“When you are completely identified with a role, you confuse a pattern of behavior with who you are, and you take yourself very seriously.” – Eckhart Tolle
The idea that we find our identities and who we are in relation to the roles we play in life can be an important one to understand on the path of self-development. We approach different situations in our life according to our roles and they ultimately form our identity and how we think of ourselves.
I’m a brother to my siblings. A son to my parents. A student to my teachers. A demographic to the government. A patient to my doctor. A salesman to my customers. A blogger to my readers and so much more. Each of these roles come with expectations and behaviours that are associated with the role and what is considered to be appropriate in that situation. These roles act as filters that limit the expression of our true selves.
It makes sense though right? You talk to a customer seeing them as a potential sale, a particular income level and a load of objections to work through. On the other hand the customer sees you as someone relaying the positive side of their product. As described by Jim Carrey, it’s as if we’re living in a movie and acting out the roles that we believe ourselves to be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just let go of all expectations and just be authentic?
It’s possible to spend a whole day with your friends or family and still feel lonely. Much of the time, a group of friends may just be individuals acting the way they perceive to be acceptable and with their tendentious notions of each other. Preconceived images of each other cloak almost everyone we meet according to the role they play in relation to us. We can spend a whole day with another person and never truly interact with each other due to the roles we act through.
The association of our egos to this image and role of ourselves convince us that we are at our most basic level, these roles. If an actor played a particular character for years and years, it’s perfectly liable that eventually they would identify as that character and firmly believe that they are that character. Similar to this, the roles we play in our lives form the basis for who we think we are. A person who is all about selling things will believe themselves to be a salesman and go through life playing that role. Someone who is passionate about exercising and fitness may play the role of a fitness expert. Someone who is all about writing and researching may see themselves as an author and so on. What you do and what you perceive to be acceptable influences the roles you play on a daily basis.
The acceptance of these roles and belief that we are no more than them can be destructive and an incredibly powerful obstruction to our happiness and ability to accept the present moment. The boxes we place around ourselves limit the expression of who we are and mean that we approach situations in life according to what we think is appropriate according to the role we play.
Removing Your Labels
Beginning to realise what roles you play in various aspects of your life can be an incredibly freeing experience at first. You not only release yourself from the different labels that once determined how you live but you are also liberated from all of the expectations, assumptions and stereotypes that are associated with those labels.
Ultimately, the only thing that benefits from defining yourself in terms of the roles you play is your ego. Someone may feel a certain sense of self-respect and value when labelled as a doctor for example. The imagined superiority that you may feel when being described or seeing yourself in a particular way is fundamentally a fleeting experience and does not sustain your positive feelings of pride and joy. Being caught up in temporal form of identity can recede your search for happiness and it often happens without us even realising. Your ego serves itself, not your happiness.
Once you start unravelling the freedom of truly expressing yourself, you might even find that it catches on to the people around you. By letting go of the arbitrary limits on yourself and interacting with everyone freely and happily, it can be a symbol to other people that they also don’t need to act in a certain, limited way. You can properly begin to connect with other people, like really connect to them and not to the facade that so many of us unknowingly put up when we are outside.
At this point, I remember asking myself. If I’m not all of these labels that I had given myself, then who am I? How do I define myself? It is indeed true that I’m a 19 year old student amongst other things, but should that actually be of any relevance to how I live and act?
The answer is a simple one, there is no need to define yourself. No need to take your extraordinary consciousness and start boxing it up in various labels and roles. You are just You.
All the best,