“All that I seek is already in me. “ ~Louise Hay
My world collapsed the day I became unemployed. After a successful thirteen-year career in a multinational company, working across different countries and cultures, I ended up with no job. I wasn’t an expat leader in Shanghai any longer; from that day, I became an expat housewife, and this big status change came like thunder.
Whenever people asked me about myself when I was working, I used to explain what my job was all about. Or give them a business card and let that speak for me.
Being left with no work was a very painful experience, one I will never forget. It came like a trauma, and I felt like a failure: lost, stuck, miserable, and depressed.
All of a sudden, I had no business card to show the world to validate my self-worth. There were no more international projects, company sales, and fantastic team achievements for me to talk about and feel proud.
They say true growth mostly comes from pain, and I believe that’s true. Today I see that moment as a gift from life, a real blessing in disguise that helped me stop for a moment and, for the very first time, ask myself who I was and what made me really happy.
So here’s what I didn’t know at the time and what I know to be true today:
1. I am not what I do.
From an early age we’ve been conditioned to value ourselves through how well we do things in life. Most of us were raised to achieve and deliver results, always running somewhere, always busy.
Work is part of life, and money is a much-needed instrument that we need to survive. But is life supposed to be all about work? What if the purpose for us being here were just to be happy?
Whenever I fail at anything, that doesn’t make me a failure because I am not what I do. My job is part of life and not life itself. I am not my profession, no matter how much I might love what you do. Today I am a coach, in the same way I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, or someone’s friend. I wear many hats, and so do you.
For so many years I thought I was my job. And when the job was not in my life any longer, I wasn’t.
Wayne Dyer was right: “You are a human being, not a human doing.”
2. I am not what I own.
I grew up in Eastern Europe. After the Romanian revolution in 1989, money got depreciated at such a level that, with the same amount of money my parents could buy a car, they ended up buying a new TV.
If you think you are your money or your possessions, think of bankruptcy. Think of those people who suddenly lose what they have in their accounts.
I grew up thinking money was evil and being rich was bad. That’s not what I believe to be true today, since we can’t feed the poor from an empty plate. Financial stability helps us feel safe and secure, and that is a basic human need. Money is as it is: not bad, not good, not evil. What people do with the money can be either right or wrong; it’s all about how we use it.
But if we let the money own us, we turn into hostages. We start running a never-ending rat race toward happiness and project it into an imaginary future, and forget to be grateful for everything else we have.
We often think thoughts like: When I make that much money, I will be happy. When I buy that car, I will be happy.
In reality, that’s a trap because it will never feel like we’ve gathered enough.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation of all abundance.” ~Eckhart Tolle
3. I am not my physical appearance.
In today’s society, the concept of beauty often gets associated with youth, or having no wrinkles. Social media, women magazines, Photoshop, beauty contests—they all put tremendous pressure on people (and women especially) to fit particular requirements and parameters that sometimes are not even real.
For many industries, that’s an excellent source of income. That is why anti-aging cosmetics sell well and plastic surgery is booming. It’s all based on fear.
If I identify my human value through my physical appearance, the process of aging turns into a burden. If I attach my happiness to my young years, I risk disliking or even hating myself once I grow older.
My body is the temple of my spirit and the only one I’ve got. It’s the vehicle that helps my soul move into this world. And still, that’s not who I am.
“Your body regenerates in an environment created by your thoughts, emotions, and expectations. Make sure they are positive.” ~Christiane Northrup
4. I am no one’s thoughts.
If I perceive myself as not good enough, stupid, intelligent, ugly, annoying, gorgeous, slim, or fat, that’s not the absolute truth; it’s just what I believe to be right. That’s nothing but thought, a representation of my opinion of who I am.
The same thing is valid when I let people tell me what they think about me. In reality, I am as I am. What people see in me is a matter of self-perception, filtered through their own lenses, and it has nothing to do with me.
Take beauty, for example. It’s a norm. In the Eastern-European culture that raised me, beautiful generally associates with being slim, so some people could think I am overweight. However, during my trip in India years ago, I was suggested to gain some weight. We are all shaped by cultures and the societies we grew up in.
Blaming others for the way I feel is disempowering, and it turns me into a victim when things are imposed on me. If I say “You make me angry” or “you make me sad,” I am giving my power away. I know I can never control what people say or do, but I can always self-manage how I respond to that. No one can upset me, stress me, or depress me unless I allow it.
“No one can hurt me; that’s my job.” ~Byron Katie
5. I am not what I feel.
We tend to define who we are by the way we feel: I am sad, depressed, confused, excited, anxious, happy, and so on.
I have learned how to detach myself from my emotions and witness them with no judgment.
Instead of “I’m sad,” I say, ”There is sadness in me right now.”
Instead of “I’m angry,” I say, “There is anger in me right now.”
Instead of “I’m worried,” I say, “There is a worry in me right now.”
Acting as an observer helps me take my power back. I’ve learned not to let my feelings control me, knowing that, just like my thoughts, they are transitory. This way, energy-consuming emotions that used to torment me do not own me any longer, and I own them instead.
“Feelings are just visitors; let them come and go.” ~Mooji
I am not what I do or own, or how I think, look, or feel. I just am. My spirit refuses to be put in a box and labeled. I am a soul who is here to learn, grow from new experiences, and be happy.
“When you know that you are not flesh and blood, that you are the eternal spirit, than nothing will trouble you. Even death you will not know it is just a change of state.” ~Mooji