Singer-songwriter Jann Arden recently tweeted: “The stage is not my life—my life is my life”. Interesting thought. For some people, the performance, the job, the duty, is indeed their life. It’s what feeds them, what drives them, what gives them meaning and identity. Take away that aspect of their lives, and they are nothing, empty shells with no purpose or sense of self.
For Jann Arden, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Who she is and how she identifies herself is not on stage; her life is elsewhere. Certainly her life includes performing, but I don’t think it revolves around it.
What struck me most about her comment wasn’t what she had to say about herself, but the fact that she knows who she is so well. Not everyone is quite so self-aware. I would even go so far as to say that some folks haven’t got a single clue about their true selves.
That might seem a bit extreme, but it isn’t. In my dealings with others I’ve seen women caught up in unhealthy relationships because that’s where they think they should be. Despite the pain and lack of fulfilment, they fail to realize that there are other, better, options, because they don’t know who they are. As a result they identify themselves by being in a relationship and being in love, rather than choosing relationships that honour their true selves.
It happens with people caught up in their work or people who have no clue what to do. Because earning a living matters more than living fully, some folks lose themselves in their jobs. Or, because they don’t really know themselves well enough, because they’ve never had the chance to be who they feel they should be, or have had their gifts and talents affirmed, or because they’ve never even had a chance to see what they’re good at and what make them feel complete, many folks drift through life not sure who or what they are.
As God’s children, each of us has worth and value. We may be flawed and failing, as one author puts it, but we are also equally weird, wonderful and worthy to be loved. The trick is figuring out just who and what we are and where we fit into God’s big picture.
How do we figure that out? We go with our gut about what feels right and good to us. We ponder what matters to us and try to sort out whether or not it’s what we’ve been told by others or what we’ve determined for ourselves to be true. We pray. We risk. We try. We pay attention. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Only when we know who we truly are can we live life fully and joyfully. And, as a side bonus, when we know ourselves we can live and use our gifts and talents in a way that helps others live their best lives and maybe even empower them to know who they truly are, too.