I remember a client working in sales saying to me, ‘But I’m not a sales person.’ Imagine the affect of not identifying with what you are trying to accomplish? Another example, someone attempting to quit smoking while saying, ‘But deep down inside I’m really a smoker.’ Identity can undermine or strength goals and that’s why there’s real value in taking the time to know who you are…or who you think you are. In other words, what is the story you tell yourself about who you really are?
The challenge is that day-to-day, noticing our identity is like a fish noticing water. It’s something we are generally unconscious about. Yet, we have a sense of identity about all areas: career, relationships, the region we live in, habits and patterns, and of course, our personal self-image.
Some aspects of identity are determined by our personality, which psychologists know is in large part fixed when we are born. Other facets of identity come about as we are raised, through our relationships, and environments. There are areas of identity that we can change and there are areas we cannot. Those malleable areas can use a spring-cleaning now and again, because inevitably there are some inaccuracies within our sense of identity. This is something I work with clients around. In part, it involves looking through our beliefs about ourselves, observing the commentary running through our minds as we go about our day, and making sure these are up to date, aligned with our values, and feel authentic.
It is worth saying that if you are in a delicate emotional space or feeling tender…this is not the time to work on identity. We do this work when we feel strong or at least like we have some ground underneath us. Be good to yourself when you are doing self exploration work. If you are beating yourself up…you’ve gone off track.
A short version of this can be explored by answering the following questions for yourself. You can answer them in general and you can also apply them to a goal or a change you are attempting to make. Take out a piece of paper and begin with this simple question: Who are you? When you come up with an answer, write it down, and ask yourself again, Who are you? You can do this for quite a while seeing what comes up. Continue on with the following: What sort of person are you? What do your life aims say about who you are? What do your choices in day-to-day life say about who you are? What does your lifestyle tell others about who you are? Spend as much time on this as you desire. Who are you really? Does your life reflect this?
Think of the successful people you know. Is there any question about how they identify in the world? Do you wonder who they are? No, you know…it’s written all over them. The point is not to force ourselves into an identity. First and foremost we have to hone into our values, goals, and desires. If this sounds daunting, it’s time to get a coach who can make the process fun. Discovering all of who you really are is truly the adventure of a lifetime. You have to bring in your thinking mind but also your creative self, your body, and your heart too. Then, with these ideas in place you can work on actively developing an authentic sense of identity. One that roots you in what you want to be moving towards. An identity that matches who you are in the world, what you do, and what you deliver.