I have been thinking a lot lately about how we, as humans, have a tendency towards letting other people define us.
In my previously living situation, I felt the life draining out of me. Living with someone who has a lack of ambition and drive made me lose my own spark. I think it’s important to note that I don’t ‘blame’ the other person for this. How one person chooses to live their life is not really my concern. What is my concern is the impact that had on my life. The impact that I let that have on my life.
It’s clear from past posts that this person and I should probably never have been in a relationship. Don’t take that to mean that I regret that person having been in my life. I don’t, at all. But I’m also not regretting that he is not currently in my life. The changes in the last 6 months alone have been huge, and I know that that is in no small part due to the shift in who I surround myself with.
I have mentioned that I have secured the perfect job (perfect for me, anyway). Over the past few years, I have just ended up in roles, with no real thought to how those roles applied to my needs. I just went for the jobs I could do with my skills and experience and education. A few months ago, I sat down and really thought about what I need to be fulfilled. It’s not enough to just be able to apply my skills, and I had lost a lot of the passion that I used to have for what I do due to being in roles that didn’t ‘fit’ me. The job that I have now, and the organisation that this role is in, ticks every box on the list, and a few more that I hadn’t known that I needed. This never would have happened if I hadn’t been aware of what my needs were. And THAT never would have happened if I hadn’t rediscovered my ambition.
The lifestyle that he led eventually defined me as well as him. I am grateful, in many respects, that I now have the opportunity to break free of that. But am I defining myself? I am in a living situation now with someone who has drive and ambition, who wants to do things and I have found myself getting that back in myself. Am I still drawing from what is around me, though, rather than actively defining myself? This is a rhetorical question – I have no answers. What I do know is that I want to take a more active role in defining myself.
In a more direct way, people in my life have actively assigned definitions to me recently which is really what started me thinking about all of this. In one 24 hour period, I was told by separate people that:
a) It is important to me that people “see” me as being in control, and it is also important to me that people “see” me as being maternal and supportive and nurturing; and
b) I “don’t care” what anyone thinks of me
a) I can’t be wrong; that I argue to prove that the “blame” for something lies elsewhere; and
b) I agree too quickly, and only stand up for something if I am 100% committed and feel very strongly about it
Both of these people are people who have spent more than the average amount of time with me in the last year, and who I would argue know me as well as anyone else. Yet their view of me couldn’t be more different.
Originally, I was offended by some of the comments, because I felt that people were quick to assign a negative trait / explanation for a behaviour of mine. “It couldn’t just be that I’m supportive and nurturing,” I fumed. “Instead, it’s something I’m cultivating because I want people to think that’s what I am.” Or, “of course I bloody care what people think of me!” And then I was confused by the fact that two people could see me and the same behaviours completely differently to the next person. And then I just thought it all through. THEIR perception of me, their definition of me, is subjective to them and based on their own interpretations and past experiences and considerations. Why am I trying to sift through all of the information trying to figure out which “one” of the people described above I am? The truth is, I know who I am – I am AS aware of my faults as I am of my good points. I have probably spent more time, in dealing with the PTSD and associated issues, engaged in self-analysis (be it independently or with the help of a trained counsellor), than the ‘average’ person. I have worked very hard to understand who I am, what motivates me, what hangovers from my past still affect my behaviours today. Yet when faced with information about myself from someone else, instead of considering it and assessing it I instantly tried to accept these traits that were handed to me and make them ‘fit’ with the version of me that I think I am – which is ridiculous. And impossible, since what the two people were saying directly contradicted what the other person had said. How can I be both of those things? How can I be either of those things? What I am, in reality, is probably somewhere smack bang between the two.
I don’t really have a direction for all of this rambling. I guess my ultimate point is that if we take on everything that everybody else gives us an opportunity to take on – either indirectly like in the first example, or more directly like in the second example – we’ll very quickly lose sight of who we actually are. And for this past year, for the first time in many years, I like who I am. I don’t like everything about myself, and there are still things I’d like to address and alter – but ultimately, I like who I am these days. I like the direction I’m headed in, and I like the people who I have chosen to be in my life and on that journey with me. Individual actions or behaviours are not a picture of who I am, merely very small aspects of parts of who I may be.
I define me. And I will, in future, make every attempt to ensure that only I continue to do so.