CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's no question we play many roles throughout our lives -- daughter, son, mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, co-worker, 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 each other. So much energy can be spent living out these roles, particularly if we're trying to live up to someone else's vision.
As we grow up and go through school, there are a number of rules to live by. And then there's the career arena. And the new family home front. All come with their own sets of expectations. Moving on through our lives, we deal with successes and set backs. Challenges and rewards. Recognition and rejection.
Talk about tradeoffs! No wonder we can feel depleted and experience that sense of "going through the motions."
A certain amount of this juggling is natural -- and necessary. If we don't watch out, though, we can lose ourselves in the process. And, over time, that lack of authenticity can result in such a sense of compromise that we can feel like a mere shell of ourselves.
I was reminded this past week by my friend Janet Boyle of a song 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 luxurious things, yet feels hollow inside. The chorus echoes the eerie refrain, "I've been to Paradise, but I've never been to me."
Psychologists call this a displacement of self. When we have so many "separate selves," it can be hard to tell where our true essence lies. And that's not a good feeling. That unsettled tug of "something's missing" can wreak havoc on our systems.
Several things happened to me recently that 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 on conditions for success in the business world, I found myself drawn to speak -- from the heart -- about the importance of our purpose and mission in life.
After all, that's really what's at the root of any kind of success. When we're able to live our lives "on purpose," everything just clicks. And the sooner we realize this life isn't a dress rehearsal, the richer our experiences will 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.