Recently I was asked a seemingly simple question by my therapist Marlyn, and the question was, “Who is Don West, Jr.?”
She challenged me not to recite my resume or LinkedIn profile, she was asking me to tell her about the actual person, the man, how it is that I view myself. It immediately hit me that I had never truly pondered this simple question in any meaningful way, who am I beyond the titles, positions, and labels. You know, like son, student, athlete, attorney, suspended-attorney, bipolar, etc. In all of my multitudes of self-help and success literature that I have devoured, none of it ever successfully prompted me to ask myself the question, who are you? From that simple start, a second question immediately popped up, “What really makes you happy, Don West, Jr.?” (But I stop and tell my mind that we are only handling one question at a time today and add that question to my writing to-do list.)
I. Who is Don West, Jr. beyond his resume and LinkedIn profile? (Note: It took me almost two years to be able to pull the following list together on a piece of paper. If your answer does not bubble up right away, be patient and keep asking yourself the question.)
I am an extremely loyal person.
I am driven to be the best version of myself. (I used to measure this in degrees, awards, and titles. Now, I measure it in self-improvement, kind words, good deeds, and inspiring others.)
I am a nerd. I am going to do the homework and I will read the footnotes to the suggested reading.
I love books, I love to learn, I always have, I always will. I typically sit in the front row.
I am a born leader. I am and always have been ready to step up to the front, formulate a plan and inspire the team to go out and snatch another victory.
I can earn people’s trust and sell anything I believe in. I am driven by my own beliefs and passion for the things I believe in.
I AM A DREAMER! I make my dreams come TRUE.
I oversee the BIG PICTURE.
I am a master of organizational systems and dynamics.
I am an extremely hard worker.
I have been told I was lazy by numerous supervisors, co-workers, friends, and colleagues.
II. The Myth of Sisyphus
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He is punished by Zeus for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only for it to roll away when they near the top forcing him to repeat this action for eternity.
III. When discussing Sisyphus in therapy feelings of never feeling “good enough” came up
I have focused my energy on pushing many a “rock” up the hill. There was getting through US Navy Boot Camp, undergrad, law school, repping 1st round NFL Draft picks and even being chosen to be on SpikeTV’s 2005 reality tv show, “Super Agent.” For me, just like Sisyphus, it felt like I had this immense task in front of me. My ego would say, do it, keep going, when you get THIS “rock” up the hill you are going to feel whole, you will feel complete, you will feel accomplished. My ego is convincing. I believed everything that it said and I kept pushing forward toward the summit. And every single time I reached that top, what did I find? Not completeness nor a sense of accomplishment. I felt the same as before. I felt incomplete and unaccomplished. My “rock” had rolled back down the hill.
To close out the session, my therapist Marlyn gave me the homework assignment of pondering where these feelings of not feeling “good enough” may have originated, perhaps as far back as my early childhood. I Immediately blurt out that I already know, while at the same time chuckling inside my head at how quickly and vividly the awareness came to the forefront of my consciousness. As a young man living in Huntsville, Alabama our family of seven, us five kids plus our parents were happy and our house was full of love. We attended a private religious school and that school required us to wear uniforms. Being of meager means I only had three uniforms, three shirts and three pairs of pants.
Since I was an active and pre-Xbox kind of little boy it wasn’t long before I had worn holes in all six knees in those three pairs of pants. Well, let’s just say that kids in school can be cruel and crass and having to wear those check-out aisle impulse-buy patches (you remember the ones that used to come in a THREE pack, with three sets of different color patches) on your uniform pants was not the hot look on the schoolyard. The kids made me feel like my pants were not good enough. I interpreted that as I was not good enough. Somehow through the years, that interpretation morphed into a driving force of low self-esteem and many of the typically associated behaviors of low self-esteem.
For several years now I have been practicing Mindfulness and seeking to center myself in the present, the now. The awareness of where my feelings of “not good enough” originate coupled with my new understandings of the past, NOW(present), and future I have begun to change the language of my self-dialogue. I have found new methods of motivation to assist in the effort of pushing the “rock” up the hill, and I am content in the awareness that I AM GOOD ENOUGH right here, right now in this moment.
What comes up for you when you read these recollections of mine?