Are You Who You Wanted To Be When You Were Growing Up?

Are You Who You Wanted To Be When You Were Growing Up?

Remember when we were a little kid? Grownups always used to ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were growing up?

Are you what you told everybody you wanted to be?

Most of our games as children revolved around pretending to be grownups and roleplaying who we wanted to become.

No one ever asked us, “Who do you want to be?”

It was never about the who; it was always about the what.

That's how our parents were brought up. That's how they raised us.

We were told we had to be somebody.

Like Marlon Brands character in the movie On the Waterfront (1954) who said, “I could’a been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

Being somebody meant being a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a famous actor...

What was the goal, not who.

Exterior vs Interior

Now, all grown up, when we meet someone, our first question is, “What do you do?”

The answer to that question will have a huge impact on the rest of the conversation and on how long it will continue.

Your answer will create the value of you.

What we do for our living, not who we are, defines us.

From an early age, we learn that our value depends on what we are—what our exterior title to the world is.

It's kind of sad. don't you think? That we value ourselves for what we do, for our profession, earning our living ob?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a ballerina, but the idea was quickly dismissed by my mother.

Then I wanted to be an actress (which was also dismissed, this time by both my parents).

We are slowly guided by the reaction of grownups, and these reactions, whether they intend to or not, change what we want to be.

As a child, this confused me.

I felt like I could either be what my parents wanted me to be—which would make them proud of me and gain their approval—or I could follow my heart and risk their disappointment and discouragement.

I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be heard.

I wanted to please my parents.

We wanted our parents to be proud of us.

We wanted to be something the world would approve of.

We wanted society’s acceptance.

Like everyone else, we wanted to belong…

So I created a dream of what I wanted to be. Well, it was more of a dream of what the world wanted me to be, but it had nothing to do with me.

It didn't work out very well. I tried a lot of new professions as I grew into my adulthood, none of which lasted for too long.

The jobs did not make me feel good about myself. For the most part, I felt miserable, which made me feel really bad about myself.

Every time someone asked me what I did, I came up with answers that were half apologetic and half trying to convince them that the title was not reflective of what I really did and that what I did was actually far more important and valuable.

The problem started when I noticed that I was not connecting with some people who had a great grown-up title.

I felt that they were better than me.

It seemed to me that they felt better than me too because of their title. They had grown up to be something great and their title proved it, or so it seemed to me at the time.

Whenever and wherever I went, it was like a sign hung on my chest: NOT somebody.

I settled into believing that when I grew up, I would be a this and a that—a something but not a someone.

It was a hard realization.

Not the right something that sparks my insides and makes me come alive.

It felt that in order to be what the world wanted me to be, I would lose too much of myself.

Of who I am.

Of who I wanted to become.

I was constantly struggling, numbing the voices in my head that wanted something else. Slowly I realized that those voices were not going anywhere, and compromising was costing me love and respect for myself and for who I was.

The question was not WHAT I wanted to be when I grew up.

It was WHO I wanted to become.

I realized, that the only way life would work for me was by allowing myself to be me.

Who was I?

I had to figure that one out. I had to re-examine who I was, look deep inside to see if my identity was mine or if it had been brought in from the outside.

Was it mine or theirs—my parents, my family, my friends, my teachers, society, television, and the people on the street…?

I decided to figure out not only who I was, but also to decide who I want to be.

I decided to strip away should and the have to, along with their cousins, expectation and need to.

I decided to choose and become WHO I wanted to be.

The only way to shake the costumes we are taught to wear is to see ourselves beautifully naked in the truth of who we really are.

It was a tough road.

In a way, the world came tumbling down around me creating an unbearable unknown and I was not sure I would be able to survive.

But I did.

On my way out of the rubble, on my path of learning who I was and of seeing myself in the light of my inner self and all the dark places of who I was but did not want to be, I had to find a way to love myself, for this was the only way I could become who I wanted to be.

I had to remind myself of the reason. I had to commit to myself and to this one life of mine for my own happiness and fulfillment.

I wrote a vow to myself, to keep me on track and to remind me in difficult times when the going got tough and I wanted to give up:

I choose myself. I choose me.

I vow to love myself no matter what. To be there for myself, always.

To love my life.

To hold myself with tender patience.

To be, speak and share my truth.

To love and live courageously with joy and compassion.

To be there for myself when I am scared, lonely or cranky.

To hold my hand in the silence of my pain and to gently guide myself back when I get lost.

To live within the healing warmth of my heart, and to always remember that this, my loving heart, is my home.

My needs are valued and they are to be met. My desires are valued and they are to be fulfilled.

I love myself. I love who I am and I love who I am becoming.

From my heart I ask: What is possible for me here now?

The thing is, most people don’t like to step outside of their comfort zone.

But that’s the only way to grow.

When we let go of who we are, we allow ourselves to become who we want to be.​

The change starts with us.

It's amazing to see reaction when you meet someone new and instead of asking the usual 'What do you do'?, You ask:

- 'What are you passionate about'?

- 'What are you interested in these days'?

- ' What do you enjoy'?

- 'What inspires you?'

- 'What makes you feel happy inside'?

- 'How was your day'?

Try it - see where it takes you. See what new connections it can create for you?

And yes, you can ask these questions during a networking event too. People will will embrace this kind of question like a breath of fresh air.

Get interested in who people are, and they will become interested in who you are too.

When I let go of the what and focused on who I was and who I wanted to become, I emerged someone I was proud to be.

I am someone.

Not somebody.

You are someones too, whatever you do for a living is only a small fraction of who you really are.

We are someones —someones who are continuously growing and becoming, who are ebbing and weaving through the ups and downs of life.

We are someones who have the choice to choose to live with integrity, starting with the integrity of being true to who we are.

We are someones who have the choice to choose everyday to live the values of creativity, courage, compassion, integrity, love, and joy.​

As for me - I am someone who enjoys the FuNstrations of my challenges (because there can be some fun in frustration).

I am learning to live my CurseGifts with pride and appreciation (because those tough moments we believe are our curses are also our gifts if we are willing to walk through them).

I am someone I enjoy spending time with, and I am someone I enjoy showing up and sharing with the you and with the world.

And I am not complete.

I don’t want to be complete.

Complete is when there is nothing to change, no more place to grow. Complete is a myth.

I am becoming.

Who are you?

Who are you becoming?

Who would you like to become?

Are  you  the  person  you  wanted  to  be  when  you  were  growing  up?


Sign up to Monthly Newsletter

Get Your Inspiring T-shirt NOW

ChArt  Your Life  Course  

Begins  Nov 1st


“Each lesson took me deeper into new places that had a profound effect on me, on my life, and how I now live my life.”/ A.M

​ "I am grateful I had the faith to take this leap... It was the best decision I've ever made!" / S.C

“Putting it all together at the end created a magical Aha moment I will never forget!” / J.E

“Thank you for changing my life and helping me start believing, and creating the life that I want. It is possible. I can make it happen!”/ M.S


* Limited spots available

It's okay to share...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone
  • Lian, I love this. I am officiating a wedding today and I love the ceremony that I created with this couple. Their vows our beautiful and it’s inspired me to think about what I am committed to in my own relationship with myself. What promises do I make to myself no matter the circumstances? So this week I jotted down some of my commitments to myself and i will keep working on them, as my own vows to me. Then I see this and I see — You have those!! You have your own vows to yourself. And they’re beautiful and anchoring. I am inspired. Thank you, Love!!

    • Thank you Jessica. How exciting to unite two people in the sacred space of loving vows.
      I came to learn that the more we are in a place of truly loving and honoring ourselves, the more we are able to love and honor others.
      It’s a daily practice to remind myself of my vows and hold myself to my promises to myself, and it is a constant anchor that keeps me afloat….
      Thank you so much for your beautiful heartfelt and encouraging comment. 🙂

  • In sharing your powerful, deeply personal revelations of struggle and triumph, you open doors that never existed in my imagination. Through them I believe I can travel with more courage to places full or inspiration and hope .

    • Thank you Eileen. I’m glad my article inspired you. Opening up to exploring ourselves is a vulnerable exploration but so rewarding.
      Your courageous journey will take you to beautiful new insights and revelations.
      It’s a bumpy ride – enjoy it 🙂

  • Wonderful article! I find it unpleasant when asked, ‘What are you?’, as if my current employment defined me. Who I am is what is important and that ‘Who’ remains steadfast through many differing ‘Whats’.

    • So true Maggie. It’s time to ask something new when we meet new people instead of the automatic ‘what do you do’? A more personable and related to who that person is will create a much better connection. We can ask things like, ‘what are you excited about’?, ‘What do you enjoy doing most’?, ‘what is important to you in life’?.
      These would be much better conversation openers that will create more of a real connection between two people. 🙂

    • Thank you Nathaniel. The process of growing and allowing ourselves to be who we really are is a constant expedition into connecting with awareness to what we are feeling deep inside us.