Identity Crisis

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You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something. – H.G. Wells

More than once when I have wanted one of my girlfriends to go somewhere with me or do something, I have cavalierly said, “just get a babysitter” or “why can’t your husband watch them for a few hours?” or “one of your friends has asked you repeatedly to let her watch your children, why not take her up on it?”

And when my friends didn’t give in to my pleading and leave their children with a sitter for an hour or two, I just couldn’t understand why they hadn’t. It seemed so simple, so straightforward, especially when we could both readily cite the laundry list of quotations as to why they should “take time for yourself, you’ll feel better, ready to face the world.”

But even with ample opportunity to get away for a few hours they didn’t do it. And I just haven’t understood this – at all.

Until last week.

On Monday afternoon I received a call from the BBC based in Washington D.C. As the director of public relations for The Church of Jesus Christ (aka Mormons) in Greater Boston, when reporters call and want to meet with members of my church, it’s my job to make that happen. And with the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, expected to become a candidate for president of the United States, there’s a lot of curiosity about my faith right now.

So the BBC called on Monday, and they wanted to do their interviews on Wednesday. Ordinarily I would have liaised with the BBC, arranging for the interviews, and we’d be done. But I had to go out of town and so I couldn’t set up the appointments – and I needed to delegate that responsibility.

Surprisingly, I found this really difficult to do. As I analyzed why I was so disconcerted by delegating this job to someone else, I found myself feeling guilty and concerned about imposing on my committee member – after all she’s busy too.

But then I realized that what I was really feeling was Fear.

Fear that in not doing “my job”, my identity would rub away.


Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

Each of us has an identity, probably several, a way of defining who we are — daughter, sister, mother, wife, doctor, investment professional, etc. Though I think each of us has many identities, we usually have a primary identity which tends to be related to whatever we spend most of our time doing. For me, because much of my last fifteen years has been related to my career, my identity is centered on myself as a worker, a gal who goes out gets stuff done. When I get stuff done in the community or workplace I shore up my identity. In turn, when I delegate or give away those “tasks to be done”, I perceive that I am weakening that identity. (Oh, bounty – wherefore art thou?)

The paradox of this is that unless I am willing to let go of some of my can-do identity, there isn’t room for me to develop other pieces of myself, like the mothering piece that I wanted to develop (and is part of why I left my gig on Wall Street).

Is this what happens with each us?

If it is, and I believe that it is, as I encourage you to dream, I really am daring you–maybe even double dog daring you to dream. Because for you to find another piece of who you are, you have to rearrange the furniture in your mind and heart to make room for the new piece, possibly discarding a little bit of who you think you are right now. Which, because of the fear, can be tough.

And so with this blog, dated January 22, 2007, I promise that I will be supportive, gently encouraging you – even as I dare you – to become more of who you are …

In the meantime, how about I do some more delegating, you go get a babysitter, and let’s get to dreaming!

Is there a something that you have wanted to do recently, if only for a few hours, that you just wouldn’t let yourself do?

Can you jot down a few of the reasons why you wouldn’t you let yourself do it?

If you find yourself repeatedly wanting to do this thing, will you promise yourself to do it next time – knowing full well that you will be just a little bit uncomfortable?

After a few days, do you still feel uncomfortable, or just a little bit happier?

Remember when you are learning something, it may feel at first as if you’ve lost something!

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