"Where There are Friends, There is Wealth"
- Plautas (3rd century)
Why is this such a daunting question? It should be simple to answer, right? This is our life’s work, to figure out who we are, deeper and deeper, even as we evolve, until we stand firmly and declare unapologetically, “I am…”
In the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe hides his identity with his warrior helmet that covers his face in battles. After a decisive victory, the Emperor comes down to congratulate him and commands him to remove his mask and show the world who he is. For fear of death, he did not want to remove his mask, but then bravely turns around, shows his face and says, “I am Maximus…commander of the armies of the north, servant to the true emperor Marcus Araleus, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will get my revenge!” He knew exactly who he was and his purpose. Here’s the clip if you want to watch it. This is our true work, to stand firm and declare who we are in the face of fear, judgement, ridicule, and not care what others think about us, because we know who we are, and know our purpose.
I have not been very real with you so far. I have kept my mask on. I have been writing this blog for a few months, and each week I attempt to deliver content that gives something valuable to real people who enjoy the process of updating their internal software, and improving their lives. But I need to confess something. In my attempt to give you content that is power packed, I need to admit that it has also become kind of dry and information based. You see, I love principles to live by. For me, they are like critical tools for the journey, like a magic sword given by a wise advisor for the unknown foes ahead. Somewhere along this journey I will need to pull out that sword for a particular challenge, and it will save my life.
While I still want to deliver solid and helpful information, I need to challenge myself to be more vulnerable about my journey and how I got to the place where those valuable principles make sense. In short, I need to bring you on the journey with me. This is my new task as I write.
Getting At Who I Am
I have journaled off and on since I was a teenager. Not surprisingly then, I have written the question “who am I?” at the top of a page and begun to brainstorm numerous times. The plight of a teenager is to figure out who he/she is and discover his/her value and contribution to the world. You would think this would be fairly easy for me by now, but it’s not. I am not unique in this. We humans walk around fairly blind and unaware of ourselves. We regularly need to practice self awareness.
I encourage people to practice journalling, especially in the tough times when they are trying to figure things out and move forward through it. Its like a mental mirror to look at your thought processes , by vomiting out what is plaguing your mind and heart. Over time, doing this on a semi-regular basis, I find that clarity comes gradually. One friend actually commented on how messed up I am because I like to vomit all those emotions and thoughts and then put my fingers in it and play with it like finger paints. Ew… Yes, I have issues, but follow me here and join me in this exercise.
When I write this question and check in with my latest version of myself (and I am encouraging you to do this along with me), I start with the easy things first.
I recommend for your self development, doing this at least once a year. I do this in January and June, along with some exercises around my goals to see how I’m tracking. Sitting down for 15 minutes and doing an exercise like this in your journal periodically is a fantastic place to increase your self awareness. It helps you know who you are, and conversely, who you are not. I would also encourage you to take it to the next step and write about your current challenges, recurring frustrations, as well as celebrate all the great stuff going on.
Principle Alert! I believe that we attract people by being honestly and fully who we are in each situation. People don’t want to get to know a persona, they want to get to know a real person! And that comes out in our actions and words, how we respond to life as it shows up in front of us. The most attractive people are those who embrace life as it comes and stand firmly on their feet, knowing their strengths and weaknesses and having fears like everyone else, but choose to forward anyway. That’s what courage is -action in spite of the fear. And all of us admire real courage.
Removing the Masks
Why have I been a writer and a relationship advisor with a mask thusfar? Because I want you to get to know the “relationship expert” persona I am presenting. I fear that you will ask where my Ph.D is, and ridicule me for trying to dole out advice to others without one. I am making a new goal: to begin to remove the masks and share more of my journey with you. I have a graduate level experience in this topic and yes, I will still tend toward the principles, because that’s the kind of person I am and the kind of product I want to offer- principles and tools for your journey. That’s me being me. But from here on, I will also brave the vulnerability of more first person writing and remove my masks as we go along.
Like you, I am a continually evolving, constantly expanding being. It’s truly amazing to think about my own life, where I’ve come from, how much I’ve changed, who I am now, and who I will continue to move toward being down the road. Exciting stuff! Are you excited about who you are and how far you’ve come? Let’s take off masks together and live this life bravely! It’s worth the risk, I promise! You may even look back one day and not even recognize your former self.
To learn more about me, check out my updated "About" page, under the icon at the top left of this page, or check out my first post here, where I explained why I started writing.
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Joel is a husband, father, musician, and lover of life; especially life that is shared with the wealth of amazing friends and family he is blessed to have near.