One of the most dangerous things we can do in life is fall into the trap of only defining ourselves by what we are to other people.
I think it’s something everyone struggles with, because relationships are essentially the most important thing in our lives. And that’s healthy. We’re social beings, we need contact with others. But when you never spend any time alone with yourself –or worse, when you’re not comfortable spending time alone – that’s when you might run into trouble.
I’m a lot of things to the people in my life – daughter, sister, cousin, niece, granddaughter, friend, girlfriend, coworker, the list goes on and on. And eventually, I would probably like to be a wife and mother as well. But if someone were to ask me who I am, I wouldn’t say “I’m my mother’s daughter,” or later, “I’m so-and-so’s wife.”
Because the problem with defining yourself by other people is that if they go away, you lose your sense of value. We all need to have something that we are, just for ourselves. I am a writer. I would write regardless of whether I had a writing job, or whether anyone was reading my stories and poems. It’s a vital part of who I am and how I see the world, and it doesn’t exist in relation to any other person. If everyone in my life was suddenly gone, I would still be a writer.
We define ourselves in other ways, too. By belief systems and interests – I am a Catholic, a democrat, a dancer, a horseback rider. But even interests and ideals can fade away in certain relationships (hint: they’re the unhealthy ones). Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to be everything to another person that we end up becoming nothing for ourselves.
I guess I’m advocating a certain kind of selfishness here. That you should give to others, but not too much. Because if you’re left with nothing for yourself, you become completely dependent on other people. And if you lose them, you don’t know how to be you. You don’t exist anymore, because another person isn’t there to validate you.
So be careful out there, kids. Hold on to yourself.