Part 2: DEFINING YOURSELF – Past & Present
If you’ve ever had a single friend who has used an on-line dating service, I’m sure they have shared with you at least one story of someone whose description of themselves and the reality of their inner and outer characteristics crossed the line somewhere between fact and fiction to put it nicely. In fact, it’s not uncommon to want to make yourself sound better on paper, what we like to call fudging the truth a little. For instance, I had to write my bio for the newsletter of a volunteer organization I was part of. I thought it made me sound a little more fun to say that in my spare time I liked to play tennis. Now, in my defense, I didn’t say I’ve had any spare time to actually play nor did I say that I was actually any good at it. But let me tell you, I was surprised at how many people came to me after reading that and said they didn’t know I played tennis and that we should play some time.
So, there can be a difference in how we define ourselves to others versus an honest, accurate self-portrayal. For our purposes here, it will be important to see yourself as you really are, but it will also be important to get in touch with what your “fudge factors” are, because some of them might be things you would like to strive for. I would like to be a decent tennis player, have spare time to play it, and then actually play it in my spare time. And this isn’t just because I like to play tennis, it’s because I want, as part of how I define myself, to be a leisure-time tennis player. I might like skiing, but I don’t care to be known as a skier. But I would like to be known as a tennis player, I like the connotations that go along with that.
First we need to start with how we used to define ourselves either back when we were working or before we had kids. Though having kids adds a dimension and depth to our character, for many of us it was actually easier to introduce ourselves and give a simple “elevator speech” of who we were, when we used to be defined by our job. I used to be able to simply say, “Jackie McCarthy. I work at JP Morgan, Vice President of Marketing.” Just the company name, title and department, said I was intelligent, creative, a go-getter. But now when I introduce myself I’m “Brady, Alexx and Bailey’s mom.” Unfortunately, they don’t give out titles for homemakers. When I went from one child to three, I didn’t get promoted to Senior Mommy, or Managing Director of the Household. No one says, “Oh, you run the McCarthy house, I’ve heard good things about that house.” So, it’s not a surprise that so many of us get to a point where we find ourselves having an identity crises. Our first step is to go back to a time when, not that we necessarily new ourselves better, but just a time when it was easier for us to define who we were.
If you’ve ever had to write a bio for yourself back when you worked, this should be easy. Open your notebook, at the top of the first page write “MY OLD-SELF”. Under that, write the sub-heading “Education/Work”. Now think back to when you worked or before you had kids and write what your bio used to be. Include your former education, a generalization of your past work experience and more specifics on the last job you had – accomplishments and traits that made you good in that role. Skip a few lines and then write another sub-heading “Personal”. Now pretend you are writing a personal ad about yourself. Include personality traits that you feel predominated at that time, as well as hobbies and interests that you actually participated in.
I graduated Wellesley College in 1990 with a double major of Psychology and English. I worked as the National Sales Manager for the Independent Broker/Dealer Channel at PIMCO Mutual Funds. I was a national spokesperson for their investment products at brokerage meetings. After that I became COO of an Independent Brokerage Firm where I ran the operations of their office and came up with their marketing programs. My last position was as a Vice President of Marketing at JPMorgan Mutual Funds, where I created the Wealth Management Program. It was a program designed to help financial advisors understand their affluent clients better. I created and designed workbooks, manuals and presentations for the program, as well as presented seminars on the subject to advisors across the country.
I am an outgoing, well-spoken individual. I enjoy reading, playing the piano, and going out with friends. I write music and have started writing a few romance novels. I marginally play golf and tennis.
On the next page of your notebook, write the heading “MY CURRENT SELF”. Here is where you will need to define who you are now, without relying on past employment history. Under the sub-heading “Current Role”, include your role as a mother, a homemaker, a caretaker, and any roles you have in the community: a volunteer, a group member, a class mom. If you do any part-time work include that as well. Then, as in the exercise above, under the sub-heading “Personal”, include any personality traits you have acquired since becoming a mother, and any activities you are now involved in or hobbies you have.
I am a wife and the mother of three children: Brady 10, Alexandra 8, and Bailey 6. I run the household, which includes doing the laundry, making dinner, cleaning the house, and organizing play-dates. I teach simple reading, math and reasoning skills to the kids. I help them with creative play. I design and throw elaborate theme birthday parties for them. I am also an avid internet-surfing, do-it-yourself amateur doctor.
I am actively involved in volunteering for my children’s schools including, the school district’s Special Education PTA group.
I was a member of the Northern Westchester Junior League. When I first joined, I was the co-chair for our Provisional Project and I was also part of the Year of the Member Campaign Committee. My first role as an Active member was with the Fundraising Committee where I helped to design the décor for their annual fundraising dinner and auction.
I am a creative mother, and I’m always looking for new ways to entertain my children that does not involve a large, purple dinosaur, or a sponge that lives under the sea. I keep my family organized. I can be a fun and entertaining woman to my family and friends when I’m not overly busy or tired. I am empathetic and I try to be patient.
I like to be social and go out with my friends. I also like to stay active with running and going to the gym. My creative outlets are writing and composing music in my spare time.
The next step is for you to analyze your former and current bios and come up with a list of characteristics that you feel describes you. On the next page in your notebook, make two columns. Label one heading “Old-Self Characteristics” and label the other heading “Current-Self Characteristics”. Under these columns, list both positive and negative characteristics. Realizing that you can have polar traits, depending on the day or situation. For example, I can be very patient with my children but when I find permanent marker on my bedroom oriental rug, not so much. Once you have completed your lists, then add a “+” next to or circle the characteristics, past and present, that you feel portray you in a way that you would like to be seen.
Old-Self Characteristics: Current-Self Characteristics:
empowered + organized +
financially self-reliant + patient +
creative + short-tempered
motivated + procrastinator
frustrated empathetic +
impatient lonely at times
The nice part of Self-Rediscovery is that your past-achievements are a baseline for you, but you’re not done yet. You still have an opportunity to build on the person that you want to be. So, in our next step, review the list of adjectives below, think about the traits that you don’t see in your lists, but you would like to work on adding to the future definition of yourself. On the next page of your notebook, at the top write “MY FUTURE SELF”. Then under that make a sub-heading “Future-Self Characteristics”. In this column write down the traits that you would like to have and want to work on having. Also, this is where your “fudge factors” come in. Think of ways you’ve described yourself in the past, like a “tennis player”, and if that was a fudge factor for you like mine was, what were you trying to portray yourself as, such as “fun, athletic”, add those words as well. Then make a line under that list and go back to your Old-Self and Current-Self Characteristic lists and write down all the words you circled that you want to still be known for. This will give you a complete Future-Self list that will include all the traits you want to keep and all the traits you want to work on adding.
Other Characteristics you would like to see in your definition of yourself:
Ambitious, Articulate, Artistic, Athletic, Attractive, Brave, Cautious, Charitable, Clever, Competent, Considerate, Content, Creative, Cultured, Decisive, Dependable, Direct, Easy-going, Efficient, Empowered, Enthusiastic, Exciting, Experienced, Extroverted, Fair, Fearless, Financially Self-reliant, Flexible, Friendly, Fun, Funny, Generous, Happy, Hardworking, Helpful, Literate, Imaginative, Intelligent, Interesting, Organized, Outgoing, Passionate, Philanthropic, Problem-solver, Relaxed, Risk-taker, Self-Confident, Sociable, Spontaneous, Strong, Well-traveled