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The Roles We Play And How They Can Hold Us Back

The Roles We Play And How They Can Hold Us Back

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I'm talking about the roles we play and why it can be so important to let go of them when pursuing a big change, such as switching careers. We all play certain roles: mother, daughter, lawyer, nurse, perfectionist, people-pleaser... the list goes on and on. And we take actions based on those roles all the time. A "mother" nurses you back to health when you are sick, a "people-pleaser" always says yes when asked to do something even if it's inconvenient, a "lawyer" usually debates and argues about everything under the sun. Whether we know it or not, we are shaped by the different roles we hold in our lives. This is not always a bad thing. Roles help us live together as a productive society. We all know that the local firefighter, not the local deli owner, is supposed to put out the local fire. Roles give each of us some direction. But, when taken too seriously and valued too much, roles can also trap us in a box and hold us back from growing, becoming our best selves, fulfilling our ultimate potential, and consciously choosing how to live and what to believe.

Let me give you an example. Let's talk about a lawyer in a big city working at a large law firm. I chose this example because it's a role that I used to play (and we all know how that story ended.... I quit!). Anyways, the "role" of a lawyer in a big city working at a large law firm goes something like this: graduated from an Ivy League school and a top 25 law school, dresses in expensive business suits in dark colors, carries a Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag, owns a condo in the trendy part of town, has a large engagement ring, drives a Lexus, Audi, or Mercedes, reads the NY Times and watches CNN, attends a large number of networking events because he or she is desperately striving for the title of "partner" at the law firm, and works until at least 8 pm most nights. If you are a lawyer or know one, you might have chuckled at this list. These are things a big time lawyer is "supposed" to do and acquire to consistently prove she is a big time lawyer. Many big time lawyers get so attached to these things that they don't know who they are outside of them. These things validate them and "prove" they are worthy of respect and admiration - in other words, their identity is completely wrapped up in these external things. This is why it's so hard to leave the profession of law even if you hate it! If your identity is too wrapped up in all these things outside yourself, who are you if they all go away? It's an actual identity crisis. Similarly, what happens if you don't want to do some of these things? For example, maybe I don't want to be partner, or maybe I want to live in the suburbs, or maybe I don't like CNN. It can be tough, even for the most educated, to go against "group think." And therefore we find ourselves doing things merely because everyone else is doing them. This is when roles start to trap us and hold us back from growing. 

I listened to this interview the other day and I thought it was so appropriate to share here. It was with Lauren Eisenhower (yes, of the famous Eisenhower family). She said that people can either operate in the personality matrix or the soul matrix. The personality matrix is where the world is largely based on roles, group think, and outward things like job title and the car you drive. People associate with others who are just like them. This inherently means that the world is divided. The soul matrix, on the other hand, is where everyone engages with one another as their authentic self and people with differing opinions not only exist in harmony, but learn from one another. There is also harmony between your authentic self and what you do for a living. In other words, you fulfill your purpose. There is an ease to life, and you can tell you're in the zone or in the flow because things feel right and line up as they should.

In the personality matrix, we learn about fitting in from a very young age. Our life becomes about measuring up, fitting in, and doing what we're "supposed to do" (go to the best college, get the best job, get married, buy a home, have children, etc). In the personality matrix, our identity is composed of things outside ourselves like the groups we associate with, job titles, labels, etc. And when something threatens one or more of those things, we have an identity crisis. In the soul matrix, however, we learn to connect with our authentic self and THEN we build our life around it. Our identity is built from the inside out, and nothing external can threaten it. Sure, we can still experience hardships and things we love may be taken from us, but we do not crash and crumble and have an identity crisis when that happens. The other important thing that happens in the soul matrix is that differences exist in harmony. We've all heard the expression opposites attract, right? Well, if I'm really energetic and run on adrenaline all the time, I might find myself being attracted to friends and a spouse who are calm and grounded. Being around people different than myself helps me. I grow and evolve because I observe others who operate differently than I do in the world. In the personality matrix, this isn't valued. Instead, people value others who think the same as them, act the same as them, and speak the same as them. And that's how people become close-minded and judgmental of others. 

So, now that we know a little more about the power of roles and identity, where do we go from here? First, try to objectively examine whether your identity is primarily built on external things such as your job title, the car you drive, the place you live, the political party you affiliate with, the news channel you prefer, etc. One way to find out if your identity is too wrapped up in any one external thing is this -- do you feel personally attacked when someone attacks that thing? For example, when someone attacks the news station you love to watch, do you feel personally attacked? That's a warning sign. You never want your identity to be SO wrapped up in something outside yourself because that thing can vanish in an instant. Then what? In addition, when you are so wrapped up in something outside yourself that you can't entertain other opinions, you're not going to grow and evolve. How can you? Everyone thinks the same as you! That's called the comfort zone and we all know that nothing much happens there.

Second, if you find that your identity is wrapped up in one or more external things, it's time to transition into a more authentic way of living. It might require the help of a therapist or coach (this is actually what Lauren Eisenhower does now). You essentially have to break down your current identity which is built on external things, get in touch with your authentic self, and then rebuild your life around that. It doesn't happen overnight. Some people call this the "dark night of the soul" (go ahead and Google it!). I definitely went through this period when I transitioned from lawyer to jewelry business owner. Well, actually, it came before I quit my lawyer job. I decided that my identity was built on a lot of things that didn't resonate with me and that weren't a true expression of who I really am. I enlisted the help of a therapist and did a lot of hard work on myself. And eventually, it culminated in me leaving behind the legal profession and becoming a jewelry business owner, making good use of the artistic skills I was given. 

I'll end with this - there's never been a time like the present to make big change. 2020 has been challenging for a lot of us because things that may have formed our identity were taken from us in an instant. Maybe we lost our job or our home. Or maybe it's less dramatic than that - maybe we are suffering because sports are a big part of our identity and they haven't been on. Whatever the case, each and every one of us can point to something that was taken from us. Now is our chance, however, to rebuild our identities around new thoughts, and new values, and new beliefs, and new plans. If big change is what you're seeking, there's no time like the present. Take advantage of all the change in the air!



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