How I Do Not Define Myself

So how do we define ourselves?  I posted that question when I started this blog. I asked if it was by our roles, our relationships, our work… I didn’t get many responses and I can see why – that’s not exactly an easy answer! Sounds like it ought to be the topic of a term paper.  So I think its only fair  to muse a bit on this myself…

When I was a child,  of course it was by relationship.  I was a daughter.  An extension of my mother and father and my wonderful extended family.   I was also an avid reader and writer from the first day I learned to sound out my phonics. Later I became a friend,  a wife, a mother, and a Christian. And those relational definitions of myself satisfied me for many years. But then depression crept in like a cold dark fog,  and with it a long, long search for my own identity. I wanted a definition of myself created by myself,  not one that I had blindly accepted from my culture.  I began to feel that  those roles did not define me…they described me. 

So then I went through a phase of believing you are what you do. I mean I really did believe that.  I went back to school , pregnant with my second child, and  I was also a student. And that satisfied me for a while. I felt a lot better about myself, because I am an intelligent person and I liked that label. I defined myself as a learner. I also had to read and write a lot, which was what I’d had a passion for from the age of six.

But sooner or later, I had to graduate. And off I went into my occupation, degree in hand, a “professional”.  Now I know who I am, I thought.  When the buzz died I continued, and continue, to take more postgraduate training.  And I still get that buzz from learning.  The only thing is….I’ve also  learned that my occupation does not define me either. I am not what I do. True, the occupation I’ve chosen  says some things about the kind of person I am, but it doesn’t define me. 

All I know for sure is that I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a therapist, a  learner, a writer, an artist, a soul searcher, and a Christian.  But none of those define me. How can they? Isn’t the human soul  greater than the sum of its parts?

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15 Responses to “How I Do Not Define Myself”

  1. Michael Says:

    Such a grand question!
    Such an intimate response!
    Are we part of the whole?
    Are we the whole each of us?
    Of this I am certain. Death. Its in the details of how we live our lives that defines us. This is living.
    Nice post to reflect on.

  2. psychscribe Says:

    And your comment is nice to reflect on as well, Michael.

  3. itsallabouthallie Says:

    Hello…so i have to admit i have been lurking for weeks now. The question you raised about what is your defining moment is very interesting to me. You are right all those things describe you but what defines you. THere are certainly moments in life that define how we will interact and deal with life as it comes. but can we really know what those defining moments are until we have to use them? i enjoy reading your blog! thanks! hallie

  4. Miki Says:

    Great question, great entry, great comments.
    I don’t really define myself, at least not with words or thoughts or paintings… But if I had to use words , I would simply say:
    I experience myself as an ever evolving structure, defined by my interaction with the rest of the world… it means continuously changing outlines, shape, colour, etc…
    I always had a big problem trying to explain this to people when I was asked. They all said:
    “You have a personality, self-consciousness problem, you need a psycho-analyse!”
    I used to get quite angry about that, and felt totally misunderstood. I simply stopped speaking about this theme…
    This is here the first time again, for a long time

  5. amberfireinus Says:

    How I dont define myself…

    The definition of myself has changed drastically over the years. When I was in school and first out in the world, my definition of myself was all about how perfect I could be. How much I could achieve and was I the best.

    Then it was all about my career and home. I refused to be held back by my age or experience so I simply blagged my way and worked hard to earn the respect of all around me. If I didnt know something, I learned it. With my home, it had to be a perfect show home and I was determined to be Martha Stewart.

    Illness changes you. Overnight I went from being an executive with all of the things that went with it, to disabled struggling to be able to feed myself. It was my wake up call.

    I no longer work so I cant define myself by what I do. I dont have children so I cant define myself by them or their achievements. I refuse to define myself by my husband or his successes. But most of all, I refuse to define myself as Sick or Handicapped.

    I try now to define myself by the good and positive energy that I give to the world. I try to make my days here count for something. I try to give to others what they cant give to themselves.

    And you know something? Im happier now than I have ever been in my life.

  6. wpm1955 Says:

    You only realize when you lose your job how much of your persona is wrapped up in your job. I was once laid off as a banker and chose to go through a career change I had considered for several years, becoming a teacher.

    I think part of the successful transition from young adulthood to successful middle or old age is having your persona become defined more from within yourself, as opposed to from outside, by who you are to others, or by what you do.

    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine
    winewriter.wordpress.com

  7. Miki Says:

    You see, Madame Monet, I have a totally contrary experience of “My success”. I am successful as a painter, I was successful as a mathematician, and my person was always defined from outside. From outside means that I am extremely open to the world and its inhabitants, that I love interaction, and that everything I do and that all the decisions I take are “dictated” by my interaction with the world. The result is a wonderful inner freedom, and a very rich, interesting life, full of surprises and new experiences, believe me!
    Merry Christmas, Amberfireinus!

  8. Kev Moore Says:

    I can certainly attest that I am defined by my career. My music has completely permeated my life since the age of 8 (so thats a long time!!)
    I simply cannot remember a time when Ive not been performing, or preparing to go on stage. But in later life my definitions have become broader. I can visualise my “development” in the form of a plant stem, growing upwards, with a strong but narrow parameter. With meeting Miki, the buds began to flower, and the strands that were there, but not fully developed, such as my creative writing and intensive songwriting, have flowered with her love and encouragement. So my definition of the self is now broader, and more profound…does that make any sense? Hope so! P.S.,, Ive composed a special Christmas song for all our friends at CafeCrem, have a look if you have the chance. A very Merry Christmas to you and your Family!

  9. psychscribe Says:

    Kevin, I love the image of developing flowering buds as we grow in our definition of ourselves…lovely….definitely works for me

  10. psychscribe Says:

    P.S. Actually, if you read Miki’s and Amber’s and Madame Monet’s perspectives on the topic, you could say that they are all different buds of the same tree, yes?

  11. Kev Moore Says:

    Yes, well put, they are indeed!

  12. EMP Says:

    I had a nice and long conversation with a guy a year or two ago and he asked the question what defines a human being? What are you exactly? And he came up with the thing that if your cells are continuously die and born again and after a few years all of your cells will be changed. If so then you are going to be a new person won’t you? What stays there what still defines you as the same person?

    Since then I was thinking a lot about this because from one perspective i’m completely changed phisically without noticing it so why am I still the same?

    I think In one hand I am the system of my genes, my DNA what defines me. Whatever I change the system stays the same. I can change any part with anyhting as long as the system stays the same it will be me.

    On the other hand the psychological part, the not physical me is the entity built up from my childhood: all of my memory and my past defines me as an individual. That affects my decisions my future my thoughts everything. Without past or experiences we are the system of our DNA only. But from the point we start to get experiences and have a past from day 1 we make our decisions based on those. We progress to our future from our past.

    So how I do not define myself: I am not me as you see me. I am not something the people or anything can define.
    I am my past and my memory and you know me as much as I tell about my past. This is why everybody is different: not two people have the same past and also it is impossible to share everything.

  13. psychscribe Says:

    Interesting post, EMP, and welcome! I had never thought about the DNA aspect of who we are. I’m so psychologically oriented…

  14. EMP Says:

    Thanks,
    many people thinks I’m a bit hmmm alternative thinker as I get things in a slightly different aspect. I try to see things as a whole. More people likes the easy answers e.g. I could answer the question with “I don’t define myself as a religous guy as I’m not one” This would be true but not an answer for everything. Just a shard of the whole image. There would be always a but or an exception or an “in the same time…”

    My idea above is a kind of absolute identification of a human being. A definition of myself without exception. What fits to any circumstances. An idea what is actually logical but doesn’t make me feel any better. Unfortunatelly if I’m my past I can’t change as I can’t change my past.
    I need to think about now how can my present choices make a different past in the future what will define the future me allowing the continuous change 🙂

    Sounds easy enough 🙂

  15. tashalilly Says:

    first I would like to say thank you for this, God has really used you. And to amberfireinus I really think people like yourself are incredible to redefine what society may have define them as whether it be “handicap” or “sick”.And to whom ever may read this I always thought I knew who I was for years my thoughts remain hidden from my family and friends scared if i shared them they would look at me differently but now i realize it doesn’t matter how the world view you it matter how God see you and how you see yourself.My friends i tell you that we may never know who we are but can believe that our life does have a purpose and that’s how i chose to define myself through the my purpose of simply giving and receiving love to one another and sharing the gift that God has given to me. I’m not what the world tries to make me to be im simply what i choose to be and i choose to be happy and free

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