You Do, Therefore You Are

I think we are all being terribly unfair to ourselves. We are selling ourselves short. In an attempt at modesty, or safety, or protection from judgement, or failure, or opinion, we have unknowingly chopped away at our identities until we are just one thing, if anything at all.

Tell me about yourself.

I am a banker, you say. A dentist. A mom. I moved here from hereorthere, I have somany children. And, what about you? You ask. Blink, small talk. Tired eyes. But somewhere out there, there are people who ARE things – dancers, writers, artists, runners, inventors – but those are other people. Not you. Because you don’t meet the qualification of “being” those things, you explain to yourself. So you shrug and continue on with your day, hiding the little bits of glimmer and light somewhere deep, deep down in the suffocated back pocket of your identity, where the smashed bits of crackers and wrinkled CVS receipts go to get lost. No need to keep them.

How many people, if I walked into a crowd, would give themselves ALL of the names they deserve? How many people would proudly list the many, many things they are and love to do? When is the last time you met someone who told you that they were something other than whatever the title is of their full time occupation? I don’t know if I ever have.

What exactly, then, are the qualifications of “being” something? Why can’t we be that, too?

It’s really not fair, what we are doing to ourselves. In some ways, we’ve got our heads screwed on straight, and in other ways, we just don’t make any sense.

You are a mother. Why? Because you have, or have had, a child. Simple. Sure, there are good mothers and bad mothers, first time mothers and well seasoned mothers, but none of these extra descriptive words are a qualification for saying that you are a mother. You are, because you did. Likewise for fathers.

But, would you call yourself an artist? A runner? A dancer? A painter? A yogi?

I will illustrate.

I have never called myself a runner. Growing up, running was the conditioning I did for other things, like soccer, basketball, or tennis. I never ran for fun. Never particularly enjoyed it. Actually, I thought I was bad at it (having never really tried, I’m not sure why I thought this). I told myself that my knees hurt. So, I must have bad knees. So that’s why I wasn’t a runner. And then one summer, I found myself in the MTC — a training center for a service trip I was soon to take for my church — where I had two whole hours everyday parceled out for physical activities of various kinds.

So, what the heck, I thought. I will jog.

And so everyday, I jogged in circles around a track upstairs. I was slow, for sure. A little clumsy. Very uncomfortable at first, but there were only ever a few people up there, so I continued. Everyday. There was another girl up there that would jog when I would. We never kept pace, but would occasionally pass each other, keep stride for a few minutes. She was a ballerina, she told me once, and she also ran cross country. So, yeah, she was good. And graceful. Not that I was an oaf of any kind, but, you know, she was a runner. I was not.

Then one day, after the buzz went off and we all started to pile out of the gym, she turned to me and said, “So, how long have you been a runner?”

Me? I wasn’t a runner. I was just running. Why would she think I was a runner? I wasn’t as fast as she was. I certainly wasn’t as serious as she was. I was not and had never been a runner.

But then. What makes someone a runner? Oh. I suppose this is what it’s all about. You are a runner…because you run. No more, no less. You don’t have to be a fast runner, or a long distance runner, or a race runner, or even a dedicated runner to be called a runner. You are, because you do.

How embarrassing! You think! Not so! Sure, I play the piano, but I am not a pianist. I may love decorating my house every time I move, but I am not an interior designer. Well then, my shy little talent, what makes someone a pianist, other than the fact that they play the piano? What makes someone a designer, other than that they…design?

You don’t have to do it well, or do it full time, or do it in public. You don’t have to be paid for it.

You are, because you do.

So, what’s the list then, of things that you are, but refuse to say out loud, because you don’t think you qualify? Are you a teacher, a designer, and entrepreneur? A writer? Yes, you are. Stop thinking you aren’t. You are, because you do.

You don’t have to be a certain level of skilled at something to dare tell other people that you do it. And do you know what else? It’s ok to be lots of things. It’s okay to be lots of thing, imperfectly. You can be a baker, a programmer, a teacher, and a rock climber. Who cares how good you are at them all!? You do, therefore you are.

Suddenly, we all seem much cooler, right?
Much more interesting.

So, let’s skip the small talk and the chit chat. Tell me what lights you up inside. Tell me who you are.

Now I can see you.

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