The Best Me I Can Be by Marge Simpson
If someone asked you who you were, how would you answer that question? Depending on your response, people might perceive you very differently. Would you respond with your name? Your job? Would you talk about your hobbies, passions, fears or dreams?
Despite how difficult it might be to answer “who” we are, our identities are extremely central to our lives. They’re what guide us and keep us together as a singular person with continuous morals, values, beliefs and ultimately, goals. Without them, we’re a little bit like ships lost at sea — careening over each murky wave without having any idea as to where dry land might appear.
That’s how my client today feels. Marge is a (very real and not-from-a-cartoon) housewife who lives alongside her family in the town of Springfield. Her greatest struggle right now is that Marge doesn’t feel like anything but a housewife and a mom. Despite this, there are many ways in which she’d like to be seen differently.
Maybe you’ve had the same problem as Marge before. If you’ve ever felt completely defined by a single part of your identity before, and it’s gotten under your skin, then you’re going to want to read Marge’s journal entries about wanting more out of life. Together, we’ll coach Marge out of the corner she’s in. And once you’re done reading, you can head on over to The Journal That Talks Back to get this kind of coaching for yourself.
Marge’s first journal entry: the best me I can be
“I don't normally write to strangers on the internet, but one of the girls at church said this ‘journaling’ exercise really helped her. A bit about me: I'm a middle-aged housewife living in the suburbs of my hometown. Even though we have our share of troubles and misadventures, I'd say my family is the best thing in my life and really makes up my whole world. That's the problem, though, because without them I don't feel like I have much of an identity. Three wonderful children and a husband that tries his best should be enough for any lady but I often find myself wanting more from my day. I'm tired of always taking a backseat to what's going on and having to be the one to nag others about what they should be doing. Sometimes it feels like I'm taking care of four kids, and I even find myself wishing they'd grow up faster some days. Anyways, I'm rambling now, but I guess if there's anything on my mind lately it's that I'm not being all I could be by just being a mother and a wife... Thank you for listening to my problems. I feel better just writing this all down (even though it does feel kind of silly).” — Marge S.
First impressions: an identity in question
It’s clear from Marge’s very first journal entry (a very well-written journal, by the way!) that there’s a lot of questioning going on in her life. She’s feeling a little mixed up about her identity, especially when it comes to what her identity is independent of her family. It seems right now that Marge sees herself as she thinks the rest of the world sees her: as little more than a middle-aged housewife, living in the suburbs, with a church group and a husband.
But of course she’s more than that! In order to help her see new paths forward, we’re going to have to change that sort of thinking so Marge can see herself differently. Still, we’re not going to make any assumptions about who or what Marge really is. Instead, let’s go back to the title of her first journal post: “The best me I can be.” That implies that Marge’s best self is somewhere inside of her, but we just haven’t asked the right questions about her yet.
I might try asking Marge a few follow-up questions to see what she thinks of herself when she’s removed from her family situation. For instance: “How do you see yourself after the kids grow up?” “What do you like to talk about when you’re with your church group?” and “Why might you feel like you’re not doing your best?”
There’s an even deeper question I’d like to ask Marge, and I’m going to do that below. Let’s put that question to her and see how she feels.
Next: a person of many passions
“Who are you when you aren’t being a mom?”
“That’s a hard question to answer. I’m an excellent cook, bowler, and sometimes I even daydream about how my life would have turned out if I had stuck to painting…I guess at the end of the day I define myself by what I do, even though those things don’t tend to be very ambitious. I’m a mom because I spend a lot of my day just being a mom.”
Wow! Just from that simple question, we learned a lot more about who Marge is as a person. I can already feel us getting closer to helping her understand her identity in real, impactful ways. What I’m getting from this follow-up is that Marge really defines herself by her routines and what she does. It sounds like despite the fact that she’s got some self-confidence, she also feels like because she doesn’t do anything except for “mom stuff,” she can’t be anything but a mom.
But who’s putting that limitation on Marge? It’s sort of a chicken-and-egg situation, if you think about it. Marge defines herself as a mom because she does mom-related activities, but it’s Marge’s choice to only do mom-related activities. While being a mom is certainly a full time job, I’m guessing there’s still moments here where Marge could branch out and lean into that fun-loving side of herself that likes to paint, bowl and do other things.
I think this is a good time to flag that belief for Marge — the belief that she is what she does — and challenge it a little bit. And maybe it’s time for Marge to even be thrown off balance, outside of her comfort zone. Because being in balance all the time is leading Marge to boredom, stagnation and a dissociation with her true identity.
We want to rock the boat a bit here by asking Marge if there are ways she can reintroduce some spontaneity and novelty in her life. And who knows? By branching out and trying new things, Marge might start to develop a better relationship with her real identity, as well as her relationship with who she is as a mom.
Let’s let this sit with Marge for a bit and check in with her a few weeks later.
The check-in: redefining leadership
“You gave me a lot to think about when you made me realize how much time I was spending on doing and not… being. It’s not my family’s fault if I feel like I’m just a wife and mom if I don’t focus on things other than that. I’ve decided to dedicate at least an hour every day to painting while everyone's out of the house doing their own thing. I even let my baby play with the colors, and she’s started making art all on her own. I guess I can’t help being a mom even when I’m just being me!
Would you look at that? This is a perfect example of someone taking a prompt and running with it. By asking Marge if she might be able to try on some new things that shake up her identity, she’s gone and started painting again. More importantly, she’s recognizing that her identity as a mom is only as strong as the belief she puts into that part of herself. By taking some of that power away, she doesn’t feel so trapped by the prospect of being a mom — even when she’s taking care of her kids!
So it’s not that she shouldn’t be a wife or a mom, because clearly Marge enjoys those parts of her life. It’s more that she just needed to find some additional ways to express parts of her that weren’t getting any oxygen before. And I think that’s a great place to leave Marge. She’s got what she needed back in her life, and with it, her identity has developed into a more accurate portrait of who she really is.
Was this helpful to you? I really hope so! If you’re kind of going through the same thing Marge is right now (you don’t have to be a mom to have an identity crisis), I’d recommend listening to our full Character Coaching podcast episode where we talk about identity in depth. And if you want the kind of coaching you just saw play out right now, check us out at The Journal That Talks Back!
Looking to take a beet? Check out this episode where we coached the one...the only...Dwight Schrute.