Recently I gave a TEDx talk where I shared my message encouraging all of us to define ourselves by WHO we are, and not what we are. In my talk I noted my belief that “when we define ourselves by our experiences, we limit ourselves, because there is so much more to who we are and then some…”
In one person’s feedback to my talk, the person stated the following: “I was thinking about what you said about experiences defining us. I believe that we are products of our experiences, and we definitely have certain defining experiences in life which shape us. I don’t think that that necessarily limits a person. It depends what you do with that experience and if it can be used as a source of growth, awareness and insight.”
While I agree with what this person writes, I still feel that it is dangerous (yes, not just limiting) to view our particular experience (whatever that may be for each of us) as something that may have shaped us. I believe that it is important to separate that experience from WHO we are.
When we define ourselves by our experiences or state that a certain experience has shaped who we are, we are essentially giving that experience power over us. We allow for that experience to control how we view ourselves or what category we put ourselves (or may want other people to put us) into. We allow for that small part of us to play a bigger role in our lives than it needs to play. When we describe or define ourselves by those experiences, we shift the attention of the incredibly rich, complex, beautiful people that we are, to something that is only ‘a part’ of who we are or what we have experienced in our lives.
Approaching my own experiences in this way, this is how I responded to the person’s feedback:
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In support of and in awe of ALL that you are,
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