What do you want to be when you grow up?
Our parents asked us this question when we were quite young, and we in turn ask our children the same question. We love to hear their little voices pipe up with traditional answers: fireman, policeman, teacher, dancer, artist, nurse, or doctor. Occasionally they surprise us with their creativity — a butterfly, a dragon, or an evil space robot — or precociousness (my three-year-old astonished me by replying, “a paleontologist”). We continue asking the question through the middle and high school years and into college, the answers varying by age and inclination. As we grow older we ask it of ourselves — and some of us never know how to answer.
Rarely are we asked or do we ask, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” In this culture at least, we tend to focus on career, not character. Those of us who ventured off at some point to “find ourselves” were no doubt trying to answer that question, but went about it as though the “self” were somewhere else, something we could find on the ocean or in the mountains, hidden behind a bush or beneath a rock.
Perhaps, we might have been better off asking “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?”
This week’s journaling prompts are designed to help answer questions surrounding who we are, who we want to be, and how that being shows up in our lives:
- As completely as possible, describe yourself as though you’re a character in a book. What is your temperament? Are you quick or slow to think, judge, or take action? How do your gestures, speech, and actions reveal your character? Imagine how you would perceive yourself if you were someone else.
- List five people, dead or alive, whom you admire. For each person, write a short paragraph or two about why you admire him or her. Using a different color highlighter for each category, highlight the qualities you: a) wish you have in common with them; b) wish you had more of; or c) don’t have but wish you did. Take a moment to gaze at the colors, their distribution and the kinds of qualities you highlighted. Record your thoughts and feelings.
- Hold a hand mirror in front of your face so that you only see your eyes. Look deeply into your eyes as though looking into the eyes of a friend. How would you describe the person in the mirror?
- At what age did you become aware of your own abilities to make ethical/moral decisions and to choose how you react to others? What happened to bring about that awareness and how did you respond to it?
- What do you believe about yourself now? Do you feel mostly good about your character, or do you feel that you are full of faults that need correcting? What kind of feedback from others have you received that influenced these feelings about yourself? What actions have you taken confirming or contradicting that feedback?
- Describe the ideal you. How have you already become this person? What aspects of this ideal are you lacking? What steps could you take to help become more like that ideal person? What of these steps can you begin today? What kind of support or help do you need and where will you get it?
- Write your five most important characteristics as affirmations. For example, “I am compassionate”; “I am willing to help others in need”; or “I am patient with others.” In just a few paragraphs write about why you value these characteristics and how you feel they affect your life and the lives of those around you.
I invite you to explore this topic by choosing one or more of these prompts this week, then leave a comment. Who do you want to be?