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What defines us?

This is a question that has been playing on my mind a lot recently. So, here I am writing a blog about it – straight off the cuff. People may think that they are defined by their title, job, family, ethnic origin, car they drive, how many friends they have, what social circles they move in, how clever they are, or how clever their children are. I could think of many aspects about a person that people might think defines them. However, its not the physical belongings or the personal attributes that define a person, I will reveal what I think it is later in this post.  Everything I have written here is a combination of both my personal and professional opinion.

I feel it is important that I share some truths with you about myself here. The reason being, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I do not sit here giving others advice on how to live their life. In fact, in coaching sessions, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Coaching is never about me giving advice. Coaching gives you a sacred space in which to explore your own mind on a deeper level, in a confidential space with someone who can skilfully ask questions that will foster your natural growth in a way that you could never have imagined. 

So, why am I writing a blog about what defines us? Because… I feel the need to share and help others. I feel empathy for others and I know what it feels like to have witnessed, been subjected to and felt a huge amount of pain and discomfort in life. But let me tell you, all of my pain was not felt in vain. Every situation and experience has taught me a new lesson. Every misfortune has given me insight into what we can easily take for granted. I didn’t always know that I was learning. But with hindsight, I can now see that every lesson was teaching me a skill that I can use in my life today.

I have had a fair share of rough life experiences:

  • growing up with unfortunate circumstances,
  • feeling lost and like I belonged nowhere,
  • Heartache in romantic relationships, and
  • having a daughter who suffers from a terrible debilitating condition.

The latter is the one I want to share a little more about, even though my earlier hardships are pretty heavy, the thing is I don’t carry the weight of them any more, I was incredibly lucky to learn the lessons they gave me many years ago, I believe they were all life lessons that prepared me for the biggest hardship of all. That one being watching my daughter regress, slowly loosing the skills she had learnt as a baby, to use her hands, the words she could speak, to feed herself & be able to reach out both physically & emotionally to get the help she needed. This is the hardship that will not go away. My heart is heavy many days as I watch her struggle to tell me what she needs, especially when the tears roll & her bottom lip quivers, because she can’t co-ordinate her motor movement’s to use her eye gaze, to navigate her system to find the words she wants to say. My daughter lives with a debilitating condition called Rett Syndrome. A genetic random mutation that occurs at conception. It tries to keep her locked in her body. It prevents her from living freely & being able to control her body. My daughter is now 7 years’ old.

Personally, I have had a huge awakening in the last few years, which was initiated by the diagnosis of my daughter living with this debilitating condition.

On the heels of the grief and shock, I was then hit with an array of personal conflicts with family and friends. The process of coping with these traumas resulted in a lot of needed reflection about how to change our life so we could cultivate a life that allowed us to flow with the new circumstances we faced.

If I could I would take away my daughter’s disability in a heartbeat. As a parent, I want to free her from the challenges and discomfort she faces every day. However, what I am incredibly grateful for is the much-needed reflection that helped us make changes that meant we could live a life that was true to us – a life filled with cultivating love, joy and acceptance, as well as finding the beauty in the simplest pleasures. I have learned how to ride the waves, rather than fight against the storms. This allows our life to flow beautifully. It has been a revelation for us. In fact, I would say, our new life is nothing short of a small miracle.

I can honestly say that all through my life I have had been blessed to have one thing to carry me through. Resilience. At the time I was experiencing all of this hardship, I didn’t really know what was carrying me through. I just used to be told I was strong, so I felt I must be.

Now I know what it is. I now know that through the hardships in life, often comes resilience. It’s from knowing what it is like to really feel loneliness, poverty, helplessness and uncertainty that I have gained the strength to overcome these sad situations. The strength I’ve gained through resilience has helped me cultivate a life that is meaningful and fulfilling, enriched with joy, gratitude, love and connection.

So, what defines us?

I believe we are defined by our hearts and minds. If we know what we value, if we know what our own belief’s are, we can learn to practice everyday to align our decision making with them.

We can take what life throws at us. We can live with it for a while. Then it’s up to us to use the experience in whichever way we choose. We can let it define us in a way that it shapes our behaviours and perspectives in a negative way. Or alternatively, we can use experiences to allow us to grow into humans that are well adjusted, real, compassionate, empathic and alive. I say ALIVE because I feel that it is tragic that humans are living, yet so many do not seem alive. Choose love and to live whole heartedly. Love is the greatest gift to own and to share.

Simply, the thing I am shall make me live. 

– William Shakespeare

If only everyone would believe that bad things do happen, which may cause some pain and discomfort, but through the pain, so much beauty evolves, then I believe our society would be much more resilient than it currently is.

However, hearts must be open to the growth, or our minds can’t be fixed. Growth takes time and happens in a fertile environment, when the conditions are right and the soul is enlightened. That is where the magic happens.

I would love to know your thoughts. What do you think defines us? What defines who you are today?

Be present, be heathy, be happy, be you.


  • Tania Massey


    What a thought provoking question Janie. I can honestly say I will give it some thought. As I really don’t think I know the answer. I totally agree that belongings don’t define us. Our experiences, how we deal with them and personal journeys and self development are really what define us. It’s not the car we drive, the house we live in, the holidays we go on or our salary. It’s how we grow and become the person we want to be that define us I think.
    I like to think that my hardships have made me stronger and my achievements have made me greatful. Really enjoying your blog and very proud of you and the the way in which you continue to grow and share.

    24th October 2017

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