The Simplest Most Complicated Question

A friend and a mentor once told me that experiencing an internal crisis is a good thing, it means a transformation is about to happen. I guess this means that I have been in a very good place, a great one in fact! He advised me, in the middle of the turmoil which was happening inside my own mind, to embrace it and not fight it, accept it and not deny it. So, I brought the “crisis” out of my mind and put it in front of me, curiously exploring it and lovingly asking why it’s there. I would love to say all my questions were answered, but that wouldn’t be the truth.

What I can admit to is that when I looked at it, it started shrinking. In the light of day and outside the dark curves of my mind, this problem seemed much more approachable than I had imagined.

It was almost like a tiny piece of food stuck in my teeth, for lack of a better example. In my mind, I would imagine this particle creating a huge wedge between my teeth and when I succeed in taking it out I realize it was nothing but a small sesame seed.

My internal crisis started with a simple question: Who am I? What words do I choose to complete the sentence: “I am…”? I realized then that what I do and who I am became so intertwined that I was no longer able to tell who’s who. I am a professional woman working in the corporate world. Is that who I am? That answer didn’t seem to satisfy my curiosity. So I tried something else for size. I am a mother. Again, I wondered, is that all I am? What if I choose to finish the sentence with a state, an emotion like “I am happy”, or “I am tired”, or maybe something more objective like “I am 38 years old”. None of these answers quenched my thirst. I must be more than that, I thought to myself.

Removed from my current circumstances and state of my life, as a mother, a wife, a sister, a businesswoman, a coach, a friend… would I lose “me”?

If I continue to tie myself to the labels I have been called and willingly adopted, am I not limiting myself and squeezing ALL of me into tiny little boxes? When I decided to be completely honest with myself (which sounds much easier than it is), I learned that I have been seeking approval all of my life for who I am. I was looking outside of myself for answers to my most inner questions. I needed my parents to approve of my choices, and my teachers, and my coaches, and my friends, my managers, my husband and now even my two and a half year-old daughter. I looked to them to define me. Sometimes I was kind because they said I was, sometimes I was smart because they said I was, sometimes I was selfish, beautiful, fat, funny, all because they said I was. It was they, not I, who decided and I readily accepted.

My first instinct and thought after arriving at this realization was: oh poor me, how unfair, I have been wronged all of these years. But just as quickly as this thought came into my mind, I kicked it out. No. I am not a victim here, far from it. I chose to measure my significance and my self-worth on what others thought. I chose performance reviews at work to tell me how good, or bad, I am at what I do. I chose the number of likes on my blog to determine how insightful, or poor, my writing is. I chose the calls I got on my birthday to determine whether I was loved or not. No one forced that on me. I caused it and I finally owned it.

What I have come to accept is that who I am today doesn’t necessarily mean that’s who I will be tomorrow. The energy that flows inside of me, and all of us, may go in one direction today and a different direction tomorrow. The essence is always the same, but the “labels” change.

So the answer to my question became clear: I am fluid. I am not defined by one, ten or a hundred things.

I can be all of them, or I can be none of them. I finally fully accept that.

I wonder… how would you complete the sentence: I am?

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