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How many hats do you wear, and how does it affect you?

August 20, 2018

There’s no question you play lots of roles throughout your life — daughter, son, mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, co-worker, boss, friend, sports team member and volunteer — just to name a few.

It can be exhausting to juggle all these roles — especially if they conflict with one another. So much energy is spent, particularly if you’re trying to live up to someone else’s vision. As you grow up and go through school, there are a number of rules to live by. And then there’s the job arena. And the new family home front. All come with their own sets of expectations. Moving on through your life, you deal with successes and setbacks. Challenges and rewards. Recognition and rejection.

Too much role playing

Talk about trade offs! No wonder you feel depleted and experience the sense of “going through the motions.” A certain amount of this juggling is natural — and necessary. If you don’t watch out, though, you can lose yourself in the process. Over time, this lack of authenticity can result in such a sense of compromise you will feel like a mere shell of yourself.

I’m reminded of a song recently that really drives this point home — ” I’ve Never Been to Me.” It eloquently describes the charmed life of a woman who has traveled the world and experienced all kinds of luxury, yet feels hollow inside. The chorus echoes the phrase, “I’ve been to Paradise, but I’ve never been to me.”

Psychologists call this a displacement of self. When you have so many “separate selves”, it can be hard to tell where your true essence lies. That unsettled feeling of “something’s missing” can wreak havoc on your system.

Getting into alignment

We all get our tires aligned, although there’s no place to go in order to get ourselves aligned! Several things happened to me in the past couple of weeks that really helped to illustrate this principle on the life stage. I was speaking to a large group of people who were predominantly involved in the business world - one of my “hat” groups.

Although my remarks could have focused strictly on conditions for success in the business world, I found myself drawn to speak, from the heart, about the importance of purpose and mission in life, weaving in the business principles along the way. After all, that’s really what’s at the root of any kind of success. And the message resonated beautifully with the audience. It was refreshing not to separate my thinking into purely business concepts or purely personal concepts.

When you’re able to live your life “on purpose,” everything just clicks. The sooner you realize that life isn’t a dress rehearsal, the richer your experiences will likely be. It took me awhile to figure this out and now I look for ways to weave the different hats in my life into a rich tapestry, rather than putting up with a bunch of loose threads.

Putting it into perspective

The other experience I had this past week involved a teenage boy who is coping with the aftermath of his parents’ divorce. Rather than stuffing his feelings down and trying to pretend everything’s all right. He started talking about his need to express some things, even if it meant he had to endure a period of sadness. He said it was better to be sad for a little while and not try to live up to what his parent or friends expected than pretend everything is all right.

I was so struck by his maturity and the fact that he wasn’t taking the easy way out. Of course, there are degrees to everything. If this boy totally took off any filters and began to “act out” in inappropriate ways that are harmful to those around him. This could be a major cause for concern.

Since there’s no “Life 101” manual, we all have to take our own experiences, learn from them and do the best we can. “If we knew better, we’d do better” is a statement I learned awhile back. It’s actually very comforting, whether I’m relating it to my own actions or those of someone else. Generally, we all do the best we can with what we know at the time.

To thine own self be true

Being true to yourself is, perhaps, the most validating thing you can do. When your internal self senses you’re congruent with your values, no matter which hat you’re wearing, a sense of peace washes over you. Easier said than done, though. There are no easy answers, and the degrees of measurement can be situational from experience to experience or from person to person.

Thankfully, our day to day living laboratory provides lots of opportunities to get it right, or to get it wrong. But, how do you know? It’s all in the way you feel. You know when you’re out of balance, you may not know what to do about it.

The good news along with some bad news is that you get to pick your battles. Sometimes it makes sense to pull back and not rock the boat. When you’re compromising so much to keep the peace around you, though, it may be time to pay attention to the fact that you’re giving yourself up in the process. As long as you hold the intention to live an authentic life, and you get more times at bat. The chances are you’ll eventually get more hits. And, as with any sport, you’ll get better with practice.

We also need to remember not to take ourselves too seriously and replay incidents over and over in our minds. As one of my friends so wisely says, “Life is like the Home Shopping Network. If you don’t get the faux pearls, you can always go for the mallard ducks.”

©2018 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold. M.A.. M.B.A.. Is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multlstate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at llnda@llndaarnold.org. For Information on her books, go to www.llndaarnold.org or Amazon.com.

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