This month, I have the pleasure of writing to the WWKD readers while I’m on vacation, visiting my family in the Northeast USA. I use the word “vacation” loosely in this context, as I am here with my two little ones, my husband, mother, sister and my sister’s two little kiddos. It’s a full house, but full of love, laughter…and a few family squabbles.
In the 30 seconds that I have to myself every day, I have become more aware of the different roles that I occupy with all of the above family members: I am Mother, Daughter, Wife, Sister, and Aunt. I speak to my children differently than I do to my sister’s children. I talk about certain things with my sister that I might discuss in a different way with my mother. My relationship with my husband undergoes small but notable changes when we are surrounded by my family. While I greatly enjoy all this time together, there is also some stress that results from this switching of roles, this change in identity.
Thinking about my personal identity lead to me ponder Kate’s identity (or identities). At times, I have to remind myself that I have no idea who Kate is. This is especially true after the three-week Kate-watching marathon that was the Australia/New Zealand tour, or when I notice that the bulk of my Twitter feed is devoted to Kate news. I remind myself that I have never met her and have only extremely rarely heard her speak. I remind myself that much of the information that I read about her is in the public sphere, in her official engagements and that anything personal is (1) overheard during public events or (2) completely made up to sell newspapers. I also remind myself that, while the substance of Kate’s identity still remains unknown, the underlying idea that she is able to successfully maintain these complete, separate, and likeable identities is a useful skill. We all have private selves and public/professional selves. We all have to develop these separate selves, realize which “self” is appropriate in which context, and yet also retain a core sense of who we are independent of whatever situation we find ourselves in.
How does Kate do it, and how is she able to do this successfully? My first theory is that it is vitally necessary that you have a safe location in which you can be your authentic self. For Kate, I think she is able to find this at her parents’ home in Bucklebury (perhaps a reason why she and William went there after the birth of their son) and hopefully at her home in Kensington Palace. These locations are safe from the prying lenses of the media, safe and secured from unwanted visitors, and yet also provide ample space and comfort.
Of near-equal importance to a safe space in which you can fully be yourself is finding safe people around whom you can be your genuine self. These people can be family or friends, and you may find that only one or two people that you know fit within this “inner circle” of trusted people. It is within this inner circle that you feel safe enough to share your deepest opinions and honest thoughts without fear of shame or misunderstanding. These people, like the safe space, can serve to ground you, to help you find your genuine self, as you transition between different roles in your life. Kate appears lucky to be able to find this safe inner circle with her parents, her sister, her spouse, and perhaps with others in her life.
Lastly, how do you identify your authentic self? The key to this is to spend quiet time with yourself – not surrounded by the opinions of others, not distracted by music or movies or other media, so that the only voice you can listen to is your own. In these quiet times, find out what you like and who you are. What is your favorite color? What do you do to comfort yourself when you feel down? What do you really think about our current political system? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? The only answer to these questions that matters is your own! Further, while spending time with yourself and investigating your own thoughts, wishes, and preferences, you might find that you don’t know the answer some of these questions. For example, perhaps you are trying to identify which community issues interest you and motivate you to get involved. Careful research is important, but most necessary is experimentation. Try your hand at hands-on volunteer work and at behind-the-scenes administrative work. See if you like to actively fundraise by writing grants or going door-to-door in your neighborhood on behalf of an organization. Try to develop a community outreach project or give public relations work a shot. The options are endless and it is though trial and error that you will find your niche!
Identifying your true and authentic self is a lifelong process, and also an ongoing process, as we change throughout our lives due to our relationships and experiences. I remain interested to see who Kate is and what she does with her position and power. I am also interested in your thoughts on finding your own identity, and on Kate’s journey thus far.