“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
I read this quote this morning and was once again amazed at how profound simple truths can be. I have always struggled to define myself, to be able to carefully craft my thoughts, responses and behavior into what I thought others needed me to be or who I wanted them to believe me to be. It is no surprise that I was constantly unhappy, unsure of who I really was and felt most of the time as if I were a blank slate, waiting for someone to arrive to write the words that would give me some color and definition. I always felt like a chameleon, morphing into my surroundings and becoming whatever the situation required. I felt that my “true self” was just whomever I was at that particular moment in time, never quite formed, always fluid and changing. Rather like Jell-O that never quite sets, I was always at an in-between state, not having any kind of identity, other than someone’s sister, someone’s friend, someone’s daughter and an employee, a teenager and all the general “titles” that we all carry with us, but are not the sum of who we are, as an individual.
I think the first time that I was able to look at myself objectively and clearly was the first week of my sobriety. I could see that scared, angst-ridden, tortured soul who was running from her feelings; the wounded child who was never able to grieve and heal; the young woman who never cried because crying meant failure and defeat. Those were the most readily identifiable parts of me, as they had been “in power” for the majority of my life. Once I was strong enough and my mind was finally clear, I was also able to see the survivor, the fighter who wouldn’t give up, the intelligent mind that held a great deal of wisdom, awareness and insight. The empathetic, compassionate heart that cared deeply and felt things acutely and finally, the emerging, confident, healthy self that would prove to be my True Self.
It was frightening to let go of my concern for how others defined me because I had placed blame and given power to those for so long, in an effort to excuse myself from any real responsibility for my choices and my actions. “If so-and-so didn’t think I was like this, I wouldn’t have had to do this and that, etc.” or “He thinks I am this way, so I can’t act that way or he would be disappointed.” You get the idea. I was bound by what others thought of me, what they expected of me and who they believed me to be. I had done this. I had given to them the control, the power and the ultimate definition of who I was. Freely and without reservation or thought. They were only speaking their mind, stating their point of view, based on what I had showed them, told them or led them to believe. I couldn’t or wouldn’t take the time to decide that the only opinion or thoughts that really mattered were the ones I held. Once I discovered that truth, everything else fell into place with little to no effort, because it was the truth. In this particular situation, as with most, the truth was easier to live than any lie.
So today, I celebrate a lack of definition and the great space within which I may grow. I set no limits to my growth, nor do I confine that growth to any certain perimeters. I want to grow healthy, grow truthfully and grow within my understanding of self, in awareness, compassion and love.
Today is my Mom’s birthday, so if you all could send some happy, healing thoughts to her, I know she’ll appreciate all the warm fuzzy feel-good feelings.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you!