1.10: How You Define Yourself Makes a Difference

“I’m just the bastard son of an L.A. whore.”

The comment startled me as I conversed with a handsome gentleman before church began. His definition of himself makes clear my assertion

How you define yourself makes a difference.
How you define yourself makes a difference.

that how you define yourself makes a difference.

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The easiest way adults define themselves is by their profession or trade. “I’m a truck driver,” or “I’m a dentist,” or “I’m a housewife,” or “I’m just a lowly clerk.”

Another way people define themselves is by their physical characteristics: color of skin, height, weight, hair color, age, etc.

Some define themselves by their economic status: “I’m from the wrong side of the tracks,” or “We live in the Worthington Estates,” or “I haven’t made more than $25,000 in any one year of my life,” or “I’m unemployed.”

Social status is yet another way people like to define themselves. “I’m the wife of….” or “I serve on the board,” or “We just got back from Europe,” or “I’m from the hood.”

Other characteristics can be used to define self such as political party, religion, national origin, hobbies, sports affiliations, ways of acting and thinking, and more.

There are two categories of terminology we use to define ourselves: Temporary/trivial terms and eternal /exceptional terms.

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Here is a fun way to define yourself: Take a sheet of paper and on the top write “Me Defined!” Then draw a line down the middle of the sheet and write “Temporary/Trivial Me” on one side, and on the other side write “Eternal/Exceptional Me.” Take some thoughtful time to make your list.

Once you are done, add one more category to the “Temporary/Trivial Me” side. Call this category, “I used to be…”. Then list everything you used to be; include things from your childhood such as “babysitter” or “Boy Scout.”

Notice most things that define you are temporary and trivial and only a few items are eternal and exceptional.

What does this mean?

It means that you are a work in progress. Except in a few categories, you cannot define yourself once and that’s it for the rest of your life. How you define yourself in the 7th grade is dramatically different from the person you evolved into by the age of 20. But the evolution does not end there.

I’m over 70-years-old and still evolving, still wondering what or who I will be next year compared to what or who I am today.

Your identity is an ongoing growth process. Don’t be afraid to re-frame, reorder or rebuild your definition as you mature. Do not concern yourself so much with who you are in this moment of time, but focus more on who you want to be and what difference you want to make. In the process you will succeed and fail, laugh and cry, hope and despair, and experience the wonder of a life filled with trial and error, but also with meaning and purpose.

Your goal is to keep the parts of your identity you like and get rid of your bad habits, false identities, and destructive character traits that hold you back.

Perhaps the most important self-identifying characteristic we all should have is, “I am a work in progress!”

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