Seems like a simple question . . . who are you? Try to answer that out loud. I am . . . . fill in the blank, then do it again and again and again until you have an exhaustive list. Now, what do all those “I am’s” mean?
I am a daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, professional, visionary, athlete . . . . . .
When we start a new job, join an organization or team, or attend a work function or personal event, we have these short conversations about what we do and who we are. In some situations, I choose to share my athlete identity, while in others, I choose to keep it to myself. When I say, "I’m an athlete", I always correct myself and say “I was an athlete.” I feel proud to talk about that part of me, but I also feel conflict and failure.
“So what sport did you play? Softball? Soccer? Gymnastics?”
And I say, “No, I was a Synchronized Swimmer.”
“Oh, that’s so cool! I’ve never met one of those before. How long can you hold your breath?”
And the conversation continues with me educating people on the incredible athletic feats demanded of Synchronized Swimmers and how I dedicated 13 years to the sport before retiring top 20 in the United States.
Usually, I’m lucky and able to pivot the conversation to my path into and out of college and onto my career - not getting into all the icky parts about how my synchro career really ended. The pain I've carried from that "failure" has been overbearing at times. I have replayed that sliver of a moment in time over and over and let it define the sum total of my entire 13-year synchro career. I’ve allowed that to have a major impact on who I have become since.
That voice in my head of doubt and judgment only confirms the “I’m not good enough” conclusions. The key here is that "voice". Countless times the voice in my head or the devil on my shoulder seems to possess the person in front of me, to project my fear and doubt back to me. Consuming myself with the self-imposed idea that, if people find out I'm not perfect, they will think of me as a failure and worse, a fraud. Do you think that people think of me as a failure for not finishing my sport on a high note? Maybe, but not likely. It's ludicrous. This is how my misguided thoughts and unfinished business have taken over and led me down unnecessary paths expending unnecessary energy. Resulting in me getting in the way of my happiness and accepting my success. All in response to a simple question of, “Who am I?”.
You are not your sport. You are not your job. You are not defined by what you do, but rather by who you are, how you show up and how you get from point A to point B. If you are clear in who you are and what you represent, you will reflect this as an athlete, employee, leader, parent, coach, manager. You are the author of your life. Your sport or your job doesn’t define who you are, it shapes and molds and teaches you . . . if you are listening.
So, who are you? What demons does that question stir in your mind? How do you define you to yourself and to others? What do you choose to share and withhold? How does your view of yourself impact how you show up and how you tell your story?