Who Am I?: Elizabeth Hall
WHO AM I?
“Who are you?” My colleague jokingly asked, mocking the cheesy, “getting to know you” introductions we were about to be making at a work meeting in a matter of minutes. I laughed until he asked again, this time more seriously, “but no really, who are you?” My sincere chuckle seconds earlier shifted to nervous laughter and thankfully, our manager saved me by starting the meeting.
Who am I? Let’s start with the basics. My name is Elizabeth Hall and I’m a former collegiate swimmer. After that, it sometimes gets a little fuzzy. Like with my coworker’s question, I tend to draw a blank in situations that ask me to share who I am in the length of a tweet. Sure, I have interests, I have personality traits that I identify with, but what am I truly passionate about and who am I beyond a sport that was such a huge part of my life for so many years? Well, let me start with who I’m NOT. I’m not my job, I’m not my relationship status, and I’m not my body.
I’M NOT MY JOB
Not defining myself by my job can be difficult, given I work in Washington, D.C. where nearly everyone’s go-to conversation starter is “so, what do you do?” “Like for work?” is my usual reply. It throws people off. They look confused like they’re thinking “duh, what else would I mean?” as if it’s inconceivable that I could possibly “do” anything besides work. Do the people asking this question even really care about my objectively boring corporate job, or are they just trying to make small talk? More than likely, the latter.
When you’re in college, you’re lucky if you have a vision of what your career will look like. You’re luckier if you land your dream job right out of undergrad. Even if you’re one of those few people working where you always imagined at 22-years-old, you may find that yourself on a completely different path just a couple years later, and that’s totally fine!
I’ve been guilty of getting sucked into this idea that my job must be something I’m undyingly passionate about. I used to believe I was failing professionally because I wasn’t one of those “I love what I do so much I don’t feel like I’ve actually worked a day of my life” people. In fact, I was in quite the opposite position just a couple years ago. Like most people in their early-to-mid 20s, I was overworked, underpaid, felt I had to be on the clock 24/7, and unsurprisingly, I was chronically stressed out and depressed. Fast-forward to now and I can’t tell you that I live and breathe to manage a software product that supports employee surveys, but I can tell you this—I love the people I spend 40 hours a week with. I’m happy that I only work 40 hours a week and never more. I’m relieved that I can comfortably afford the life I want to live. So my advice is to let go of the idea that you must have a dream job you’re super passionate about in your 20s, or even at any point in your life. If you are madly in love with your job, that’s wonderful, however, if you’re not, don’t fret. Remember that your job is not who you are. You shouldn’t be living to work. Instead, you should be working to afford to live a life that makes you happy!
I’M NOT MY RELATIONSHIP STATUS
It’s amazing how all through life there are different phases I went through where everything was fine until it wasn’t. For instance, in high school, I heard “don’t worry about college yet” then all of a sudden, the narrative shifted to “you haven’t registered for your SATs or visited any campuses yet?!” Similarly, once I was in college, I was advised to go in open-minded and to not stress about what I’ll study then out of the blue I was forced to declare my major before the semester ended. How is this relevant to my relationship status, you ask? Well, I’ve found that similar paradoxes exist even now that my student days are over. Take dating, for instance. For women, there’s this fine, almost invisible, line between being criticized for settling into a relationship when you’re “too young” and conversely, being judged for being “too old” to be single. So what if I had a high school sweetheart and married him right after college graduation? So what if I’m still single once I’m in my 30s? Where and when I fall in love with someone who loves me unconditionally does not dictate my worth or what I have to offer this world.
Remember, there is absolutely no shame in being single, so if you don’t have a romantic partner, there is nothing inherently “wrong” with you. Take it from me—I’ve found more love, consistency, and emotional support through my relationships with my friends and family than I have from any boyfriend. Having a romantic partner is a lifestyle choice that doesn’t make anyone any better or any worse than anyone else. Getting married is not a measure of success. Even if you have a significant other, you are still your own person and SHOULD NOT define yourself by someone’s romantic love for you.
I’M NOT MY BODY
Lastly, let me finish with what has probably been the hardest for me—I’m not my body. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a nearly 27-year-old woman who has been out of competitive swimming for five years does not have the same body as a teenaged girl who trains every day. It seems so obvious, but until last year, I thought I had failed myself and could not accept the fact that my body has changed. Bodies are meant evolve as we go through life, and that change can be even more exaggerated for former collegiate athletes. The best thing I did for my peace of mind was to stop trying to resist this change. Let me boil this down to a few key takeaways so you don’t have to go through years of hating your changing body like I did!
- If you’re hungry, eat. And while a nutritious diet is important, don’t restrict yourself just to healthy foods. If you’re anything like me, if you tell yourself you can’t eat junk food, a few weeks later you’re binging on everything you’ve deprived yourself of, and at best, completely undoing any weight loss. Don’t try to fight your changing body by forcing yourself into a restrictive diet. It’s better to eat what you crave in moderation than to try your luck with an extreme diet and inevitably fail. Pause for a minute and assess your eating habits. Can you envision yourself eating the way you are RIGHT NOW 6 months from now? 1 year from now? 2+ years from now?? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate! Our bodies are smart and know where they’re supposed to be. If you’re on a diet you can’t maintain long-term, you will eventually “fall off the wagon” and gain the weight back. But what if there was no wagon to fall off? Rather than yo-yo dieting, just listen to your body and let it be where it wants to be!
- If your Body Mass Index (BMI) says you’re overweight, you’re probably still healthy. BMI is a painfully oversimplified way of measuring health. It only takes two points into consideration—your height, and your weight. Even retired athletes, like myself, typically still live active lifestyles and have strong muscles and bones from years of training. As a result, athletes can easily weigh more than someone at the same height who never exercises. My BMI tells me I’m overweight, and therefore at risk for heart disease, diabetes, etc. This same scale tells me I can lose 50 POUNDS (!!!) and still be within a “normal” or “healthy” weight range. Now I’m no Victoria’s Secret model, but 50 pounds?! I wouldn’t look any better, feel any better, or be any healthier if I lost that much weight. Ironically, my health would be worse. I would have to stop exercising to lose all my muscle and bone mass and I would have to restrict my diet so much that I would be depriving myself of critical nutrients. By the BMI scale, however, if I dropped this much weight, I would be “healthier” and more “normal” than I am in the “overweight” and “unhealthy” body I have now. Don’t get it twisted, BMI alone is NOT an accurate indicator of health.
- If you’re tired, rest. Now this can be a hard one, especially if you were an athlete in college. We’re used to pushing through the soreness and exhaustion every day for months and even years at a time. Have you ever been so busy or so stressed that you become physically ill? That’s our body’s way of saying, “I’m trying to tell you to rest but you’re not listening to me, so I’m going to make you sick to force you to take a step back.” Don’t get to this point! Sometimes an extra hour of sleep is what your body needs more than an extra hour of exercise.
- If you’re comparing your body to someone else’s, stop. If you played sports in college, think back to your teammates. You trained together, you ate together, you hung out together, you may have even had classes together. Point being, you effectively all lived the same lifestyle, but I’m willing to bet all of you had very different bodies, am I right? Exactly! So don’t copy someone else’s lifestyle assuming you’ll get the same physical results—it won’t happen!
I am not my body. What does this mean? It means that I love my body not because of what it looks like, but because of what it allows me to do! My body gives me a way to laugh with my incredible friends, hug my amazing family, shake the hand of new acquaintance, pet my perfect Labrador, and travel the world!
WHO AM I?
So now that I’ve talked about who I’m not, that begs the question, who am I? I’m not my job, my relationship status, or my body because at 26-years-old, all these things are bound to change. I’m a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, and a friend. I’m my intuition and my perceptiveness. I’m my curiosity of understanding people and the world around me. I’m my ability to connect with others through my kindness, my sense of humor, and my aptitude to observe and remember the details about the people I meet. I’m a product of my experiences and I’m always evolving. I’m Elizabeth Hall and I’m a former collegiate swimmer. I don’t know exactly who I am yet, and that’s ok.
If you liked this post, follow me on IG @emhall01 for my #selflovesunday series or if you’d just like to laugh with me as I try to navigate my day-to-day life!
Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn here.