How do you define yourself?

Are you defined by your circumstances, your struggles or your successes? I want you to take a moment to honestly consider this question because it affects your behavior and beliefs about what is and isn’t possible in your life.

For example, I am a recovered drug addict. Yes, I’ve had a lot of terrible things happen in my lifetime that caused my drug use and no one would blame me if I lived at home with my parents and walked around in circles all day knocking my head against the wall.

I even went to rehab where I learned about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). “Hi, my name is Gerilyn and I’m a recovering drug addict,” is what I learned to say when I introduced myself. Although I quit rehab 3 weeks early, I still kept the “recovering addict” label for long after.

Two years later, I still allowed my “recovering drug addict” label define who I was. It was a crutch because I could always blame my failures on the fact that I was a “recovering drug addict”. Relapse might happen at any time so I better stay on my guard and let everyone know who I was.

Then a wonderful thing happened! I went to the Counseling Center to be tested for ADHD because I was “unable” to focus, concentrate and perform well in college, so it must be ADHD. They have pills for that and I wanted some because I knew I needed help.

Fortunately, after filling out the questionnaire, the intake person told me he did not think I had ADHD but he strongly recommended I see a therapist.

Therapy! No way! I don’t need help. I am perfectly fine,” I thought. My life is obviously awesome – my head is racing 24/7 with awful images and replays of my past, I am overly paranoid that someone is out to get me, my grades are slipping, I honestly have fully detailed conspiracy theories about the way the world works, I took out my piercings because THEY can contact me through the metal, I couldn’t handle confrontation or conflict, and forcefully made myself the center of attention in most situations. Yep, obviously just fine.

Instead I said, “Um, okay,” and made an appointment for after Christmas break.

I will say that therapy was one of the hardest things I ever went through. I faced my past and worked through it. I learned how to confront and handle conflict. I dealt with the images and replays. And you know what? I transformed my “recovering drug addict” identity into “recovered”. You see, I only used drugs to escape the fact that I had no earthly clue how to handle my past. Once I worked through all of that, I didn’t need my crutch, drugs, to identify me.

The “recovering drug addict” identity kept me stuck. I could have milked it for all it’s worth and gotten sympathy or understanding from everyone in every situation because, after all, I’m recovering and that is much better than using.

But I did not want that to be a struggle all of my life! I wanted to move on, overcome, transform my life into something greater, something it was meant to be.

I don’t want to be defined by my struggles or hardships but by my efforts and successes!

I share this with you because I want you to take a look at your own life. Is your identity tied up in your failures? Your work? In how other people label you? Your struggle?

Or do you choose your identity?

There are two kinds of people in this world. First is the kind of people who allow their circumstances dictate who they will be in the world and what kind of life they will live. These are the people who say, “I can’t do x,y,z because it’s just too hard.” Or, “That’s just the way I am, nothing can change it.” Or “I will always have this struggle. It is a chemical addiction or part of my genetic make-up. Don’t tell me that I can be rid of this because I have accepted that I can’t because I have tried everything and nothing worked so I KNOW that life will always be this way.”

Then, there is the kind of people that accept and learn from their circumstances and use the knowledge as a launch off point for their journey towards who they want to be. These folks choose who they want to be, choose what characteristics and behaviors they want to have and begin living them. They are not defined by their past or their struggle or their horrible circumstances.

Do you allow others to identify you or do you choose your identity?


  • Elliott

    Reply Reply July 26, 2011

    wow! you’re pretty awesome (and have a lot of wisdom)

    keep up the great work 🙂

    • gerilyn

      Reply Reply July 27, 2011

      Thanks Elliot. Appreciate the feedback. Love what you’re doing with Lean Hybrid Muscle as well. Great stuff!

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