How Do You Define Yourself?

Answer a question – “Who are you?”

If you’re like most people, you probably answered first in terms of the work you do. And you may have answered in terms of who you are in your family or other relationships.

If your answer included your work, what do you do when that work is no longer part of your life? What if you lost your job? What if you have a serious illness and are now disabled? What now is your definition of yourself? You may very well feel utterly lost – and in a crisis. If your definition of self includes your work and nothing else, and that work is now gone, you could very well end up in the swirl of a life crisis, feeling that you have no resources for working your way back to a normal life again.

If you are in a crisis, answer the “who are you?” question – but this time list all of your positive personal qualities. Get down to the core of who you really are. For example, your list might say, “I am caring, a good friend, creative, a hard worker, trustworthy, a good spouse, a parent, kind, fun, a good socializer, quiet at times, a dancer” – and the list can be anything at all that describes who you are.

When you know that you are more – much more – than your narrow definition, the crisis becomes more bearable. You know that you have qualities which give you the strength to endure your crisis and define your new self.

Your new sense of self can be whatever you choose it to be. Now ask yourself the question, “Who do you want to be?” The answers to this question can be one of your roadmaps to the future.

An Exercise

Answer these questions:

“What is the worst crisis you’ve ever been through?”
“What would your life be like now if that crisis had never occurred?”
“What did you gain from your crisis?”

Letting Go and Building Anew

A life crisis can be a blessing in disguise because it forces you to respond to what we really need in your lives. It gets you down to the root of who you really are. The crisis allows you to let go of your old life and to create a new one that can be more fulfilling. Yet many resist the change because it forces them to challenge their definition of who they have always been. It is crucial to let go. But many resist letting go because they feel the need to hold on to the illusion of control.

You must let go of those parts of your lives that are no longer appropriate for you to hold on to. They no longer work for you. But you can hold on to those things that you truly need and that will define who you want to be in the future.

“The pain of birth is the pain of death and the pain of death is the pain of birth.” – Ram Dass

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.