“Your identity is not your successes and failures” 1
Then what is it? I believe this to be true broadly – but when thinking of myself I tend to list things I’m good at – or was good at once. As an adult, without grades or trophies as victory points, the ways to objectively judge your ‘goodness’ have shrunk to your relative income (cause everyone envies someone).
I wish it was more than that – that the world took into account the way you take care of yourself, your home, the earth, the kindness you show other people, the books you read and wild thoughts you have, the things you create – but it doesn’t. And really it isn’t society that oppresses you – we celebrate people who have dedicated their lives to unprofitable ventures like social work, art or parenthood – the person that censors your thoughts, dreams, voice and actions everyday is you. So many people feel like they’re loosing at a game where the rules are unwritten in stone, without considering that there are no rules.
“Imma keep running, cause a winner don’t quite on themselves.” – Lemonade
It is the hardest thing emotionally and psychologically to consider playing a different game.
Changing your winning condition and sticking to it takes conviction and confidence in who you are. Society may celebrate and gawk at you, but they will also react and question your every move because they don’t realize you’re not playing on the same board.
Prince played a different game, Bowie did, George Clinton and Beyonce do. Almost any person from history, business, or art that did anything amazing, did not play the game of school, good job, two car garage. They created their own criteria for what was good, then stuck with those despite doubts from outside. They are notable in that they succeeded publicly – there are many people who did not, but are just as brave for living by their own rules.
A Little Game
1. Take a piece of paper and pencil
2. Write your name
3. Write all the names, nouns and adjectives that could be applied to you – or what you want to be
4. What are the rules that you hold in your head about those things?
5. Write new rules
6. Game on
What does this mean for people who aren’t Prince (aka everyone). Well it could mean that you change up your answer to the ever present “what do you do” and maybe have some more fun with it like Andy Kehoe or it could just mean that you re-evaluate your winning condition. In the finite amount of time you have – what does it mean to win? Are you doing that? Better keep running.
1 from a lighting talk by Helin Shiah at the ACT-W conference in Portland