You Are Not Your Roles

If you look through my notebook(one of the 4.8 million lying around my house, in every backpack, drawer, table, etc.) you’d find a lot of the same doodle. I realized I kept coming back to this web-looking doodle to help explain what I mean when I started telling clients to “make themselves relevant” in their own lives. This has expanded into the first activity I do every time I meet with a new client.

I show them this doodle of a web with bubbles - it's a circle in the center of the page with their name in it, surrounded by multiple bubbles which represent the many roles we have in life. Ideally we are at the center because this is our own life we’re talking about here. And then all of our roles are external bubbles outside of us. Before we are able to show up for other people in these roles, we must first show up for ourselves at the center, then go from there. After I explain this concept, I ask them to draw their own web.

Hell, while we’re all here - why don’t you do this for yourself? Go ahead, draw your web.

Think about the main roles you have in your life, or the “hats” you wear. Is there a bubble for being a parent? Spouse? Business owner? Caregiver? Grandparent? Activist? Teacher? Student? Give it a moment of thought and put all your roles(or the most dominant ones) on your web with you at the center. These roles are an extension of who you are, but they are not you.

This web is representative of your balanced life when you make yourself relevant in your life. You are juggling all these roles but you are operating under the knowledge that you are you before you are any of these external bubbles. No matter how much you depend on the people related to the bubbles or how much they depend on you, you are your true self at the core.

Now I want you to take a look at this web when you’re at home and notice what happens to your “ME” bubble. Does your “Mom” bubble shift to be the center focus and the “ME” bubble floats to the outside? Does your “spouse” bubble creep in and take the place of where the “ME” bubble once was centered? 

Ideally, the roles we have in our life compliment who we are and don’t cause us to lose ourselves or as I like to put it, make us irrelevant in our own life.

When someone is addicted to a substance, they would have “addict” in the middle of their web, and their “ME” bubble on the outside along with all their other roles. When someone heavily identifies by the job they have, I can imagine their “nurse” or “lawyer” or “whatever job title” bubble in the middle of their web, and their “ME” bubble on the outside. When someone is a burnt out parent, I can imagine their “parent” bubble is in the middle of their web, and their “ME” bubble is on the outside.

I am not a parent, but I’m sure this is one of the hardest bubbles to keep from becoming the center. When you have other people who depend on you as much as your children do (for literally everything for many years) - it’d be hard not to let that become your core and “ME” be an afterthought. But imagine a life where your authentic self is primary and your role as a mother or father compliments who you are. Not the other way around. The reward of looking at it this way? Your children get to know you as an individual, not as a role you’re filling in their life. 

What this web hopefully helps you understand is that we are not our roles. No matter how important these roles are to us, we are ourselves first. 

I challenge you to do this web activity and notice which environments cause your “ME” bubble to float to the outside and be replaced by a role. Become aware. 

If you’re realizing there aren’t many or any times when you are the center of your own web, don’t panic. We all do this from time to time because it takes awareness and conscious effort not to. Tune in, and notice.

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