From the Dalai Lama’s book Beyond Religion: “We have many different ways of seeing “who we are,” and these different views influence our behavior...Depending on which perspective we take [on our identity], we raise different expectations of ourselves. And this in turn affects our behavior, including our treatment of other people.”
How do I identify myself? This is the question that was posed to me decades ago when I was in inner turmoil and my life was in turmoil as a result of my chaotic actions. I was completely befuddled by the simple act of making a decision – about anything, like iced tea or Coke? A good, wise friend zeroed in on the crux of the matter and asked me to list 10 words that I felt described me. We sat in one of those funky, artsy, edgy restaurants off of Tompkins Square Park. It was colorful, eclectic, what might now be referred to as “hipster” but back then it was just the norm for the far East Village. Each booth was upholstered in different material, each section was a different color, every chair was a different style. The booth tables were set with those paper place mats with 50’s cocktail recipes for a Rob Roy, Manhattan, Grasshopper and an Old Fashioned, among others. She flipped the placemat over and gave me a pen. I struggled to find ten words and finally opted for a phrase or two. After I finished, she took the pen from me, drew a big oval around the ten words, added stick figure legs, arms and a head and said, “There. That’s you.”
Sometimes stupid tricks can make you see yourself in a whole new light. Sometimes the right people come into your life at the right time and you're in just the right frame of mind to listen to what they have to say and it's the push you need down your own path. My wise friend didn't tell me who I was, I told myself. I'd always known. She just found a new way to show me back to myself.
I don't know why but I became less afraid of making decisions from that point on. I have her to thank.