I am Who I Choose to Be: Past, Present and Self-Definition


Our experiences impact how we became who we are, but our experiences do not define us. For example, I have children, but I am far more than a mother. I was abused, but I am far more than a victim or a survivor. I have had work published, but I am not only an author. In fact, I’m not even the same person I was when I wrote the published piece. Writing it changed me.

Instead, I am all of these at once, but I am also something else: I am who I choose to be.

Who I am is an active, conscious decision about how I interpret and embrace the various parts of myself both past and present, and how I offer them to the world. It is me asking myself what I want and what I am capable of as well as what I will give.

I could choose to see myself as a culmination of negatives, hardship and struggle. Yes, I have overcome and I am still overcoming. But there is more to me than what has hurt me. Staying locked in my history will not serve me now. It will cause regression and recurrent pain. I choose healing (and no, I can’t think myself healed). But I can write or employ other skills I know to help myself be healthy and safe with me.

My birthday was not long ago. I have been thinking about how far I’ve come in the last year and where I want to go. I have had a mixture of wonderful and painful experiences that have helped me identify my boundaries and needs. This has been challenging. I am looking forward to a fresh start. But there is no sense in waiting.

I am who I choose to be. And I choose to be a woman who knows and respects her own boundaries. I also choose to give back as much as I can while still remaining safe in myself. While this has to do with the steps I took to get here, it has as much to do with my next step forward, my next choice about who I am.

How do you choose to define yourself?

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

4 Discussion to this post

  1. Sarina says:

    This is indeed beautifully put. I’ve always felt there is much more to us than the labels the world holds us by and indeed the labels we hold ourselves by.
    Yes, I am a mother – but I’m also … and … and … and …
    Ultimately we are all human and therein lies an abundance for us to flourish and nourish our soul.

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  2. Rachel says:

    This is just beautiful :).

    My self-definition is somewhat fluid, as I think it needs to be. I am a woman, mother, wife, lover, writer, house keeper, financial planner, victim, survivor, and on and on. . . I think the pieces of my identity rise to the top as I need them.

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    • Shawna Ayoub Ainslie says:

      I love that visual of them rising to the top, Rachel. Especially the part about as you need them. I find that to be very true. And the way you put it is very peaceful.

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