A few days ago I was watching Batman Begins (yes I am a comic book/superhero movie junky). Something that stuck out to me more than usual was this theme of, “It’s not who I am on the inside, but what I do that defines me.” Originally, this quote came from Jane Austen whom I adore. So I was surprised when it rubbed me the wrong way and got me to thinking…(Shamefully, I confess that I have not read Sense and Sensibility, so I do not know the context in which Austen was using this quote. However, I can speculate that what she is referring to is far from the direction my thoughts took me.)
If we were stripped of everything- all of our capabilities of “doing,” would we still be ourselves and considered valuable? As we grow older, and that’s something we all share as human beings, we become more restricted in what we can do and at what pace. This is just a reality. If we revolve our lives around what we do, the inevitability that one day we may not be able to do all that we do now can be frightening and even devastating.
Part of my struggle with starting a new career later in life was the issue of time. Would I have enough time to fully pursue my dreams or was I too late? Recently a friend shared about someone he knew who went to medical school and became a doctor in his late forties! This was extremely encouraging to me and helped me to see that it is never too late to follow your heart. However, it brought me back to the question of how I define myself – by what I do or who I am?
There are so many things I want to do but realize that I do not have the resources to do them right now – rescue animals, travel the world, live on the beach- but just because I cannot do them does not undermine the characteristics which make me have those desires. Those dreams are what make me, me; not whether I accomplish them or not. Many of us search for a purpose in life; something to contribute that no one else can or at least giving of ourselves in a productive way. As a society we’ve created a measurement of human value based on what we do instead of simply who we are.
So how can we value one another and ourselves at any age no matter what we can or cannot do? When can being ourselves be enough?