How do you define yourself when asked who you are or what you do? What is the answer that you most often give? Does that answer change or vary depending upon the context or company we are in? Do you present a single answer or give a list of talents, hobbies or skills?
I enjoyed a great visit this weekend with a family friend. In a discussion with one of their children I learned of a recent identity crisis this young person had encountered this year. This individual had been an athlete their entire life, concentrating on one particular sport. They had received tremendous accolades, attention and success in this area. This success led them to be a significant part of a major University and the team in this sport. Dreams and goals were achieved in reaching this pinnacle of success. They had achieved what they had intended to throughout this young lifetime journey.
The end of last season, this individual was injured and no longer able to compete. With humility and tremendous gratitude for the opportunity they moved forward into their senior year in school. Keep in mind this individual is extremely goal oriented, driven and finds success in life. The identity crisis occurred when the new school year started. Their entire life had been this sport, each time they were asked to tell something about them, they replied with the same answer, I am a _(athlete)___. They would proudly tell others what position they had on the team and who they were.
This part of the team became who this young athlete was. This is how they identified themselves and who they viewed themselves to be. When asked this year who they were, they were confused and unable to respond.
Now this young person is far more than just an athlete. They are an amazing example to so many in so many other areas. They are a very intelligent, motivated, strong and determined young person. They were simply in the process of discovering truly WHO they were, not what they were.
Many times we find ourselves struggling with WHO we are and get caught up in the what we are or were. This confusion paralyzes many. Some get stuck in the glory days of High School and end up a fifty something still talking about that one pass that would have won state. Others get hung up on the what we are and become puffed up with pride and ego, unable to see the true world around them.
It is in the Who we are that changes the world. When we focus on the what we are we change nothing.
Young children are raised with expectations placed upon them from others. Parents, grandparents, family, friends, teachers and neighbors all have expectations for those around them. Don’t hit. Don’t talk back. Be respectful. Finish your homework. Be on time… This list can be large and generally well intentioned. Most expectations are meant to mold children into productive, healthy, happy adults who can contribute to our society in positive ways.
What about the larger expectations often put on a child? To serve in the military? To attend the parents Alma Mater? To follow in the parents footsteps and take over the family business? To marry in the church? Again, this list can be incredibly long.
Are these expectations reasonable? Productive? Healthy?
What happens to a child raised with these expectations who fails to meet or live up to those standards placed by another?
Many times when something goes awry in the life plan for a child be it personal choice, medical, mental or any other reason that would cause a child not to achieve the lofty expectations they have been raised with, the sense of failure can be extremely heavy and often a burden many carry for life. The overwhelming personal grief in “letting” everyone down penetrates the soul like a cancer with feelings of self worth, self doubt and being a failure growing.
Often the sense of failure leads to poor choices in other areas of life. For some, these become life sentences. For others, it becomes an intensely personal battle to overcome the sense of failure many live with.
There are many in this world living with this sense of failure created by lofty expectations of others Many you know most you do not. They live with fake smiles while fighting extreme doubts of self and worth. They continue throughout their life with the belief that they should have done more, been more or finished something, whether in their personal control or not.
We must create a culture where we encourage others to be successful in life while limiting the lofty expectations we place on them. We must free our children from this burden of unfulfilled expectations that many of us live with in life and replace it with the belief that we can become anything we choose and encourage them to chase their own dreams and not ours.
Believing in yourself is far more important than anyone else’s belief in you.
As a child, my parents instilled into us to believe in ourselves and in our own abilities. These lessons have strengthened me and enabled me to accomplish many things that at times others thought impossible.
My love and passion for photography began when I was a very young man of 13. As I continued with this hobby, I ended up taking some amazing pictures and became desirous to copyright and sell them. At the age of seventeen I set out to publish my first photograph. Many people told me along the way, how great my pictures were but that I would never be able to sell them. How would a seventeen year old with no connections be able to pull it all together? I had been raised to believe that I could accomplish anything I wanted, the naysayers only fueled my desire to accomplish this goal that I had set my mind to. I was able to obtain a copyright, mass produce the picture, obtain a distributor and sell the picture, before my 18th birthday. Imagine the excitement when I was able to walk into the BYU Bookstore and see my photography on the shelf for the public. It was an exhilarating experience. One that I will never forget.
When I decided to write my first novel, I was again met with skepticism by others. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people told me that everyone wants to write a book, not very many ever finish them. Determined I set out to finish this novel. When I completed it, I was excited to have finished such a large goal, the first one took me a couple years to complete and edit. When I completed this effort, I received some very sound advice from a friend of mine who was a very well known and seasoned author, to take pride in the fact that I had completed something that many people start, but only few complete. The only persons opinion of the novel that mattered was my own, that there would be those who would find fault with it and those who would like it. The only thing that mattered was my belief in myself. It was my first attempt at writing something on that large of a scale, my friend reminded me that there would be criticism, which of course there was. It didn’t matter to me at the time, I had completed what I had set out to do and it was the exact story that I had wanted to tell. I self published this novel and my next 3 novels, specifically for my family and friends.
There have been many more experiences in my life from personal issues to promotions at work, to starting my own company, when the need to believe in myself regardless of whether anyone else believed in me made the difference. Life is full of those individuals, sometimes the closest ones in your life, who will always find discouragement in your endeavors and will create roadblocks to your goals. It is your belief in yourself that will create the strength to rise above the noise in our lives. There will always be those who intentionally or unintentionally hold us back from being the success we are destined to be, through their unbelief, which Is generally their own self doubt projected upon others.
Rise above the noise, believe in yourself and remove others self doubts in themselves from holding you back, you deserve to fly without the shackles that others would place upon us.