I remember when I got my first ever classroom and was a jumbled mess full of stress, confusion, fear, nervousness, etc, etc. I really wasn’t sure how I was even functioning, but somehow I got through it. As every new teacher has probably experienced, my mornings started super early in the classroom trying to get my day figured out, to late in the evening, still trying to get that day and the next day figured out. I was eating, sleeping and living being a teacher. As much as I wanted to be a great teacher, I quickly learned that I was burning myself out. I was defining myself on whether I was a good teacher or not, and I was pitching myself against an impossibly high standard that usually takes years to develop.
A colleague of mine (also a very wise and experienced teacher) came in one day, took a look at me and told me to find a hobby after school. She told me I needed something else besides teaching so as not to allow teaching to define my life and I’ve always remembered that advice. Sometimes we get so caught up in life and the responsibilities that they bring with it that we forget about that happy, carefree, without the weight of the world on its shoulders self (perhaps our true self, dare I say?). We get into these roles and somehow look to them to define who we are. I often have a hard time separating myself from my work self and often base my own self worth on how I am valued at work. For others you can substitute work with being a mom, or being a dad, or a son or a daughter, sister or brother, the list is endless.
So where do we draw the line, where we can figure out who we actually are without the influence of the roles we play. I’m getting close to 40 and I still am trying to figure it out. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live a “free” life where I’m not encumbered by serious life responsibilities that cannot be escaped, but should we really let roles define us? Or should we just realize that we don’t need to be defined and that all we really need to realize is that life is about living and experiencing and not getting so caught up in the definition of a role.
So what does that look like? Well, there are a couple of things I try to follow:
#1: Not always listening to my family and their advice. They love me and want the best for me, and that’s a great thing, but it’s also not so great for when they’re doling out the advice. In reality, they want me to be the “Bev” they know and love and keep me as safe as possible, which is very noble and loving, but doesn’t always work in my favour. I love my family and everything they have to offer, but sometimes, I need to take a step back from advice they give me because even though I know it comes from a place of love and support, it’s often based on fears and worries, which doesn’t necessarily allow me to explore and try new things. Even if they are right, and the new “thing” I try was a complete and utter failure, it’s my own complete and utter failure and my opportunity and responsibility to learn from it and move on.
#2: Don’t worry about what “society” says you should do. OK, I’m not saying here that we all have to go out and break the laws and start wreaking havoc on the world. What I mean about not listening to “society” is that there are certain standards in our society that we’re supposed to achieve (i.e. success is often defined as how well you do in your career, how much money you have, your status, etc.) and that doesn’t need to be your definition of you. I like having nice things and being able to do things like travel and do yoga and go skiing. They’re definitely great things to have, but it doesn’t make me a better person than someone else because I can do those things or have nice things. I want them on my own terms and not based on how our society values/judges them.
#3: Do something for others. Whether it’s small acts of kindness or big acts, doing something to help others doesn’t define you, but just makes you see that there’s something bigger out there than just you. I’ve volunteered here and there throughout my life, but I haven’t made it a constant thing and it’s something I’d like to make a regular part of my life. I also just like to do random acts of small kindness, whether it’s holding the door open for someone, or helping someone with directions or just talking to a stranger who needs a kind ear.
#4: Take time out for yourself. Do something for you, small and big acts of kindness work on yourself too 🙂 Be kind and loving to yourself because you deserve it.