“Wherever you go, there you are.”

It’s no accident I show up wherever I go, right? Whether in parking lots, the hallways at work, or with my family, I don’t forget to bring an appendage or lung. And if I make a wrong turn I’m still all there – wherever that is. Is that wholeness? Would anyone agree that wholeness merely means showing up to Target or work?

Didn’t think so.

Wholeness does mean many things: compelling work, loving family, rich relationships, faith, freedom, health. Wherever I go, so goes my identity, joined by my blissful memories and the baggage of my struggles. I bring my highs and lows, my dreams, ideas, and biases.

Some aspects of my identity are extrinsic, and I get caught labeling myself (and others). Many labels of my identity are external to me because I choose, or in some cases (White American Jewish male) don’t choose, to identify. For example, I choose to affiliate with native Charlotteans, Piedmont Pirate alumni, fans of Neil and Dionne, beach lovers and weekend warriors.

But what about the emotional pieces of my identity? Mental? Spiritual?

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with finding a connection with affinity groups and the influences that shaped my life. I’m a lifelong NC State supporter. I will never forget our family’s battle with Parkinson’s. I’m a proud Generation X/Millennial cusper. These affiliations make up a huge part of who I am- from the outside in.

But my affiliations do not complete me. I see myself through the lens of these other people, but that same lens also provides a great reminder not to forget how much work and attention I have spent cultivating…

But my affiliations do not complete me. I see myself through the lens of these other people, but that same lens also provides a great reminder not to forget how much work and attention I have spent cultivating the visions, values, and beliefs that define my own identity- from the inside out. I am the product of my history and experiences.

Those influences not only shape how I categorize and label my experiences but also shape me on the inside. Life is too short to overlook my own visions, values and beliefs, and I know where I came from and who I am.

Still, I really believe those labels can get ya! Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the labels that define the role sI play in my life that I neglect to remember the free will I have to create my own visions, values, and beliefs – those intrinsic elements that build my resilience, my mental, emotional and spiritual strength.

So I constantly ask myself questions to uncover limiting beliefs and determine when I’ve outgrown my values. Life changes and so too do my visions for where I want to go!

In the past I’ve felt less than whole, inadequate, impotent, or unworthy of my friendships, and even to myself. My faux-intrinsic motivation was a quilt patched together by external influences. My personal vision was lacking, I had conflicting values, or I took the beliefs of others as my own. Wherever I went, I wasn’t all there because seeds of doubt peppered me with tiny holes, and the ideas I adopted shifted and mislead.

Those seeds of doubt grew into emptiness and before long, suffering, shame, and uncertainty disempowered me. I relinquished control of my life and became the recipient of life instead of seeking wholeness. The person I feared I would be overshadowed the person I was, but it’s not about them, it’s about me. I forget sometimes.

It’s the boiling frog… we call it a midlife crisis because it can take half a lifetime to uncover the emptiness that lies within.

However secure I am with my identity, I am only half of any relationship! My wholeness is but half! Wholeness is a continuous process of self-awareness and growth, and still it’s my responsibility to be present and be every bit of the 50% of any relationship I contribute to, not 51%, and not 49% either.

Wholeness isn’t a destination then, it’s the presence of mind to know that “wherever you go, there you are.” And at any moment, the “where” and the “you” can change.

I ask the leaders I coach, “how much do you know about yourself? Not where you came from, not are you a mother, daughter, sister, wife. Not what you do or how you behave, but what do you believe?” Our beliefs permeate our every waking hour. 

First wonder what do you believe, and then accept “wherever you go, there you are.”

The article was originally posted 9/8/17 on TempleBethEl.org as a featured community contributor. Read the original post here