How do you define yourself?
Let’s say something really bad happens in your life.
Your marriage ends.
You have a miscarriage.
You get cancer.
You lose your home in a fire.
Just a few options. The variations on the theme are endless. Something bad happens. Something terrible. Something that forces you to take a long, hard look at yourself. Something that shakes you to your core and makes you question how you’ve been living. Who you’ve been. Where you’ve been. Where you’re going.
I believe that’s why they call these defining moments. Because we’re forced to define ourselves. Again and again and again.
This is what happened to me. My marriage ended, and all of a sudden, I had no idea who I was.
Because for ten years of my life, I’d been a wife and a mother. I’d been his wife and their mother. The new options for titles were less than appealing – Single mom. Divorced mom. Ex-wife. All of those terms? They felt distinctly like failure. My definition would forever be locked to something that I failed at. I couldn’t even bear the thought. I didn’t want to be the poster child for divorce. I didn’t want that to be what people remembered of me. Pivotal turning points sometimes do that. They latch onto your leg and won’t let go.
I do not want to be defined by the bad things that have happened to me.
The more people that Christine and I meet on this Vivid & Brave mission, the more we realize how true that is for everyone. People don’t want to be the poster child for their failures, for their crises. They want to celebrate conquering adversity without letting that adversity become their definition. They want to be able to say out loud “This happened, and I survived. I came out on the other side stronger and faster and smarter, but that thing? It doesn’t define me. It is not who I am.”
Vivid & Brave was born of a desire to help people dig deep and rediscover themselves. We wanted creative women, especially those who have been through a sudden transition, or a life change, to be find the words to clearly define themselves outside of the things that happen to them, or the roles they fill. Because Christine and I have both learned that the roles you fill can change – sometimes without warning, as with my divorce, sometimes as a function of getting older, as with becoming an empty nester (or a partial one like Christine is!)
How do you define yourself?
Something bad happens to you.
It changes everything. It changes you. Suddenly, your old titles don’t quite fit anymore, or they don’t fit at all. You need to redefine everything. How do you do it?
In the Vivid & Brave manifesto, you’ll find this little gem.
Our most beautiful discoveries stem from the darkest places of pain.
Every single thing that happens to you shapes you. You get to choose how. You get to define the person you are, the passions you have. You get to take your pain and turn it inside out. That bad thing that happens to you doesn’t have to be the only thing about you that you ever talk about again. It doesn’t have to be where you keep going back to. You get to write the story here.
Taking back the power from my divorce has come from talking about it. From being able to share about it honestly, to share the pain of it, the confusion, the feelings that I wasn’t sure I was allowed to have. From being gentle with myself when it overwhelms me (because grief does that). But mostly – from celebrating all the amazing things that came after it. It took being forced to confront my lack of identity to finally create one for myself.
You’ll rarely hear me talk about myself in terms of the roles I fill anymore. Instead, you’ll hear me talk about how I’m going to shake things up in this world. About how I love and celebrate myself. I’m still a single mom – obviously – it’s even in my author bio on the bottom of this page. But I’m committed to ensuring that I remember – and that everyone knows – just how much more comes with that package.
One of the exercises we do in our workshops and in the Vivid and Brave program is “I am…. because….” What looks so small on the surface can be a daunting task. What about you makes you amazing… and why? It would be easy to use this exercise to define yourself by something bad that has happened to you:
I am strong because I got divorced and I didn’t curl up and die like I really really wanted to a bunch of times.
I am a universe denter because I am not going to stop until every woman sees her own light.
THAT is how I define myself. Because that was the beautiful discovery in my darkest pain. I was invisible in my marriage. I had long ago lost sight of my own inner light. I’d forgotten how to be Stephanie, and I allowed myself to live in my ex-husband’s shadow. And once I stepped out of that, I had to find that light again, really see it. I had to BE Stephanie.
Are you ready to define yourself?
I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.
When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.
Latest posts by Stephanie Ostermann (see all)
- Inventing Insecurities | No, I Don’t “Need” Eye Cream - February 24, 2017
- You Don’t Have to Be Friends With Your Ex (Or His New Wife) - November 23, 2016
- Grief & Landlines - September 20, 2016