The anxiety can hit me like a punch in the stomach.
Who am I?
In this moment I feel like I am an impostor. I have all the experience and training behind me and other people trust me, yet when I look at the words written about me I wonder: "Is this really me?"
I have played a lot of roles in my life. Each seemed to have a script. Being the good daughter, sister, student, babysitter, teacher, wife, mother, therapist and more. They all had expectations put on me by others. I learned how to play the parts. I read books, took courses and listened to the expectations of the roles I played.
When I met someone who had a different set of rules for the role, I was anxious. Was I really being the "best" of whoever I was trying to be?
Lots of times I felt like I was failing. I'd become impatient or exhausted and would feel like a failure. The perfect "I" would never act like I was acting.
Awareness of the Self that I am and how this Self is different from the roles I play, can help me answer the question - who am I?
I can look at my individual potential - things with which I was born. I can ask: "What are my limits and what are my strengths?"
While some people say we are all capable of being whoever we want to be, I know that one of my fantasies, to be a helicopter pilot, is not very realistic. I perhaps could, but won't, change my sex, my height, my ethnic background and a whole lot more. I could play dumber than I am, something women are told to do to succeed, but I won't. I have been told I am too emotional. I ask: "Too emotional for whom?"
In looking at the "real" Self, I need to accept these parts of myself. I need to look at myself physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Who am I really when I am free to be Me?
Watching ourselves through what we do when we have the choice to do whatever we want, will lead us to our authentic self.
Living roles involves the expectations of others and our own expectations of ourselves. What do I expect of a good daughter of an aging parent? What makes a good wife? How does a successful business woman behave? What does she look like and what does she wear?
Role models assign us expectations. When my mother died in her 50's she left me without her role to follow. I needed to look for other examples of how to "be" a mature woman. I looked to my grandmothers and aunts. I looked to respected peers. I asked myself: "How do I want to be me?" The freedom to invent myself was overwhelming. What if I chose wrong? Couldn't someone just tell me and I could follow the script?
When I purchased a little red sporty car, I was told it was juvenile by a woman who lived her roles flawlessly. Her comments surprised me. I questioned my decision.
Crisis points demand we grow. Deciding I needed to be playful and happy was more important than living her version of the role. I must live with the consequences of my decisions and if breaking the role of a middle aged woman that others adopt had consequences, I was going to find out what they were.
I had far more comments of "cute car" than critical ones. It has been a long time and I still get a smile on my face when I climb into my latest "toy".
I do not want power over others and I do not want others to try to control me. I will not live in a role, although I find it helpful to have a whole collection of roles I can play when I want. I can shift from role to real and back again.
Understanding the difference between the roles we play and the real women we are capable of being, gives us great freedom. It gives the ability to create the lives we want.
We are also a role model for others, especially our children. In the constant demands of activities and expectations, children need to discover and hold on to, their authentic selves.
Make your life the way you'd wish your children's lives will be for them!
Marilyn is a registered marriage and family therapist, consultant to families in business and author of Questing Marilyn, In Search of My Holy Grail, Personal Growth Through Travel, Questing France: Deepening the Search for My Holy Grail and Questing Home: A Safe Place For My Holy Grail.
Visit her web site www.mbcinc.ca