“I am who I am and if you don’t like it, you can leave.”
I used to live by this credo. It also used to stick in my craw that there was something not quite right about living this way. How can I stay static when all around me is change? When I first started kindergarten, my life changed. When I graduated from public school, my life changed. When I went to high school, my life changed. When I liked the cute strawberry blonde, my life changed.
First job? Life change.
New job? Life change.
Marriage? Kids? First house? Breaking up… making up… trying something new… visiting a foreign country? All life changing.
Staying static is not an option.
Trying to remain in a place and time where I believe I was happiest is the same as being stuck. It’s me trying to remain the same as I was then because nothing since has made me happy. What a sad way to be. When I look back at that time I seem to be stuck in, it’s not so much that I liked being there. The reason I am stuck there is because I have unresolved issues that came up at that time and place. My brain has decided not to move until those issues are resolved.
What if that time and place was thirty years ago? Do I really want to be the same now as I was when I was eighteen?
The problem I began to have with “I am who I am” was it gave me an excuse to stay stuck and behave any way I chose, damn the torpedoes. I could do what I wanted without regard to anyone around me and when they protested, I simply said, “Well, that’s who I am… get over it.” I finally realised that meant i was unwilling to look at the reasons I do what I do. (Not all of things I do need to inspected... just the stuff that gets in my way of living my life with integrity.)
The problem with "I am who I am" is definition.
It took me a long time to realize that what I do is not who I am. I can be a ditch digger or president of a company. I can be a home body or a party child. I can be a naturalist or not. None of those define who I am. How I perform what I do is a reflection of who I am. Even then, they may only be a reflection of who I am or they may be something I do because of circumstance (I need a job to pay the bills and will take whatever comes along).
My Core Values are who I am.
The statement “I am who I am” can be an evasion of what I am here to learn. One of the “golden rules” of being honoured with a life on this planet at this time under these circumstances is to learn stuff. I learn stuff by placing the things I do against the benchmark of my Core Values. I find my Core Values by figuring out how smoothly my life moves along. If my life is in constant turmoil or I feel out of place (uncomfortable, lost, anxious, etc), there’s a very good chance I’m trying to live against those values. Worse, I’m probably trying to live my life with someone else’s values.
The key is knowing my own values.
It’s amazing how smoothly life goes when I know my Core Values and live life according to those standards. As an example, one of my core values is “influence”. Deep down where it matters, I want to have an influence on other people... whether that be a single person, a group or society as a whole. There are a lot of ways to be influential. I could rob banks. I could run for political office. I could commit hate crimes. I could write a blog. I could blow up buildings. I could strip mine a forest. I could be an actor, writer, artist or comedian.
But… which one of those things bump up against some other Core Values I have… goodwill, simplicity, vitality and sincerity?
In order to feel good about whatever I am doing, what I am doing must not violate any of my Core Values. In order to learn what I like and don’t like about myself, I need to decide what fits with my Core Values.
I am who I am is a perfectly acceptable statement when I am living according to my Core Values. It is not acceptable when it becomes an excuse for destructive behaviour (self or otherwise). For the record, all self-destructive behaviour has an effect on someone around you whether you choose to believe it or not. It is, therefore, not truly "self-destructive". Eventually it has an effect on those closest to me.
Confident people live by their core values.
I’ll write about how to figure out Core Values tomorrow.
Because I am who I am.