8. Live your values out loud

Are we being who we say we are?

Psychological studies have shown that as people become more authentic, they become happier and their psychological wellbeing increases.

Throughout our lives, we create ourselves, come into ourselves, and develop ourselves more and more into the people we want to become. This is why when we are teenagers, we might try on different roles. Often this comes out in dress, but also then may affect or select who we hang out with. We might dress like a hippie or an emo person, or a jock and then we find other like-dressed or perhaps, like-minded people. As teens, whoever we are, we are in such a state of imagining our identities and of trying to figure out who our true self is.

Sometimes, it seems that is the path a person has chosen and therefore is stuck there, forever. You have a mohawk junior year and you will be a punk rocker forever or you are a die-hard sports fan so you can’t really like anything else, you are a jock and have to only be with jock people. That simply isn’t true. It may inform a part of who you are, but we are able to try on these hats throughout our lives and we are able to discard the ones we don’t like at any given time and take on new ones as well. This is all part of forming our identity, our true self at any given time.

Looking at ourselves, what has happened to us in our lives, how we have coped with all the things, how we have been resilient, what our goals were in the past, what they are now. Sometimes, life just sticks us in a role, mother, person who was sexually abused, survivor of neglect or physical abuse, someone with a mental illness, someone differently abled, someone who learns differently, etc. These are part of our identity, but they are certainly not all of our identity.

Identifying all the roles we have and also recognizing the roles we want to be in can help us understand a bit more about who we are. Feeling authentic in ourselves can help us feel stronger in ourselves. We may identify ourselves in a way that we want to leave behind, we also need to do that responsibly. For example, if we identify as an alcoholic because if we drink, we can’t stop, but we haven’t drank in ten years. Many people choose to identify as an alcoholic still, even though they don’t drink and haven’t in a while, to help them stay strong and continue to not drink. If you decide not to identify in that way anymore, that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean you should start drinking again just because you don’t identify yourself as an alcoholic. Again, being responsible to yourself, being authentic. So, let’s write a bit.

Exercise 1:

Write down all the roles you have in your life, ones you just landed in, ones you chose/choose, and ones you have had but maybe don’t want anymore.

Add to the list things that you feel may inform your identity and to their side add whether you feel those are helpful things to form your true self or do they simply tell part of your story and inform who you are today. Here is an example of some of the things that inform identity:

1. I was sexually abused.—- This does not have to define you, but tells part of what has happened to you in your life. It is an important extra.

2. I have a Bachelor’s degree.—-This is not a role, but is helpful in informing your true self. It is a success that you chose to undertake, spending time, money, and effort to complete. It can lead you to other opportunities.

3. I play video games regularly.—-This may or may not form part of your true identity. You may be using video games as an escape- or it might be part of an online community, but either way, it is a piece of your life. You may even identify as a “gamer” or a “nerd.” So, how much does it inform who you are.

Exercise 2:

Now that you have created the list of who you are and the many ways you feel you are defined, write whether you feel you are being authentic to yourself and your truth. Write your values around these identities. Are you living as your authentic self? Are you living your values out loud? Take ten minutes to write about this, without lifting your pen, just write.

If you need to set a timer, that’s fine but ten minutes with pen to paper, answering the question whether you feel you are being authentic to yourself and if not, how can that change? What would need to be done? Is there are part of you that is a secret?

For example, maybe you are gay but you’ve never come out. If that is the case, that’s a huge thing and you may decide to come our or you may not. That would be a huge part of your identity that you are keeping a secret. But maybe you are keeping it a secret for safety reasons or from some people but not others. You don’t have to come out, that is up to you, but knowing this is a part of your true self is important. Having some people around you who support you is important but part of being your true self is also knowing what feel safe to you and that is part of being in your true self.

Now write about what, if anything, you feel you need to be further in your true self. Identifying these things can help you overcome hesitation and more easily make decisions about what you want and need. It will hopefully also enable you to set boundaries when you need to. Trust the process.

Thank yourself for writing today. Thank yourself for writing about you.

If you can write regularly, that is always advised. It creates a writing practice and can work to help calm anxiety, determine goals and figure out what you think about this wild world in which we live.

If you would like to write with us every Tuesday, we would love to have you! Please follow the blog.

Hope to see you next week.

Best,

Liza

Published by lizawolfffrancis

Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College who is proud to have served two terms as a member of the Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program’s Selection Committee. She was co-director for the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival and a member of the 2008 Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team. She has an ekphrastic poem posted in Austin’s Blanton Art Museum by El Anatsui’s sculpture “Seepage” and her work has most recently appeared in Steam Ticket, eMerge, Minute Magazine, Weaving the Terrain: 100 Word Southwestern Poems, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, Poetic Routes, Poetry Pacific, Edge, and on various blogs. She has a chapbook out called Language of Crossing (2015, Swimming with Elephant Publications), which is a collection of poems about the Mexico- U.S. border. She loves breakfast food, popcorn and dark chocolate.

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