I have been mulling over the topic of this post for weeks now, unsure how to proceed or even if I should write about it at all. Indeed, this post has been collecting dust in Certainly Candid's "drafts" folder, so the examples are not immediately current but nonetheless still relevant. That being said, I chose to publish anyway. Identity is a topic that, in many ways, is so overused. However, I will proceed by stating it simply:
I do not understand why others place one's identity on the hardships he or she have faced.
Why must only the challenges we have faced in a lifetime define who we are as individuals? I'll give you some examples people sometimes use:
Oh, you're so determined. If I had to move to a new place, I'd just die inside.
If that had happened to me, I don't know what I'd do. That clearly made you the strong person you are today, losing a friend like that.
I can't imagine living through that condition. You are so brave!
While I do believe that people change and grow based on their life experiences, hardships and difficulties should not become one's sole identity. Think about it for a moment: rarely do people acknowledge the positive experiences one has gone through as a factor in one's identity. We are not defined by the hardships we've faced. I become frustrated when people attribute my strength, or determination, or even my stubborn "never-stop-moving-forward" mentality to one (or more!) difficulties I've faced in my lifetime.
I have always been those things.
I have always been strong, determined, stubborn, and unwilling to quit. Facing adversity didn't change that. If anything, it reinforced the values that I had already held close to my heart. To say that one breaking point in a person's life is what ultimately defines their character is ridiculous.
I address this topic based on a conversation I had with a group of friends weeks ago. One had expressed frustration about a current life obstacle he is facing. Interestingly enough, he was more frustrated that people keep telling him he is so brave. At one point, he finally said to one commentator: "I have always been brave. This hasn't changed that. Nothing ever will."
Why, as a society, do we fixate on these difficulties? I think about aspects of my personality so few know about: how I read electronics operation manuals when I'm stressed, or how I collect copies of The Wind in the Willows because it's my favorite childhood book, or how I love being up early in the morning while the world is still at rest. And there is so much more: I love reading astronomy books to learn how our universe works. I dislike shopping for shoes. I enjoy going for drives in the country. I also wish more people knew these things about me.
I am solution-oriented. I don't believe in whining, crying, or complaining if something is wrong. I change what is in my control to change, and that which I cannot, I change my attitude. I have been this way as long as I can remember. I am also cheerful, quiet, energetic, reflective, and so much more - all at the same time. We can be more than one thing. You are not defined by your past, but rather prepared by your past. We learn from our experiences, both the positive and the negative. But when others fixate on the negative, it can also cause us to do the same.
Don't lose sight of who you are. Don't let others attribute your bravery, your goodness, your kindness, your strength, your will, to one moment. You've always had those things inside you. As my friend said, "This hasn't changed that. Nothing ever will."