start with what I did for a living, then I’d add my other roles (mother, daughter, etc.), and finish up with where I live or went to school. Now, when I have a chance to answer the question about who I am, I try to share more about how I walk through life instead of what I’ve done to earn a living.
Start defining yourself with a “Personal Mission Statement”. A mission statement shares the essence of who you desire to be. Think about how you want to live your life versus your career (what you do to earn money). If you’ve never thought about it before, identify what’s really important. Make a list of things that you enjoy. Find a way to balance your “career life” with the rest of your life. Decide how to merge the roads of what you do to earn an income or to take care of others, with who you want to be at the core. Whether you’re 18 or 80, it’s not too late to “create yourself”.
My personal mission statement has changed over time. At this point, my desire is to walk through life with joy and grace, to make a difference in the short amount of time I’m on this planet, and to honor other people with respect, dignity and kindness.
Creating a place where you can relax, have fun and truly be yourself is critical. Be purposeful about creating a home that nourishes and nurtures the “who you are”. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and honor you, then work on “being” not just “doing”.
Who are YOU?