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Leading up to our April course – ‘What makes me ME?’ – we’ll be featuring a series of blogs looking at ways that people define themselves. Today we focus on early experiences.

Sartre said, “Freedom is what we do with what is done to us”, which very well may be true, but without reflection on our experiences, without seeing the positives in the struggles we have faced, we are unable to truly achieve the freedom we desire.

Inspirational stories are everywhere, crowding our Twitter feeds and making sites like Upworthy some of the most linked-to on the internet. But while celebrating inspirational stories can lift our hearts or make us cry, they also serve to devalue our own personal stories. Just because you didn’t start a major education campaign that increased inner city literacy rates or you’ve never circumnavigated the world on a sailboat to raise money for HIV research doesn’t mean that your stories and experiences don’t have value and impact.

So set aside all those stories about people overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieving greatness and focus on yourself – what stories define YOU? Maybe you’re the oldest of six children. Maybe you broke your leg and had to miss six weeks of primary school. Maybe you fell too hard for your first boyfriend and he completely ripped your heart in two. And sure, you may be thinking, ‘Yeah, but everyone had a hard time with their first love,’ but that experience, the way you dealt with it and moved on from it, is one of the many things that has shaped who you are.

People often come on Eyes Wide Opened courses and, when we ask them about their experiences, suggest that their lives have been pretty unremarkable. But with a little probing, they realise so much of who they are is defined by the things in their life they have been shrugging off. Sure, you may not think it’s that noteworthy that you were raised by a single working mum or that you were a youth national diving champion, but these are experiences that have doubtlessly impacted your beliefs, values, and the way you live your life.

When you start to frame your experiences – all your experiences – in light of how they define you, you gain clarity about what you stand for and what you want. And if you know what you want, it makes it a lot easier to take the next steps in your career journey.

Still not sure how your experiences play into the bigger picture of who you are? Come on our course and find out!

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