We’ve all heard it. “So, what do you do?” That age-old question that immediately places you in the appropriate box, ties it up with a bow, and defines you. Most of us will respond with “Oh, I’m a manager” or “I’m a mom.” Chink…you’ve now been placed neatly in the box, evaluated, defined and measured. Congratulations! Wait….what????
Why do we feel the need to categorize people? And why do we let ourselves get tricked into believing that without the false identity tag we are somehow less worthy? I was recently discussing this situation with some amazingly artistically talented friends. It led down the path to the realization that for most of us, we let what we do really steer our internal definition of “self-worth.” What’s worse, the tag is most often dictated by what we do to make money, not necessarily who we really. As a result, when we choose to steer a different course, especially if it’s unconventional, we are left questioning whether we are “worthwhile” due to this self-imposed boundary. Yuck!
I have jumped in and out of many corporate boxes in my life. I worked hard at my career and for many years my internal identity was all about my position and salary. I believed I had a lot to prove to my family and myself. I’m sad to say that in the past that I’ve been guilty of compartmentalizing people by what they do because that’s what I did to myself. It’s human nature after all to want to organize, weigh and measure. Once I set my sights and intentions on a more unconventional lifestyle however, I began to see just how small my world was.
The shift was so subtle, I didn’t recognize it right away. My hubby and I bought our first sailboat. (Step 1 towards someday living in a boat). Sailing is interesting. It’s the great equalizer because at the heart, every owner is in the same “boat.” (Pun intended!) Everyone loves the water. Everyone looks forward to weekends to escape from the grind. Toilets, or “heads” as the are known by boaters, are always eventually part of every conversation. The marina is full of boats- all sizes, makes and condition. Everything from a half million dollar Block Island to a dilapated work boat. We made dozens of friends that first summer. We got to be known as “those kids working on that boat.” But never once, did anyone ever ask “what do you do for a living”. Instead, I learned that Lynn loves to garden, Paulette & Edie have been best friends for longer than I’ve been alive, and Walt is always up for a sunset cruise. It was so joyful to lose my “identity”.
So, I made a commitment to change the course. I learned to focus on finding out what makes someone joyful. To really see inside their heart. After all, that’s what really matters. So, the next time someone asks me “what do you do”, I’m going to respond with “I sail, I create and I try hard to be a good friend.” That definition speaks to my soul and is the heart of how I really want the world to see me. So, how do you define your self?
“How others define you is their karma. How you define yourself is yours”