If someone asked you at a cocktail party, “Who are you?” How would you respond? It’s a hard question to answer. We’re so used to being asked “what we do.”
Earlier this week, I was asked to get an object that defines who I am. I would have 30 seconds to grab said object and then I’d have to tell the story of why I chose it and how it defines me. I had to think quickly. (Of course, this had to be epic. The pressure was on.)
I chose a watercolor painting in our living room of a skate skier in the wintry mountains. I explained my love of winter and skiing, and how I made changes in my life that scared me but allowed me to design a life around doing exactly what I love. Now, I work with clients to help them push their own comfort zones to achieve what they want and love. Through their own story.
I loved this exercise because it did away with all the small talk which pains me to no end. I quickly learned about the other participants in my session in a very deep way. But there was something in that story I didn’t tell them. I almost did, but I stopped short.
What I didn’t tell them was my father was a huge influence in my doing what I did. He started me skiing when I was four. He suggested I move to Aspen after I graduated from college and had no direction. He instilled in me a sense of adventure from a young age. And he passed the week prior week, at which point I would burst into tears.
I think I chose well to leave that part out (for now), don’t you? There is a line of demarcation – what you are willing to share and what you keep to yourself. Where we draw that line defines how authentic or vulnerable we are willing to be. Your willingness to show up and be more ‘you‘ to the world will give you the opportunity to make a stronger connection. In the end, it will be more rewarding. As in anything, we have to make our own judgment and strike the right balance.
Who you are also depends on what lens you are looking through. I write all day every day, for a living, for therapy and relaxation. It was natural I would be assigned the task of writing my father’s obituary. (Today is the first day I can actually type those two words together and not cry.) This turned out to be one of my hardest writing assignments to date for obvious reasons but also because there were many things I wanted to share about our relationship. But that’s making the story about me. What is his story and how do I make it about him? and at the same time, make it something people want to read?
Let’s say you are a diamond. The one pictured above. You are a multi-faceted individual. The story you tell someone on your first date, vs. a potential client is very different. Who you are to your spouse, your sibling and your best friends are also very different. What you keep to yourself and what you share to the public is a moving line, again, dependent on the facet of the diamond and the purpose of the story.
Normally, I would include my Dad in the story about me and the influence he had in my life when I can do it without an emotional outburst because that’s just downright embarrassing. (the emotional outburst)
Timing, audience, purpose – it all matters. Give people a lesson or takeaway. Bonus points for giving them a next step.
So I’d ask, who are you? Find an object in the room and tell me how it defines you.
Finding the balance will be your challenge. Don’t edit out all your authenticity and vulnerability. It pushes your comfort zone, but it will be rewarding in the end. Minus the emotional outburst of course.
Send it to me if you feel like it. I’d love to know more about you.
Take care out there,[ssba]