Have you ever had the experience, when you are asked to introduce yourself and you stumble, unsure of what to say after saying your name and where you are from? Or worse, you are introduced by the host, and you wonder, “Is that who I am in other people’s eyes?”
In different social occasions, we are introduced in different ways. Most of the time, it is some kind of label, like which school you graduated from, which company you work for, your job title, or your most notable achievement. Though that’s much better than simply describing you by your appearance or your wealth, you sometimes probably still subconsciously think, “That’s not who I am.”
Not surprisingly, I’m often introduced as the first Chinese woman or the first Asian American who climbed Seven Summits and skied to both the North and the South poles. Almost every time, I can immediately sense that people visualize me as standing high up on a stool, expecting me to be perfect, or have super human capabilities. No matter if it’s sports-related activities or working on a professional or community project, people often say to me, “This must be too easy for you.” Just as Asians are expected to be good at math, I am expected to be a fast runner, speed hiker, and one who can achieve any goal. I appreciate their high expectations, especially when achieving goals, but I never felt I am who I am just because I climbed some mountains.
People know I have climbed Mount Everest, but not many know that I was the slowest and the weakest one on my team. I didn’t grow up an athletic kid, but a book nerd. Since I set my dream to climb Everest in 2004, I trained hard and improved a lot, but I was still nowhere near the level of a professional athlete.
On Everest, I was the least likely person anyone expected to succeed. In fact, all of the Sherpas, the Nepalese mountain guides, secretly betted that I would be the first one to quit. Halfway through the two-month expedition, I fell sick, making my chances of succeeding even slimmer.
For me, the significance of climbing Mount Everest, lies not in the height or the fame of this mountain, but in how I persevered against all odds on this journey. I’m proud that I didn’t give up despite setback after setback; I’m proud that I kept a high spirit and didn’t let others’ low expectations put me down; I’m proud that I endured suffering with a positive attitude. It doesn’t matter which mountain I climbed, summit or not, I am proud of how I persevered when faced with obstacles.
It’s not the event or achievement that defines who we are, but who we are determines what we do during those events. What determines the outcome is not whether you are good or bad at it, but how you handle it when the going gets tough.
Though what you did creates a label in other people’s eyes, the spectator is not who you answer to ultimately. No matter success or failure, people will cast different judgment on you, but that does not change who you are. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone else but to yourself. You are the only one in this world whom you have to answer to in the end. No one may be there to witness what you are doing, but you will! You are the only one who lives with everything you did in your life.
The event, or what other people see, does not define who you are. Rather, how you did it identifies yourself and shows who you are. There might be a discrepancy between who you are in other’s eyes and in your own mind, but don’t be fooled by how other people compliment or criticize you. They may lift you up or put you down, but that can’t change who you are inside! You are the only one who ultimately defines who you are by how you do everything you do.