The Battle Royale: Who We Are vs. Who We Want to Be

It’s a struggle for many of us...and Jenn Lisak Golding has some very smart thoughts on the matter she’d like to share.
Who Are You Essay

Welcome to a new monthly column from Jenn Lisak Golding, the president and CEO of Sapphire Strategy here in Indianapolis—the marketing agency who helps us out with many things, including our beautiful website. She will offer up her unique insights into the multi-faceted lives we all live as women and ways we can explore them.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

In everyday life, it’s common for us to wear “masks” depending on what the situation calls for—and I don’t mean the ones we’ve gotten used to wearing since 2020. At work, we might be the pragmatic, decision-making maven who’s ready to take on a challenge. With other friends, we might be the wallflower who likes to take everything in. And at home, we might be a chef extraordinaire who loves to host and takes pride in our home.

Masks, I would argue, are a natural part of life and make sense for different circumstances. But what complicates our sense of being is when these masks feel a little too familiar and we’re not really sure who’s behind them. Or, worse yet, we’re constantly playing a part that isn’t really true to ourselves, then we feel shame when we’re not “who we’re supposed to be” instead of who we really are. 

The mysterious “they” say that you have a true sense of who you are by 25. You have a good sense of what you like, what you don’t, what you want from life, and, ultimately, who you want to be. But the hard part usually isn’t knowing who you are; it’s accepting yourself as that amazing person.

I remember when I was 19 and joined my friends in the middle of a conversation. I asked what they were talking about, and someone said to me, “Oh, you wouldn’t be interested in doing [insert whatever activity it was]. It’s too ‘out there’ for you.”

While, admittedly, when I found out what it was I wasn’t truly interested, I still felt a pang of shame. I immediately felt like my friends saw me as stuffy and rigid, when really, they just knew that it wasn’t my jam. (I now know that’s more than okay.) However, I felt myself wanting to be more spontaneous and seemingly more “out there”. My behavior started to change even though I did NOT like it and it wasn’t comfortable for me. That particular mask felt heavy and didn’t last for long; thank goodness my friends caught on quickly and lovingly accepted me for the woman I am: the pragmatic planner who likes structure.

This, of course, wasn’t the only instance where I felt like I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I have never been particularly bubbly or outgoing, and one of my best friends could charm the grumpiest old man to smile. While I love talking to people, I am much more subdued than some of my friends who I absolutely love to be around. Some days, I wish I was more like them, but then I realized that we might not be as good of friends if I was. Either way, we both bring different characteristics to the table that should be appreciated.


What this all comes down to is this, ladies: We are who we are for a reason, and the most comfortable we will ever feel is when let nature take its course instead of trying to be something we’re not. Don’t get me wrong; it’s always good to aspire and want to be a better version of yourself, but not at the cost of playing a part for most of your life.

To me, here’s the difference:

Being who we are
  1. It feels natural, light, and easy
  2. We are more confident
  3. We feel good about decisions, relationships, and our presence
Acting as who we want to be
  1. It feels stressful, anxiety-ridden, and heavy
  2. It can resonate as awkward and inauthentic
  3. It feels like the bubble could be burst at any time

Comparison is the ultimate enemy of accepting who we are, and it’s something we actively have to train ourselves not to do. Think about all of the amazing people in your life who are doing amazing things… aren’t you proud and happy to know them? I am. And it doesn’t take away any of the contributions I give to the world. It simply amplifies our effect in the places we live and work.

My challenge to you is this: write down who you think you are and who you want to be. Then be really honest with yourself; which characteristics are a part of your being, and which ones do you need to cast aside because they aren’t true to who you are? You are you, and that’s the best person you will ever be.

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