“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” This quote is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw. There is little evidence that Shaw actually penned this phrase, but his character Eliza Doolittle, from the 1913 play “Pygmalion,” lends credence to the possibility. In the play, Eliza Doolittle posed as British elite once her cockney accent was erased through coaching even though her sensibilities and experiences didn’t match her new voice or self-presentation. The beloved academy award winning musical, “My Fair Lady” is based on Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” George Bernard Shaw’s writing, at face value, supports that our “lot” in life doesn’t have to be set by our circumstances. We can create who we want to be.
“Try some stuff” is almost always my advice when conversations with women about choices come up. I think these words resonate for most, no matter our age. Journeys are rarely straight lines. The stops and curves and “redos” are important. Even when we are firmly in adulthood we often find ourselves at crossroads where “finding ourselves” seems to be what is called for rather than seeing possibilities in various directions.
Women often get caught up in trying to make the right choice when all that is called for is a choice that might lead us somewhere amazing we never envisioned. I would posit that over focusing on finding ourselves might just clip our growing wings. Try things instead of being stuck looking for the “right” thing. Even when we make choices that don’t work out as we anticipated, we grow and thereby create ourselves in the process. Anyone with a little age on them can look back and see how diverse experiences added to who they’ve become. Some choices we make end up being regrettable, but even those have meaning and purpose.
Changing our mindset from “finding” to “creating” opens more opportunities to try and do. Creating is doing without the preconceived notion that our choices are either “right” or “wrong.” Our selves are not static. Who I was at twenty is a far cry from who I am in my fifties. Creating myself is an ongoing and dynamic process that gives me the opportunity to explore many pathways and make a myriad of choices along the way. Ultimately, maintaining the status quo is also a choice. Embracing the creation model at some point becomes inevitable. Naming and taking responsibility for creation is an empowering change in responsibility, attitude and focus.
I challenge us all to see possibilities and wholeheartedly make choices which enable us to move forward perceiving our lives as our very own unique creations. Don’t get stuck in mourning who you could have been or the barriers you faced that kept you from being who you “really are.” Look for spaces and see opportunities for creating yourself and your life every single day. That simple reframing makes room for us all, like Eliza Doolittle, to try out what is unfamiliar, see where it leads and build upon the artful creation of our lives. Life is full of twists and turns. Join me in embracing the twists, learning from the turns and creating our own authentic selves.
Jo DeLosSantos is a seeker, amateur gardener, people watcher, university professor and radical feminist.