You can never own your character until it is tried & forged by fire.
In my last blog we explored how a person becomes redefined by diagnosis (see Gifting the Cancer Patient with the Gift of Self). On the day of diagnosis we trade our carefully crafted persona for that of “patient.” This time lets address the same aspect of the cancer experience as it relates to the survivor who wants to push past that “patient” to find “self” again.
“Self” is a complicated but deliberate issue. We do many things to project an image out to those around us because that image brings predictability as we navigate our world. It causes our world and our social exchanges to make sense and the result is a sort of emotional security and confidence. Until this predictability fails, we do not realize how strongly we rely on our version of “self.”
Because it is such a rude wakening when who you have been is no longer how you are now seen, I would like to take a moment to encourage you. If you do not like being seen and treated so often as “the patient,” lets take action to help others remember who you are!
Unfortunately, even though many survivors feel uncomfortable with their new identity as “patient,” the truth is that that very same survivor is often the first to side-step from their desired image into non-descript patient-ness. So remember that if you want others to “see” you, YOU need to stay focused on who you are, too!
Honestly, cancer treatment brings with it plenty of limitations, which seem to zap individuality. For this reason, it is important to be deliberate as you preserve and accentuate your individuality. Let’s take a few steps toward that end.
- Ask yourself what is important about who you are?
- What are your passions?
- What are your strengths of character?
- What are your priorities?
- What accomplishments define you in some way?
- How do you expect strangers to react to you?
- How do you expect your friends, family to react to you?
- What sort of personal growth have you made?
- What adds the color to your image?
Plundering through these questions should shed some light on what constitutes the “self” that may seem so illusive in the face of cancer treatment. Once you get a firm grasp on what you want to project once again, and if you are willing to put forth a little effort, I think you will find that soon your old image may begin to show its face more and more frequently. How? Try a few of the following ideas:
- Try not to focus on cancer & treatment all of the time (check out my upcoming podcast)
- Feed your passions, even if you have to modify how you
- go about that.
- Project! If you want to be seen as vibrant, BE vibrant, if you want to be seen as an interesting conversationalist, BE an interesting conversationalist, and if you want to be seen as resilient . . . be funny!
- if you want to be seen as spontaneous, BE spontaneous,
- Laugh! Find a way & give those around you a reason to laugh,
- Get outside and appreciate nature. Soak it up, it will make a
- difference in the light that radiates from you.
- See yourself as your old self. If you do not get lost in your
- patient-ness, it will be easier for others to look beyond it, too.
- Share your art forms. Make & create, then give to others.
- Do what you can do and let go of the rest.
The truth is that right now you ARE a patient, but keeping that new facet of your reality balanced and within perspective will keep it from overtaking you. Not only that, but managing to find yourself, holding firm to your character and your color can forge real personal confidence as well as self-respect.
And when you are able to find your equilibrium, you will be able to help others find their way back to you, too!
Always in your corner,