When children come into the world, they come in with unique characteristics and talents. And the fortunate ones have parents, teachers, caregivers, who nurture and encourage them to express these gifts in their life. As they mature, they experience many of the same rules and restrictions the world requires, but with direction and guidance, they retain much of their authentic self. As they grow up and develop their personality, these gifts become part of their identity, and they’re allowed to freely express them as part of who they are.
How wonderful if all children were so fortunate. But we live in a busy world and, to some degree, each child is given a role, or image, to identify as ‘self’. Children grow up in group settings and are tagged early-on within the group. They’re given a role, and this is who they must be. This is not generally a conscious or purposeful act, but it can be verbally assigned by others, assigned to the child, or sometimes just seem to happen. But as this image takes hold, it becomes the child’s perception of self. The role, or image, becomes the child’s ‘I am’.
“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” William Shakespear
I was 6 years old when my father died, and my mother assigned roles to my 11-year-old brother and me. My older brother became the man of the family and worked to help support us, and I became my mother’s trash dump. My mother came home from her waitress job in the middle of the night having had too much to drink, and she woke me to listen to long, painful stories about years past and then losing my father.
I tried to help her, but my role was too much for a 6-year-old, especially dealing with my own painful loss. No one listened to my pain, and I felt forsaken, so I made a vow to take care of myself and never need anyone. I labeled myself, and my vow became who I was…independent, self-sufficient, and alone. This episode is described in my book, Silent Echoes.
From our roles or images, we develop our personality. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, personality is the personal or individual quality that makes one person be different and act differently from another. In psychology, personality is the total physical, intellectual, and emotional structure of an individual, including abilities, interests, and attitudes. According to Maxwell Maltz, the self-image is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and the behavior. We are truly complex beings with no two alike.
“Whatever people think of you is really about the image they have of you, and that image isn’t you.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz
Our role or image is what we portray to others, and we’re seen by others as this role, image, personality. We may be known as weak, strong, needy, resourceful, capable, smart, ornery, kind, selfish, etc. So we live according to this label while our true self-lives deep inside with only brief moments of expression. In many cases, without a caregiver’s encouragement to express our true self, talents were born with can get lost and die somewhere inside…like a beautiful voice that never gets to sing.
No matter what role we’re given or what personality we develop, the spark of true self will always cry out to be seen, heard, and validated authentically as you…as you were created. Although at times, we do express our true self, we’re so caught up in being who we’re not, we don’t always notice.
Would you like to discover more of you and express more of your true self in your life? Tune in next week for Part 2, and we’ll talk about some ways to change our ‘I am’.
~I wish you a happy journey to self.~