How to be Yourself in Each Role You Fill
This is a guest post by Johanna Schram.We all fill a variety of roles in the course of our lives. I'm a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a writer, a friend, a citizen, a dog owner, a homeowner—just to name a few. I've also claimed the roles of employee, coworker, manager, student, leader, musician, artist, athlete, and dancer. Some roles don't come with official titles, but are implied—good girl, smart one, responsible one.
What about you? Which roles have you taken on?It makes sense that we would act slightly differently in each of our roles. Of course we wouldn't do and say the exact same things as a coworker that we do as a spouse. We likely show up differently as an employee than we do as a friend.We can choose the behavior and boundaries appropriate to each relationship and context while still being ourselves. We can choose to highlight different aspects of who we are to fit whichever role is currently at the forefront.But a problem comes when we struggle to trust that who we are is enough to fill the roles in which we find ourselves. When we believe we have to change or be bigger than we really are, filling our roles can feel like a performance. We start to hide vital parts of ourselves while acting like someone we are not.As a student, I played basketball. On the court, I was expected to be aggressive, confident, competitive, driven, intense, and bold. But as soon as the final buzzer sounded, I was to go back to being humble, polite, considerate, obedient, and generous.Some people transition between these roles beautifully. They can amp up the intense, driven aspects of themselves in appropriate ways within the context of the game and then let them sink back into supporting roles for their more compassionate side in their relationships.While I enjoyed many of the skills of basketball, for me, the attitude of a basketball player was always a performance. I am just not an aggressive person. Every time I stepped on the court, I was fighting to be someone I wasn't. I believed the only way to play my role was to become bigger and better than I was.Of course, this tendency to play a part shows up in more than just sports. Even in the roles that matter to me most—wife, sister, daughter, friend—I've felt that urgency to perform in order to measure up. Instead of drawing on particular aspects of who I am, I've fragmented myself into someone different for each role I claim. Trying to be someone I'm not gets in the way of being truly myself with those I love and trusting them to see me for who I am.I don't want to keep manufacturing a new version of myself to fit every role I hope to fill. Rather, I'm trying to collect all those fragmented versions of me and sort through to see what fits and what doesn't. I'm learning to highlight different facets of one whole, coherent person and to trust it's enough to be myself in each of my roles.This isn't a quick switch. I've had a lot of practice performing. In some cases, I've performed so long that it's hard to untangle what's me and what is an act. Here are some questions that are helping.Where and when do I feel most myself?Before we can show up as ourselves instead of acting as who we think we're supposed to be, we need a clearer picture of who we are. Think of times when you've felt the most like yourself. How did you think, act, speak, and feel? What do those memories show you about your core values, personality, strengths, interests, and character?In which roles do I feel driven by pressure to be more than who I actually am?Our emotions can give us clues to where we might be trying to be more than we are. We'll often experience fear, resentment, or loneliness when we feel compelled to continually prove we're enough. Tenseness in our bodies can also cue us to times when we're not acting as ourselves.Some of these may be roles to let go. I eventually quit basketball to focus on other things. For other roles, it may be a matter of learning to trust that who we are is enough.How would I show up differently if I were not performing?If you could be absolutely certain you're already good enough, what would you do differently? How would that feel differently?Knowing what you know about yourself, which aspects of your identity are best suited to this role? This isn't about what traits you need to acquire or how you have to pretend. Rather, how can you creatively use all the pieces of who you are in this situation?What do you need in order to give yourself permission to stop performing?It doesn't matter if I give you permission to quit. Even if everyone in your life assures you that you are good enough just as you are, you won't be able to drop the performance until you believe it's ok.You are the only one who can give yourself that permission. I know it's not as simple as just signing a permission slip. Trust me, I know. That's why I'm encouraging us to really think about what it will take for us to get there.I'd love to know...When has filling a role felt like a performance? In which roles do you feel most yourself? How will you give yourself permission to show up as who you are?About JohannaJohanna Schram is learning to value wrestling with the questions over having all the answers. She’s sifting through the internal and external expectations of who she is supposed to be to discover who she really is, what she values, and what she has to give. Join her at joRuth and deepen your self-knowledge with these free guides.Would you like to submit a guest post to Becoming Who You Are? I'd love to hear from you! Find out more and read the posting guidelines here.