I am single. I am widowed. I am married. I am divorced. I am a mom. I have no children. I am a career woman. I stay at home. I am an artist. I am a cancer survivor. I have a doctorate. I finished high school.
Are these really who we are? Or are they merely part of our journey, a title, or life experience that will demonstrate what we are made of? I, my friend, will passionately argue for the latter.
In my 20s, I was a booking agent for musicians when I married my boss. No, it was not one of those torrid affairs in the workplace that you would read or hear about over your lunch break. He was single, as was I. First, I was his girlfriend; then I became his wife.
I am not defined by just one part of my life.
In the minds of many of the people we worked with, that part of my life made me less of an agent. The fact that we were dating created an argument that my ability was not the reason I had my job. I must simply be a ditzy blonde whose boss thought she was cute (no offense to blondes—our hair color has no relevance to our abilities).
The assumption was that being in a relationship with my boss made me less capable. Fortunately for those who chose to trust their careers in my hands, I was rather good at what I did, and they got enough work to pay their rent.
Sometimes it bothered me to know that people had the wrong perception of me. It hurt, challenged my self-esteem, and just flat-out made me angry. I felt I had to work harder and be even better than my peers to succeed. In some people’s estimation, that was true. Others defined me by one part of my life, not all of it.
This was when my self-view began to evolve. Each of those—girlfriend, wife, or booking agent—was part of what defined me in the eyes of many. Through the years, I added concert promoter, mother, homeowner, video producer, chief financial officer, author, and even toilet repairman (because we couldn’t afford a plumber) to my many titles. But none of those created a definition of the person I was; they were just what I was doing at that moment in time. They were where life circumstances or choices threw me.
This is what defines me:
Do I give up when life gets difficult? Yes, life does get difficult. No one of us is immune to the challenges we face when merely trying to succeed in the life we’ve been given. Whether they are circumstances we cannot control, ones we have created, or ones that have been created for us by others, how we handle them determines what defines us. Not to say we don’t become weary, nor find circumstances that may dictate that we need to shift the path. It’s simply not giving up that will determine the outcome of what we face.
Do I ignore those who bring me down, those who would limit me? I have yet to understand why others may find it necessary to interject their opinion of my life, offering discouraging input rather than encouraging. These are not my true friends who call me out when need be. Those people I can trust. Instead, these are often someone who may feel the need to compete or work out their own self-worth. But they are the voices I will not let impact my choices as I strive to fulfill my life’s purpose.
Do I build people up, not tear them down? As much as I am disheartened by those who may limit me, I must recognize that I, too, could be one who would limit another. Whether it’s a slightly negative sentence spoken without thinking, a rolling of the eyes, or a shrug of the shoulder, it’s not the big statements that can serve to diminish another’s self-esteem—it might be a simple, unintentional act. If I am disheartened and hurt by others’ failures, I must examine my own.
Do I love well, even toward the undeserving? Compassion, kindness, sympathy, concern, and sensitivity are actions that I hope to display willingly. Sometimes it’s an easy thing to do toward those who love me, but not as easy when I’ve been hurt or harmed. Loving someone who doesn’t deserve it does not mean allowing the hurt to continue; it means choosing to love, whether deserved or not.
Do I offer others encouragement, hope, and confidence? There are few greater joys than when you have helped someone else believe in themselves. When life brings defeat or discouragement to another, taking the time to point out strengths and offer hope are things we all desperately need. It is also one of the greatest gifts we can give.
Do I allow every one of my life experiences to add wisdom and create understanding? We do not often learn our greatest lessons while experiencing the smooth side of life. Nor is it in our successes. It usually comes in our failures, disappointments, and hard times. Instead of pushing those aside or placing them in the realm of the forgotten, learn from them, and grow from them. They will build the most durable and resilient side of a woman’s character.
Do I rely on my faith to be the truest source of my grit and grace? We cannot do it on our own. I take so much comfort in not just the fact that I have friends and family who love me and want the best for me. My greatest comfort is that I have a God who loves me and walks with me through all of the stages of my life. He offers me grace when I disappoint (mostly myself) and grit, the strength I need to move on to the other side.
I alone hold the power to define who I am.
In each season of life, these choices have been mine to make. The answer to each of those questions came through my actions and demonstrating who I was capable of being. It was on me embracing life’s grit and grace required to define who I wanted to be. Sometimes I fared well, sometimes not. This is true of us all. But remember this, we all are created with incredible talents and abilities. We are here to fill a place that no one else can.
Not to do a job or find a purpose, which is part of it, but to be the one individual who defines who we are. We are responsible for not letting our circumstances speak to others of our worth, but of our actions within those circumstances.
Whatever descriptors are currently in our lives—single, lawyer, married, divorced, mother, cashier—they are merely that, a part of your life. It is the choices you make, the actions you display, within your current circumstances you find yourself.
When we succeed in becoming comfortable with who we are (even when others question), we are reflecting the view of the God who created us. His view is that we, created in His image, can reflect the beauty of who He is in strength, confidence, and compassion, demonstrating the best of His nature. His definition offers us hope… Hope in this life, where He will mine all the undiscovered treasure within us, and hope in the life to come when our definition will be complete.
Through the years, I have discovered so much yet, am still discovering more of who I am. The unveiling of the magnificence of what defines us is a process that will continue through life. We will be surprised at all we can become. So, do not let a moment in time, a circumstance you find yourself in, or another’s opinion become that definition. Instead, my friend, quit listening to outside voices; know in your heart that it is you and you alone who will truly determine your worth, your character, the real you.
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Looking for inspiration on growth as a strong woman? You’ll love this podcast episode of the same name from This Grit and Grace Life: How Do I Know What Defines Me?