What’s YOUR story? I could share some of my story in about 10 short lines or less (scroll to middle of post if you want to see it) but that doesn’t tell you too much about me. My story is only one piece of the puzzle that is my life. We are always curious about each other’s story aren’t we (did you scroll:)? It’s such a blessing when I find commonalities, reflections, and even guidance that I share and exchange with others. What is YOUR story? The incidents, milestones, traumas, triumphs in your life only form the skeleton of your story. We are so much more than our stories. What we don’t get out of a 10-line synopsis of our past is a true sense of WHO WE ARE. We are not the incidents in our lives. How I choose to act, react, and interact in my life is what adds flesh and bone to my skeleton of experiences. Sometimes we believe our past experiences dictate our fate. My story does not shape how and who I AM. Who I AM shapes my story.
THE TAIL’S WAGGING THE DOG: Your story does not control your Truth. People’s assumptions about you based on your story cannot control your Truth. Yet, it’s amazing how much we value or devalue ourselves based on our “story”; and based on people’s reaction to it. Sometimes we behave like our story IS our life. We allow it to dictate how we live or don’t live. Sometimes we hide our story. We choke on shame and collect our secrets. Other times we hide WITHIN our story. We become master chameleons – never showing our true colours. Most often, we hide BEHIND our story. We trap ourselves within the dictates of our past experiences and societal judgments. All too often, we act as though our story [or profession, or advocacy, or (just fill in the blank)] defines us – when in reality; we define these areas with our uniqueness/Truth/essence. Things like the occupation or cause that we choose offer clues to WHAT IS REAL about each of us. Unfortunately, we often flip it around and use these external experiences to define and RESTRICT WHAT IS REAL for us. We derive our self-esteem and sense of worthiness from them. Without my story or profession, what is my worth? I could say, “I’m priceless” or “I’m beyond measure”. Do I KNOW this to be true? Do you truly KNOW what makes you valuable?
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR VALUE? When we build our value upon our STORY, we cling to it for dear life. If our story is repressed, ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented, we feel our value is diminished. My value is contingent on how my story is received. On the other hand, for some of us, our value is contained in our PROFESSION. Any threat to our profession feels like a threat to our very person. Some of us align our value with ADVOCACY. Our relevance is entangled in the relevance of a cause. In any circumstance where our sense of worth is dependent on an external determinant, our esteem can remain in constant flux. We may live in a state of fear, angst, and hyper-vigilance about these external factors. The reality is that all of these achievements or goals are merely reflections. They are opportunities to express our true value and essence. Ironically, we sooner fight for a story, profession, or cause than fight for our own unique TRUTH/SELF/POWER. I’ve been given opportunity recently to explore why that is. I’m looking at
1) Attachment to my story.
2) Who am I outside of work/home/etc?
3) Distractions/obstacles to who I AM.
4) What’s my intrinsic value?
ATTACHMENT TO MY STORY :
What’s my story? Who am I? I’ve asked myself this question through various stages of my life; and find the answer is neither succinct nor exactly the same each time. I invite you to ask yourself: “Who am I?” What’s your answer? Do you answer with:
Your relational, occupational, social (et cetera et cetera) statuses?
Your past experiences?
Your validated accomplishments?
Your traumatic experiences?
Any number of experiences, titles, associations, etc?
Sometimes my answers can become automatic: “My name is Keda. I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a police officer, an advocate, a personal development strategist, etc.” I’m striving to find my Self within and beyond all of these roles in my life. By not focusing on my list of experiences and roles, I remind myself of a valuable lesson: EVERYTHING I experience and do is not who I AM. They are simply LESSONS FOR and EXPRESSIONS OF who I AM. This allows me the freedom to explore myself, my emotions, my wants, my needs – outside of my stories and roles. The Essence/Truth of who we are is bigger than our story; and is given expression through our life experiences.
WHO AM I OUTSIDE OF WORK/HOME/ETC?:
If I keep myself in the trenches of my story I cannot climb out and glimpse the whole landscape. I begin to actually believe that I can only be valuable or of service in one way/person/thing. I become attached. I resist any challenge or shift. I FORGET WHO I AM outside of that story. In our search for our unique currency, we often compromise our Truth to fit within a box of societal expectations. Specific stories get great attention. Specific professions get great accolades. Specific causes get great support. What if your Truth and Value do not fit neatly into these boxes? Let’s face it folks, who WE ARE cannot ever fit neatly within one particular box or definition. Yet we would rather diminish our Self, pretend we fit within a smaller box; and then evaluate our worth by standards that do not approach our true potential. We latch onto these external definitions of value; and ride the rollercoaster of other people’s approval and validation.
We operate so deeply within our stories that we oft times adopt a way of speaking, behaving, and reacting. It becomes habitual – a role that we play. We dread the moment that people ask to know more outside of the script that we offer. We fear that we might not know what to say OR we fear they might not like our Truth. We stick to our restrictive story – essentially caging ourselves in and away from who we truly are. Our story becomes familiar. People’s reaction to our story also becomes familiar. Even after parts of our story no longer fit our current reality we hold on for dear life (e.g. outgrowing a job, relationship, etc) we stick to the same story out of habit. Who I am outside of work or relationship seem less and less discernible (or even attainable) as I lock myself away in my story. I add bars to my cage when I refuse to choose a profession that matches reflects my Truth and matches my passions. I add locks to my cage when I advocate for everyone and everything – except for my Self. When I choose to dialogue only in the language of stale stories (versus dynamic experiences) or restrictive roles (versus universal truths), I deny myself the opportunity to discover and express the REAL ME. I reinforce the bars on my cage. The TRUTH OF ME lies beyond those compartments and roles – which can seem terrifying because it is unknown. However, it is within this unknown that our power to re-create ourselves resides. Allow yourself to see the unknown as unfettered potential or limitless wishes waiting to manifest.
DISTRACTIONS/OBSTACLES TO WHO I AM
If I don’t want you to see me, I will throw up some camouflage. If I don’t want to see my Self, I’ll distract myself. If I don’t want to see you, I’ll project my “stuff”, fixate on your roles/stories, and focus on my judgements and assumptions. In these ways, sometimes our roles and stories detract and even obstruct our Truth. When someone asks about me, I have a plethora of life experiences from which to choose and share – as do we all. What we choose to share speaks as loudly as what we are sharing. Yet we often attribute more value to the story than to the person experiencing the story. Take for example how often we strive to capsulize who we are in a few short lines or a one-pager. I could attempt to distill my life into 10 short lines:
Survivor of sexual abuse
Child of divorced parents
Passionate about truth, power and equity (within and beyond the areas of race, gender, and youth)
Pursued post-secondary education
Became a police officer
Became a mother
Training in holistic wellness
Started a business
Do you feel like you know me after those 10 lines? Perhaps you know a bit more about me. However, the flesh and blood of who I am is in between those lines. When we share our life experiences, we also attach societal expectations, judgements, assumptions and emotions to those experiences. We believe those things to be the truth of who we are. We present ourselves in what are supposed to be neat little compartments; and then we bend ourselves to the task of playing the roles, believing our own hype and trying to convince others. My Truth exists within and outside each of these experiences; and may not conform to expectations. It’s important for each of us to remember that our Truth is not our story – rather our Truth infuses our story or role. It is important to note that our path is not dictated by past experiences. I strive to remember that my journey is dynamic. And my destiny is forged by choices I make from moment to moment. I can allow my stories/roles to camouflage me or impede me; or I can let them help me SEE and BE EXPANSIVELY and with CLARITY. We like to think we know a person based on where they come from, but we get to learn more about a person based on where they are headed; and how they make their way.
WHAT’S MY INTRINSIC VALUE?
By our very existence we have value. We also have the capacity to reflect the value of others. However, we often determine value by what we have and what we do. My quest is to see beyond this to determine my intrinsic value. My Truth and Value may not fit within society’s expectations because it may not be meant to fit. What if your Truth is meant to EXPAND society’s EXPECTATIONS? People may create assumptions and judgments based on your story, your lineage, your profession, your (fill in the blank). It may be a challenge to express your Truth when it falls outside of those expectations. As I understand my own value I think of it this way: It is an even bigger challenge for me to keep track of other people’s expectations, AND make myself feel better for falling short of my own expectations, AND then on top of it all – create happiness while denying what makes ME happy. It’s an impossible juggle that we try to normalize every single day – all to avoid expressing our own Truth.
My intrinsic value cannot be found in external roles, facades, or even societal acceptance based on those roles and facades. I find my value internally, and INFUSE MY ROLES with the essence of it. When I think of this, my Mom’s homemade cream puffs come to mind. The beautiful cream puff pastry is my life; and the delicious filling is my Truth/essence. Each one wonderful on its own. However, without the pastry, the heavenly cream has no shape; and without the cream the delectable pastry is somehow lacking. It is the fusion of the two that creates an incomparable and transcendental experience (and yes my Mom’s cream puffs are THAT good!) Realising that my Truth goes way beyond my stories and roles helps me strive for that balance. It allows me to keep learning and discovering what makes me unique, happy and valuable. Discovering my intrinsic value allows me to keep my roles and experiences in context – without taking myself too seriously; and without getting stuck in a story or my ego. Thank you for allowing me to share some of my story, insights, and exploration with you. Know that you are valuable because you are YOU! <3 <3 <3