I’ve talked before about the fact I sometimes have a million browser screens open on my phone at any one time as I click on Facebook links to read articles of interest. If they require further pondering they’ll usually remain open for days. Or weeks… as I try to wrap my mind around concepts or understand my own weird and random reactions.
Interestingly I read two such articles on the weekend. Well, they were about the same thing. One (via Tiny Buddha) was a lighter take on the subject… of changing our identity – the author talking about going from the workplace to become a wife / partner, to mother and potentially an empty-nester – and so forth. The other (via No Sidebar), was the one that caught my attention and more about the fact we often ‘need’ to shed old identities in order to move forward with our lives.
It was this quote that caught my attention.
And I realised, like author (Britt) I’ve occasionally held on tightly to past identities.
Unlike many who find their identities tied up with – for example – being a mother / father / grandparent or wife etc… mine have always been about my work and I’ve written about this before.
And like Britt, I’ve had A LOT of work identities… from child protection worker, international development worker to project manager to diplomat and so forth…
I’ve assumed my identity has been too much about my professions because of my lack of life outside of work, but it occurs to me that it’s also because I don’t have a clear picture of ‘who’ I am…. possibly being stuck in the past, or awaiting the future.
For a long time I grieved the young person I was (but briefly) – the slim 15-19yr old one that people found attractive, did well at sport and seemed to have potential.
For the next 20-30 years I felt I’d let that girl down. That was the ‘me’ I was supposed to be and the ‘me’ I was instead wasn’t ‘right’. I wasn’t accepting the person I’d become… not living in the ‘now’, rather I was living in the past (grieving the me I once was) and the future (waiting to become someone more worthy).
Britt (in the article) notes that more often than not we (our values / principles / personalities) don’t really change. Only the exterior changes; the ‘us’ that everyone else sees. Or the us we think they see.
And yes, I realise I too have spent years cultivating a certain image and how I want to be perceived and letting go of that can be hard. It’s not just a piece of my/our history but it feels like it’s a piece of who we believe ourselves to be. And yet… the thing I also connected with in the article was the fact that sometimes the stress and anxiety experienced in trying to hold onto something or someone we aren’t is harder than letting it go.
I’ve changed a lot…. and I mean A LOT over the past few years. But in many ways I’m still clinging onto the person I’ve always seen myself to be – or (more importantly, perhaps) think others expect me to be. I’ve not given myself the space to become (or ‘be’) who I am now.
And that needs to change.
Do you define yourself by roles in your personal or professional life? Do you have a clear picture of who you are or want to be; or perhaps cling onto past identities?
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