When we first meet someone we smile or shake hands, and exchange names. The next question after that is frequently the same, “What do you do?”
Our reply, sets the stage for the creation of ourselves in this person’s head. If we say we’re a lawyer synapses fire. Different synapses fire if we call ourselves a therapist, actress, freelance writer, accountant, a mom. How we identify ourselves becomes a label. These labels are nothing more than a reality of life.
We wear labels because we as humans use them to help identify and categorize. We as humans like to categorize things because it helps us make sense of our world and helps us feel a little more in control.
Often, our identity becomes wrapped up in these labels, in the things that we do. But what happens when the doing stops? What happens when we get sick or lose our perfect job? What happens when our life implodes as we know it and we’re left unable to do the things that labeled us. Who are we really when the doing stops?
If we can’t answer the question of who we are, someone else will happy to tell us. The media today has no problem telling us who we should be.
Deep down, no one wants to let someone else define them. But we’re so used to our labels that it can be a stretch to uncover who we are at the end of the day, without all the stuff.
We all wear many labels whether we want to or not. Sometimes we seek these labels for status or security, thinking that if we grasp them we will somehow be enough. But if we chisel away the things we “do” in the world what will we find underneath?
Who are you? Who are you really?
Many years ago, when I was still in my eating disorder, I heard a story about death. What would you want your gravestone to say, it taunted. Would you want it to say, here lays the girl with the slimmest thighs?
As I pictured a gravestone, it struck me how ridiculously superficial my stupid plan was. All my “doing” to be thin was nothing more than blowing ashes in the wind. It accomplished nothing in the end.
I’d be dead with a gravestone that read, “She devoted her life to being thin. She gave up friendships and ruined relationships to spend time in her disorder. It was her best friend. In the end it killed her. But she was skinny.”
I remember thinking how pathetic that sounded, thinking that I had so many bright, blue supernovas living in my skin waiting for their magic to be unleashed into the world. But no one would see them if I kept doing what I was doing, if I kept wearing the same disordered label.
So I decided I wanted my gravestone to say something different. I decided I wanted to be the real me – the bright, blue supernova. I too, once thought I had to “do” something to be worthy of label that made me feel good.
Now, I know that I don’t have to do anything but be me. Sure I still have labels, as we all do, but I’m not defined by them. When they’re all chiseled away, I can still smile naked because the things about me I love, the things about me that I truly am are there even when I’m still.
I am warm, loving, and kind. I am creative, fun, loyal, deep. My heart is fierce, wonderful, and wild. My heart is a fluffy marshmallow. I am in the palm of God’s hand. I am adventure and possibility and joy. I am all these things and more. I am all these things, when I stand naked, in stillness and silence.
Who are you?
What do you want your gravestone to read?