— Life —

Who are You, Really?

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It’s the end of summer, and I’m in the grips of a dark cloud. I repeatedly awaken to a fog that infiltrates my brain and a darkness that descends upon my heart. The depression that I thought long-gone has returned like an unwanted guest; one that I know will leave eventually, but for how long it will linger, I’m never quite sure.


I no longer had a fancy title and a consistent income. Instead I was working for myself, still trying to navigate the tricky path so many of us experience when making a major life change: Defining my new identity.

It led me to question the titles that are bestowed on us in life, even if we are willing participants in the associated roles we play; wives, mothers, in our careers and more. Titles tell so little of the living, breathing woman we really are, and I am so much more than an empty shell with a bunch of labels attached to me. But at the end of that dark summer, I couldn’t quite see this; my worth still too attached to the title of my job; too tightly bound to money and status.

Certainly, titles help other people to identify with us, and we’ve all been asked, “What do you do?”. I’m not making a case for removing them, but rather to look beyond what we do to who we are.

I started to explore this myself by taking a sheet of paper and writing down all of my roles and the words, thoughts and feelings I had about each of them. For example, I stopped thinking about my responsibilities as a wife or a daughter and thought about how demonstrating love is vital to those relationships and what that really meant instead. I began to see that what my friends value me for isn’t my cooking skills, but my desire to create community; to show them through food that I am warm, welcoming and engaged in their lives. When it came to work, I started to realize that the job title no longer mattered. These days when I’m asked what I do, I prefer to use descriptive words and say that I work with women to help them live the most joyful lives they can.

As a result of this exercise, I have a much richer understanding of myself. I believe love, warmth, inspiration and joy aren’t just words. They’re pieces of me. We are far more than a title or a standard description for a role. We’re what we love and our values and the things we truly believe in, and for each of us that looks quite different, even if our titles are exactly the same.


  • Jennifer Connolly July 2, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I’ve struggled wth “the black dog” myself. Self love is truly the answer!

    • Esther Zimmer July 6, 2015 at 1:13 pm


      Thank you for commenting…I think so many of us do and for all kinds of reasons and yet depression still seems to be a taboo subject to talk about. I think in part because so few people know how to respond, yet mental health is so important. xx

      PS Apologies for the delayed response, I’ve been away with (unexpectedly) any Internet access so I’m just catching up today!

  • 1010 Park Place July 2, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Esther, I think lots of women can identify with depression. I was never depressed about anything until after James died. For a long time, it was paralyzing. You’ve done a brave thing by being transparent about your depression. It makes the rest of us feel like we’re not alone.

    • Esther Zimmer July 6, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Brenda…thank you for giving me such a wonderful platform to share these thoughts and experiences. I am so honoured to be here and I’m so grateful to you, especially when you are so much braver and lead by example with the words that you share! xx

  • Susan Bonifant July 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Esther, I think it’s amazing and unfortunate and true that we know ourselves better and have more to give and love more fully usually after some major shake up. You’ve done a nice job of describing it, ugly as those times are.

    • Esther Zimmer July 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I agree, sometimes it takes a shake up to get us to where we are really meant to be! I think we spend so much of our life trying to avoid hard things though that sometimes we don’t get shaken up much at all so we don’t get to know ourselves either. I don’t wish hard times on anyone but I do think that we need to be open to being challenged at times, even if we’re doing something we love. But that’s possibly a whole other blog post! xx

      PS Apologies for the delayed response, I’ve been away with (unexpectedly) any Internet access so I’m just catching up today!

  • Kathy @ SMART LIving 365.com July 2, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Esther. I agree that we are all so much more than mere “titles” can convey and actually coming up with a way to describe yourself that touches on what matters to you is a lovely way to go. And I also agree that anytime we are brave enough to let go of our past titles and reach forward to embrace something new there always seems to be a transition time–which can certainly include depression. I don’t think we can fully understand how changing our identity in that way can challenge our thinking and our sense of self so it really is a natural thing. Good for you for coming through it so well and finding your way. ~Kathy

    • Esther Zimmer July 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Hi Kathy,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and kind comment. I wish more people would talk about this transition time, I was prepared for so many things but less so for this loss of identity, at the time I was so excited to be starting something new and to end up feeling so dislocated later on was something of a shock! Books on business and entrepreneurship cover so much, but I’ve never seen this mentioned and yet, in being open to talking about it I have found that I am definitely not alone. I think it is true for anyone starting something new, not just a business, and perhaps the reason why people give up on their dreams so soon. xx

      PS Apologies for the delayed response, I’ve been away with (unexpectedly) any Internet access so I’m just catching up today!

  • Ice scream mama July 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    it was hard for me losing a ‘legitimate’ title and then accepting being someone considered a ‘homemaker’. i still can’t. but it’s true, titles mean nothing, it’s all about being satisfied with who you are and how you are living your life.

    • Esther Zimmer July 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      Yes, so many of my friends who have left careers to be mothers tell me they feel the same. It’s such a shame too when being a homemaker is such an important role! I couldn’t agree more that it’s all about being satisfied with who you are and how you are living your life. Thank you for commenting! xx

      PS Apologies for the delayed response, I’ve been away with (unexpectedly) any Internet access so I’m just catching up today!

  • Liz July 20, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing so eloquently! I have weathered many transitions, the latest being one of the more challenging, but the “What do you do?” has always infuriated me! In some of the places I have lived, asking someone you are meeting socially what they do is considered the height of crassness. (Is that even really a word?) I generally answer with “Do? Probably most of the same things you do, eat too much, sleep not enough, play, and love my family… But enough about me, what is the best book you’ve read recently?” It sets us up for a discussion that might let us get to know the other, rather than boxing us in.

    • Esther Zimmer July 23, 2015 at 6:07 am

      Hi Liz and thank you so much for your comment! I love your response to the “What do you do?” question, and how you turn it into a more interesting one of your own. I’m going to use your tactic from now on, if you don’t mind?! Best wishes to you and I hope that you’ve come out the other side of your recent, challenging transition feeling positive and raring to go! xx

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