I was driving home listening to a radio station that plays 90’s hip-hop and R&B all the time (I am in love with it…105.3 in C-bus!), when Lauryn Hill’s Doo-wop came on. Great song, for sure, but I had never really listened to the lyrics before. For the first time, I heard the words in one of the bridges. “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” Amazingly, that was exactly the question I needed to hear to help me tie together a meaningful experience about identity that I had at work right before leaving for the day.
On that particular day, the four of us full-time employees at our company met with an amazing leadership mentor. (How cool is it that our little company is already investing in the employees and our self-improvement early on to help us develop our strengths ahead of any difficult times?!) One of the first sessions was meant to gain an understanding of who we are as people.
“Identity is who you are to the core,” the training facilitator said. Identity, he said, is what fuels our mission and our community. He emphasized that an identity is not what other people think of us, but is very necessary to know about ourselves in order to reach our full potential. He warned us that we tend to get wrapped up in how we think we are perceived, when sometimes that isn’t really who we are at all. Then he challenged us to answer a simple but difficult question, “What is your identity?”
As I drove home after the training and heard Lauryn Hill’s song, the lesson from that day suddenly made sense! I asked myself, if other people hold a perception about you, does that really define you? Of course the answer is no!
But I hadn’t always believed that. In fact, in the past I had accepted the definitions and labels others had given me. I had even developed a chip on my shoulder about it because I had grown frustrated with the conflict in our views. I knew their opinions weren’t right, but I doubted myself just enough to not have the confidence to counteract them.
After that leadership session, I realized how silly that was. Listening to and believing other people’s perceptions had never affected who I really was. It just prevented me from embracing my true identity and realizing my full potential. To win, I had to get right within…my own head!
So, my go-getters: Yes, you can get a promotion, a raise, or your dream job. Or, you can attend your perfect college, win a Nobel prize, or even become president. However, you can’t reach your full potential unless you understand your identity.
To get started on your journey, ask yourself these questions:
- What is your identity?
- What makes you you-er than anyone else?
- Have you accepted as true some of the way others have misdefined you? If so, what can you do right now to accept your own self-definition instead?
Once you grasp who you are, and believe that nothing else that happens to you defines you, you can take your future to the next level. Embrace it, embrace YOU, and then go get the world!