Tonight, I oversaw a homework assignment in which my son had to identify groups of which he was a part. Having written some on his own, he asked me to suggest some others, which I did. I watched as he included not all of my ideas, but only those referring to the things he likes to do. It turns out that he didn't want to identify himself as being a part of any group that certainly includes him, but not by his choice.
My dismay at his separating himself from particular groups quickly gave way
to a certain respect. You see, he was perfectly comfortable identifying
himself as part of the groups he liked, but not as part of the ones he didn't.
He felt no obligation to be a part of every group that might take him.
He was choosing to define himself not by everything he does, but by the
person he feels he is.
As adults, we tend to want to include everything we do when we describe
ourselves. If we are capable of doing something, surely people should
know it. We look to be part of as many "groups" as possible, hopeful
that our inclusion will open doors for us.
What would happen if we, like my son, placed ourselves only in the
"groups" that really mattered to us? Would we end up doing more of what
we really wanted? Would we end up giving ourselves, and other people, a
clearer picture of who we really are or who we really want to be?
Obviously, this was just a homework assignment. But it was a reminder
that we grownups might do well to listen to our kid voices, and put
ourselves in the groups where we'd like to be, rather than just the
groups where we feel we should be. Perhaps along the way, we'd be
presenting a clearer picture of ourselves--and giving ourselves a little
clearer perspective on who we actually are.