How often have you heard the question, “So what do you do?”, when meeting people for the first time? How often do you ask that question yourself? And how would you feel if your answer was, “Oh, nothing right now. I was laid off.”? The fact is you probably would never say that. Even if you didn’t have a job, you would more than likely dance around that answer by explaining your whole situation. The reason is because most people define themselves by what they do.
Working for a recruitment company by day, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people on the job market. Some were on the market for half a year or more. As I listened to their stories, I could feel that for most of them they lost more than a job, they lost their identity. This is especially true for men and older gentlemen in particular. If you ask them to describe themselves, they are more likely to tell you their job or what they do before they even tell you that they have a family.
Over the past year, I’ve been hit with tidal waves of emotion from people who are struggling to keep their heads up in this economic situation. They have lost all sense of who they are because they think that they are what they do. I would like to tell them that they are more than that. Without getting too esoteric, I want to convey to people that they are Life itself. In my last blog I wrote about how we all spend our lives telling stories and living our own stories and how attachment to those story lines affect us.
I now want to take it just a step further and remind everyone that we are not just living a story or telling stories. We are also the writer of our own story as well as the objective audience watching the story. We have creative control and do not have to be defined by the people or groups that we perceive to be our external critics. Many of us feel our stories were written for us and that we cannot deviate from the expected actions and dialogues. We let life happen to us.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived on both sides of the fence. I’ve accepted other people’s stories about me and I have also asserted my right to write my own. I’ve believed the stories that people have told me about themselves and I have purposely contradicted those stories when they were doing more harm than good.
At this stage in my life I’ve come to realize that Life is bigger than the stories we tell about it and the roles we play from time to time are all temporary. Think of all of the actors who go in and out of character with multiple casts and yet when the cameras are off, they return to who they truly are. But it is tragic when they can’t get out of those characters. That is a metaphor to keep in mind as we go in and out of different roles in our own lives. Always remember that we are beyond the roles we take on. Knowing this will help us to live better, be better and help those who get caught up in the script.