Back before the turn of the new millennium, I was working at the Science Museum. Yes, that one. The big one in London, that you might have visited as a child.
Having joined in 1996, most of us there at that time were working hard on delivering the Museum’s millennium project, the Wellcome Wing. One of the galleries that my colleague and friend was leading on was called Who Am I? A terrific gallery that focused on the astonishing human body and genetics, possibly still there, though I feel it will have been updated or replaced by now.
I thought even then that it posed a good question.
Spin forward a decade or more and I found myself working for an Equality and Diversity practitioner, going around public institutions and teaching their teams how to be more open and inclusive. One of the questions we posed then was ‘who am I?’.
Not surprisingly we heard people’s names, their relationship to others, even their job titles. But none of those things actually define who we are, just who we are in relation to others, or indeed what we do.
So it remains a good question.
When becoming the people we are today, we face a huge number of influences. Family, friends, peers, school, geographic, social and economic differences and media to name a few key ones.
Then as we get older, colleagues, partners, bosses, and a wider social group. Each one of these has the potential to have huge impact on who you become.
Ever heard yourself or someone you know say they are ‘no good at maths’, ‘can’t sing’, ‘can’t draw’, ‘rubbish at writing’? Or even that that ‘nothing good ever happens to me’?
Delve just a little below the surface, and you will very often find that this was a message they picked up from someone else, one of the influencers, as they grew up and developed a sense of self.
Words are powerful, but so is behaviour, in teaching us something that someone else believes about us. I battled on in a less than healthy marriage and in jobs that were an unpleasant or even toxic environment to be in, because in my head I said to myself ‘I am not a quitter’. That was until it dawned on me, that the voice I heard was an early influencer telling me I never stuck at anything. I was trying to prove to myself, and I guess to them that I was not ‘a quitter’.
Does any of this resonate with you? Want to challenge these thoughts about yourself? Are you ready for change?
I am delighted to have been asked by John Lewis to do a talk at their Kingston store this month. If you are curious, challenged or simply interested to know more, you can find out details here.
Do come and join me at this free lunchtime talk and decide to begin the journey back to self. I cannot tell you how joyful and liberating it can be. I look forward to sharing some practical tips and some insights with you.