Just for Me: Defining yourself or not…

I stated in my “About” section that I’m rebelling from being defined by just my “mommy status.” Some have asked why I’m rebelling from motherhood or why do I care how others define me. However, it’s not that I don’t love being a mother or worry that I’m seen as a mom, but there are days that I feel my role as a mother smothers the woman I worked so hard to define. Then my dear friend, Meghan Thompson, who is also a RebelMom contributor summed it up perfectly in a recent blog post on her site, Temple of Inspiration. She has kindly allowed my to reprint it for you.

I am a… By Meghan Thompson

My son is eighteen-months-old today.  Which means it’s been eighteen months since the start of my identity crisis.  I never saw myself becoming a parent.  Heck, I never really saw myself becoming an adult.  Left to my own devices, I’d be eating broccoli in tomato sauce and tuna mixed with canned corn every night; I can hardly feed myself, how can I be responsible for the life of another human being?

Well, actually, it isn’t so much the responsibility with which I struggle, as it is the very idea of being a mom.  Being a “mom” means doing all those things that never interested me – carpools, play dates, coffee mornings.  I have a panic attack at the very notion of having to carry on conversations with a group of women with whom the only thing I have in common is an offspring.  When I think of standing outside the elementary school waiting to pick up my son, I have images of myself as a Japanese snow monkey chased out of the hot spring by one of the cooler snow monkey moms.

I struggle to define myself as a mom, but what else am I?  I’ve tried working in all kinds of fields and not really found my place.  I am a writer, but then, I’ve not yet gotten that stamp of approval that makes me feel I can legitimately define myself that way.  And this begs the question: ought I to be defining myself at all?


Yesterday, I read a quote by Deepak Chopra: “Your only identity is I AM undefined and infinite.  Any label you give yourself limits yourself.”   Hmmm… that’s a head scratcher.  I’ve always been under the impression that defining one’s identity is part of the human endeavor… part of understanding who one is.  But, if the past year and a half have taught me nothing else, I’ve learned that trying to define myself by my relationship to another or by what I do, in fact does feel limiting.  It doesn’t capture the wholeness of who I am. And, as I haven’t yet achieved some of the things I’d like to, it can feel discomfiting.

It’s a challenge, though, isn’t it?  We need a bit of an “elevator speech” to provide others an idea of who we are.  ”I am a … (fill in the profession)” and “I am (fill in: single, a single parent, a wife, a husband, a father, a mother, an only child, the 3′rd of four, etc.)” and also, “I like (fill in the hobby).”  We use these quick and easy definitions to help find points of commonality with others, or to frame an interaction between people.  Like the snow monkeys, there is a way things are done and we all understand the common rules.

But, do these labels stifle our creative instincts?  Do they cause us to stop exploring new ways we could express ourselves in the world?

Often, many of us become so comfortable with the notion that we are our jobs or our relationships or our interests, that we stop wondering what else we could be.  And then, if we are faced with divorce, or the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, we must struggle through, not only the loss, but the lack of that identity.  We can feel set adrift on a metaphysical sea.


The best case scenario is that we reestablish ourselves in some better way – find a new talent, a new comfort with who we are, a new relationship with another person, or with the world in general.  For example, Dr. Sean Kenniff made a name for himself on the first season of Survivor.  After the show, he broadened his career to become a journalist, covering health issues.  When his job was cut, due to the recession, he felt lost and powerless.  Drawing on these emotions, he was inspired to write an amazing novel about pushing limits and challenging destiny, called Etre the Cow.  But should it take a blow to our vitals to open our eyes and see all the possibilities the world offers to us?

Perhaps Chopra is right… the less we try to define ourselves, the more open we can be to all we can be.  And if we must, for the sake of conversation, label ourselves, at least we should stop and rethink those labels every so often… make sure they are what we want them to be.   And perhaps, we should take the time, now and then, to imagine what else is out there for us.  Life is opportunity.  We are not Kenniff’s poor cow starving in a pasture for a better existence.  We are … anything.

“Your only identity is I Am…”

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2 Responses to Just for Me: Defining yourself or not…

  1. Indira Pillai says:

    What a beautiful article.I remember all those emotional battles with myself in my thirties and forties .As I got older ,I learned to accept life and people as it happened . I still ask the question ,who am I many times a day .Whoever I am ,I accept myself .I beleive that is the starting point for “I AM “.
    Rebel Moms Mom

  2. katherine says:

    Indeed. The Mom’s struggle to be identified (as something productive) is really a human struggle, one that has likely sprung up in our so-called modern society. The dichotomy between being and doing is attached to our definition of what it is to be productive in this post-industrial society. Though we know we are not “human doings, but human beings”, we struggle to BE. Everywhere we look, in our daily interactions, we are asked “What do you do?”, as if this will suffice in the understanding of who we truly are. But it is also a very human need that the brain has to create order from chaos, and handy definitions such as “Mother” are short form methods of compartmentalizing each other in this sound-bite driven world we exist in.

    I say, keep ‘em all on their toes and continue to re-invent yourself! I may be ADD, but I am creative, I am intrigued with my world and motivated to continue to blow out the glass ceiling for myself by following my passions. Do yourself a favor and step out of that tidy little box someone gave you and get lost for a little while….what you will discover will be yours to savor and the world’s to wonder about….

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