What does it mean to search for our inner greatness? To be fair, inner greatness is defined differently by everyone, and I understand that my inner greatness may look very different than many others. But with that acknowledged, for me, inner greatness is continuously seeking the person I was born to be. Someone who is more compassionate, more adventurous, more informed, etc. each year. This is a topic that I have been aware of and focused on for most of my life. I remember being very young and making lists of goals for myself of what I wanted to accomplish and by what age. Yet, when I got into college, I noticed that my desire for inner greatness was overshadowed by my need to be liked by guys. For about six months of my freshman year I would say that this “need” consumed me. I always made sure that I dressed and acted a certain way, did things that I thought a guy would think was cool; and for the first time I was focused on wanting to find a partner as a way of defining my life. Then one night I had what I like to call “The Change.” My two best friends from high school came to visit me and I basically left them to go hang out with some guy. They were clearly upset and I felt awful. It was then that I decided I did not want to be someone who needed to define herself by the role she plays in someone else’s life. I made a decision that I was not going to date anyone until I did not need to date someone. My quest to find my inner greatness resumed, and as the years went by I began to understand on such a deeper level the importance of my inner greatness pursuit.
In life we are sort of programmed to define our lives by the roles we play in someone else’s life. These roles include being a mother, a wife/husband/partner, an employee, a friend, etc. and as important as these roles are, I believe along the way we run the risk of allowing these roles to drown out our personal selves. Of course most of us want to be the best partners, parents, and friends that we can be, but in my view, in order to do that, we first must address what makes our soul tick outside of these potentially existence defining roles.
Years ago when my friends and I were all leaving for college my best friend’s mom went through a really hard time. She had forgotten how to function without my best friend in the house. Her whole world and reason for living was to be a mother (and believe me she was an amazing one), but once that role changed she no longer knew who she was. I remember in college my friend calling me and being so worried about her mom—the depression her mom could no longer avoid, and “the emptiness in her life.” It was not only hard for her mom, but it was very hard for my friend as well. To completely live for someone else some would argue is the most selfless act one could do, but it could also become the most damaging. Along the way her mom lost who she was outside of motherhood.
I think about this all of the time in my own life. Who am I outside of a wife, a friend, a daughter/sister, an employee? Does my life mean something outside of all of these things? To be fair, this is not a way of diminishing the importance these positions play in our character or in our lives, but it is a way of understanding the person you are when you peel all of these layers back. A few years ago when I got married I wrote down that I wanted to be a good wife to my husband and a better partner than I felt I had been. What I quickly realized is that my patience was always greatest once I spent time focusing on myself and not him. When I was focused on what he was doing (e.g. leaving the toilet seat up) it was an easy way of deflecting my own responsibility. Now the toilet seat is still a huge annoyance of mine, but my approach to managing this annoyance has greatly improved.
In life, the roles that we carry are so important, but I will go out on a limb and say that no role is more important that the role you have as yourself. And by constantly searching for your inner greatness you will of course directly or indirectly impact every other area in your life. I don’t believe it is selfish to take time for ourselves, practice self-care, and think about ourselves outside of the many roles that may have defined us. You may be a wife, a father, a son, and an amazing employee, but right here, right now, without thinking of these things, who else are you?