Who do you think you’re not?

By Dani (Posetively Present)

Valentine’s Day might be over, but there’s no shortage of love here at Positively Present. Self-love, that is! Self-Love Month is going strong and I couldn’t be happier with the positive responses I’ve received to both the self-love posts and The ABC’s of Self-Love book. It’s so wonderful to see how many people really believe in the importance of self-love. 

The more I ponder the concept of self-love, the more I realize how labels really impact how we feel about ourselves. I’ve written about this topic before in the post “I Am: Two Little Words, One Big Impact,” but now I’m looking at it from a different angle. How we feel about who we are is not only based on the ways we choose to define ourselves, but also by the ways we deny ourselves to be defined. 

Most of our limitations exist in our minds, fueled by the notion that we are boxed into specific categories and cannot get out of them. This all sounds a little abstract, so I’ll give you a personal example.

If someone were to ask me what I was, I would say, “I’m a writer.” Most of the time, I consider that a positive thing (after all, it is what I’m most passionate about), but there are times when I feel like that definition of who I am holds me back. Lately, I’ve been really investing a lot of time and energy into graphic design classes and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with playing around in Illustrator and InDesign. I’ll ponder the idea of incorporating my love of graphic design into my career in someway, and this little voice in the back of my head will say, You’re a writer, not a graphic designer.

And it’s those last four words that hold me back more than the first three. “You are…” contains some element of positivity and self-love, even when used in a limiting context, whereas “you are not…” is almost always negative (unless, of course, the phrase that follows it is negative, as in “You are not a serial killer.”). We all, in some ways, limit ourselves in the way we define who we are. The “I am…” phrases, no matter how positive, can hold us back at times. But it’s the “I am not…” phrases that can be particularly worrisome when it comes to self-love. 

Take, for example, my situation. Yes, I am a writer. And, no, I am not a graphic designer. But does that mean that I cannot incorporate my love of graphic design into my writing in some way? Do I have to be one or the other? Do I have to limit myself (as so many of us often do) to one thing that I’m passionate about? The answer to all of these questions is NO. I don’t have to limit myself. I don’t have to choose to be one thing or another. 

Most of us are pretty complex beings. We’re not so easily pushed into boxes with neat and tidy labels. The trouble is, it’s often easier for our minds to understand others (and ourselves) if we have organized labels for everything. In some ways it makes sense, but it many others, it holds us back from being whatever we want to be. It holds us back from possibility

Today take a moment to consider who you think you’re not. Listen to yourself when you speak the words, “I’m not…” and ask yourself if that’s really true. Sometimes it is. For example, when I say, “I’m not an outdoorsy kinda girl,” that statement is true. I will never be rock-climbing, trail-hiking outdoorswoman. I will be a great many things, but never that. But when I hear myself say things like “I’m not a graphic designer” or “I’m not an artist” or a great many other “I’m not…” phrases, I have to pause and ask myself, Am I really not that? 

Maybe I won’t be everything I could be (there’s only so much time in a life!), but I won’t be making the most of who I am if I limit my definitions of myself. Self-love means loving all of who you are — even the parts that might not fit so easily into categories, even the parts that don’t always make sense. While accepting your limitations is a part of loving who you are, so too is knowing which limitations are real and which are self-inflicted.

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