Personal Identity

Trying It On For Size

Every week my youngest has preschool. It's only for a couple of hours and occurs three days a week. Every time I pick her up from school, you would think that she had been a tour around the world that latest months because of how much she tells me about her day. I hear about the "job" that she had that day (and apparently "line leader" is the most coveted responsibility whereas "napkin passer" isn't as glamorous), the friends that she played with, the letter she learned, the stories her teacher told and the craft she experimented with. For less than three hours, she sure does a lot.

Anyway, these little chats that we have are more than just post-preschool babble with a five year old. They offer me a glimpse into what she find important and interesting. They tell me what gets her blood pumping and that she loves to learn new things. They show me her inner world at a level that I wouldn't get otherwise. Because I'm listening.

Last week, she said something really interesting. I picked her up on Wednesday and on the way home she announced, "I think I'm going to be a little shy on Friday."

This really threw me because Emma is not a shy child. She introduces herself to new children and offers to be their friend right away. As we drive to the library she wonders out loud what new friends she will make when we get there. That's just the way she is. I wonder if I was that way and I became an introvert over time, but I don't remember those days and I'll have to let my mom fill in that blank.

Anyway, her announcement was unusual. I try to be very careful about how I position and phrase things as I've gotten burned by my kids not understanding sarcasm or rhetorical questions. So I paused for a second and then said, "Well, there's nothing wrong with being shy. But I wonder why you think you're going to be shy because you're usually not."

She sat in her car seat thoughtfully and replied, "I just think I'm going to be nervous."

The rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful, all four and a half minutes of it but my brain stayed stuck on this idea that she had posed to me. This idea that a personality is something you can try out for a day or two or that a certain situation requires a different state of being than one would normally find themselves in.

Obviously we all do that. I act one way with my best friend and another with my neighbor that I'm still getting to know. I act one way in casual social settings and another in professional environments. Most of us have this chameleon ability, to blend in and out of certain circles and relationships, to change ourselves even temporarily to "behave" when the stakes are high and "cut loose" when we can just be ourselves.

But this, of course, got me thinking even further. Who am I really? Which of these variations of "me" is truly ME? I began to run my mind in circles to identify what attributes truly defined me and which ones were something that I would just put on and take off as the situation demanded it.

I came up with an answer that works for me at the moment: the real me is the one that exhausts me the least.

Keeping up a facade is exhausting. Juggling the appearance balls is ridiculously overwhelming and can wear me down faster than any exercise I've ever tried in my life. But just being me? That's almost effortless. I don't have to watch what I say, walk on egg shells, or second guess every decision because what I'm doing feels right and goes fairly smoothly. The older I get and the more I pay attention to these things the easier it is for me to identify when I'm being authentic. I am more introverted than extroverted so any kind of interaction with people can wear me out, but it's not as bad when I'm just being myself.

As I write this, I'm now thinking that maybe this has been why I've been so tired lately. We got a new puppy, so yes, that's probably also contributing to the issue, but it still feels more tiring than usual. Am I really being myself? Am I really being authentic? If not, what areas of my life can I infuse with more "me" to bring myself back to center? Definitely something to think about.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my youngest did not act shy last Friday at school. She actually forgot her plan and was just herself that day. And she had a very good day.

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Are You The ONLY One That Can't Be Helped?

only one

Perhaps you're like me...

What does that statement do to you? What does it make you feel? Do you immediately think, "You're nothing like me"? Or do you really, truly, deep down hope that I'm about to say something that resonates with you down to your core? Because you're just so tired of being alone on this journey and you're desperate for a connection, for anything that tells you that it's ok and you're ok and everything is going to be ok?

Take a minute and think about that. Are you the type of person who immediately gravitates toward others and the feeling of community or do you keep others at an arm's length and soldier on as you always have in the past?

Quite often it comes down to a knee jerk reaction that most people have. Similar to fight or flight, people have a natural instinct to move towards or away from other people. There is the group that is more inclined to be a part of a community. They naturally seek out groups and community of like-minded individuals. They believe that in that crowd there is at least one person that they can connect with and possibly form a true friendship. These people have an innate talent for connecting with other people. What do they do that is different? They relate.

The other group shies away from anything social. They are able to go and participate, but they don't have a sixth sense about really engaging with other people. When push comes to shove, they can do it but it's not easy and it's certainly not natural. In a crowded room they can find several reasons why they should duck out the back door. And sharing their fears and deeper thoughts with people like this? It's just not going to happen. What do they do that is different from the connectors? They compare.

Several years ago, I was trying to find my footing in a new way of life. I am a member of the second group. Call me an introvert, call me socially anxious... whatever label works for you is fine for me. But the bottom line is I don't connect well with others. Deep down I want to, I really do. But the whole idea is just terribly intimidating and it takes a lot of work. As I was exploring this new "world" that I was being introduced to, I met a couple of women who had been where I had been and recognized an anxious soul and kindred spirit in me. Or they pitied me. Either way, they helped me meet other women, get situated and give me guidance on how to navigate things. They gave me a lot of advice, but one that stood out to me the most while meeting these women and coming to grips with my own concepts of relationships and friendships was this:

Relate. Don't Compare.

It's a beautiful, simple statement. Most profound thoughts are. Relate. Don't compare. Instead of spending your time hunting for all the differences, look for the things you have in common. Look for the ways in which our lives have intersected and how they will continue to do so.

The same can be true for the emotional healing process. Instead of hunting for all the reasons why something won't work for you and why you won't be healed even though others that have gone before you are experiencing great freedom, look for the similarities. When you catch yourself comparing your situation to others, take a second and find one thing, just ONE thing, that you have in common. It could be something as big as "we are suicide survivors" to something smaller like "we are both women." There are similarities there. Be committed to finding them.

And as you find the similarities you will abandon the "everyone except me" mindset. You will no longer assume that everyone can be helped except you. That everyone can move on except you. That everyone can be happy except you.

You can be. And you will be. All we're waiting is for you to open the door, walk in and introduce yourself.

Mary Says I'm Weird. And I agree

Mary over at EveryDay Baby Steps (love that blog) tagged me in one of her posts (and I just now saw it, so it's taken me a little while to respond). The point is to write seven weird facts about myself. My problem isn't the fact that Mary thinks I'm weird. I am. I admit it. My problem is that I can only pick 7. So, here it goes...

1. I LOVE to wake up early. The earlier the better. The problem is I'm not very good at waking up early. The snooze bar and I are very close friends and I feel like I'm cheating if I only hit it once or twice. I don't want feelings to get hurt. But the earlier I can force myself to get out of bed, the better. 3 am, 4 am, whatever. The house is peaceful, the world in general is peaceful. It's blissful.

2. I color code my calendars. I started this when my husband was deployed to Iraq and I had to juggle working full time, all my volunteer commitments, going to school for my Master's and the work I was doing part-time for Stampin' Up. The calendar was a mess, so I color coded everything. It kept me organized, but it definitely made me look a little OCD.

3. I'm looking forward to when my kids become teenagers. I have a three and a four year old and I can't wait until they hit the teenage years. In my former professional life, I worked a lot with teenagers and I absolutely love it. The debates, the issues, the attitudes... bring it on!

4. I have four blogs. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only do I write positive posts and participate in memes on this blog, but I also have a Craft Blog, a Link Development Blog (this is what I do for a living - getting other sites to link to my clients' sites / blogs to drive traffic and search engine rankings for specific keywords) and a PhotoBlog (which has been horribly neglected lately).

5. I don't know how to use my blackberry. I work in internet marketing and play on Social Media tools all day. I know how to troubleshoot issues on my laptop, code in HTML, and set up a blog in no time flat. But the BlackBerry has got me stumped. Granted, I just got it. So I'm hoping this changes soon.

6. I read 2 - 4 books at a time. I don't know why, but I can only read certain books at certain times of the day. When I'm up early and in the mood to read, I tend to gravitate toward spiritual books, but I also love non-fiction in the evenings. I also read a lot to keep up on my industry. Right now, I'm reading Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, The Corporate Blogging Book, and The Beloved Disciple.

7. I love public speaking. I have been doing public speaking gigs for 12 years since I was 16 years old. I love getting up in front of people and talking. Lately, I've only been doing speaking gigs on link development / social media and spiritual topics. I don't do it professionally (as in I don't get paid for it... yet) but I hardly ever say no to a speaking engagement. I realize this makes me exceptionally weird, but it's true.

So, now I will tag seven more people.

1. My mom over at Vignettes

2. My brother at What Matt Learned Today

3. My good friend Adam at A Thousand Cuts

4. Dr. Daisy at Dr Mommy Home School Tips

5. Another good friend Steve at SEO Pittfall

6. Connie at Princess Time Toys

7. Jennifer at The Dirty Shirt

Ok, guys and gals... here's what you do.

* Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
* Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
* Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

What do I want to be remembered for?

On the Creative Writing Prompts site, one of the prompts was the question "What do I want to be remembered for?" Great question for an insightful journey. The answer to this question will always tell you what you truly value in life. A couple of things popped into my mind right away:

1. Being positive. I definitely want to be remembered as being a positive person; always finding the silver lining and always looking for the opportunity and blessing in every difficulty. Unfortunately, I fall far short of this ideal so I have some work to do if I truly want to achieve this persona.

2. Helping Others. So many people have helped me selflessly that I feel as though I can never fully repay them. Nor can I repay the world for all the goodness I have seen out there. I try to go out of my way to help people; both friends and strangers.

3. Leader. It never fails. No matter where I go or what I end up getting involved in, I end up in a leadership position, sometimes involuntarily. True leaders know how to both lead and follow, speak and listen, give and take. I want to be a person who has true balance in life. Someone who doesn't just talk about it, but actually live it on an everyday basis.

What do you want to be remembered for?