Identity – Who are you really?
Who am I? Where does my journey lead? What do I want to achieve? Those are the Questions we have to ask ourselves, if we want to be more than mindless robots who only live and work in the way others want us to. Our Identity, the combination of aspects that build our inner and outer self, is often hidden from our eyes. Often the only way to see more clearly who you are is to reflect upon yourself; to look back into the past and to figure out which identities you adopted over the years. When you see who you have been and how you arrived at those identities it will give you a clue about how to adopt another identity in the future.
I was talking to a friend the other day when it hit us that for many years our identity had mostly been “I am the guy who is overweight and tries to get thinner”. A huge amount of our energy and thoughts were circling around this statement, but at the time we didn’t realize how big this part of our identity really was. When my friend reached his goal and was no longer overweight this part of his identity had suddenly disappeared and it was quite a shock for him to see that there was now a big hole in his life he needed to fill. For him the logical step was to assume the identity of the athlete completely, which he had started to build on his way to a healthier body. So now his identity was “I am the guy who breaks weightlifting records”. Luckily he found a deeper sense in life and a richer identity along the way before he broke more than weightlifting records. There were times when what he did wasn’t healthy anymore.
For me it took a lot longer to shed this identity and even when I finally did, I didn’t realize that it had actually been the center of my life for years. Naturally I had viewed it as one of my, maybe even as the biggest, weakness I had and was battling it constantly. My bigger weaknesses like self-hatred and anger, stemming from years of bullying, remained hidden from me because my weight was constantly on my mind. Only when I diverted my focus to worthier goals was I able to see my battle against obesity for what it truly was – a proxy war that would never allow me to fight the real enemies. After I had gained this clarity it was possible to rethink and to start reinventing my identity. At this point I started to analyze my life more closely and to identify the different identities I had adopted over the years. All the changes I identified where necessary to form the person I am today and I have to keep them in mind when I continue my way on the path to the good, fulfilling life I want to live.
The moment when I realized that I had shed off the limiting, sometimes crippling identities from my past and had before me a relatively clean slate to start anew was frightening. I realized that what I had thought of as my identity actually wasn’t and now I felt as if I had no idea, who I really was. In the following months I tried to explore those aspects of myself deeper which seemed to be the most promising for composing a new identity. I read lots of books and blogs and I talked with a lot of people about the ways we can lead our lives and why they chose theirs. In this time I opened my mind to so many wonderful and uplifting thoughts with a lot of potential for future growth, that it felt exhilarating. For weeks I felt how a monk might feel when he is close to enlightenment. I had in my heart a fundamental stillness and inner peace I had never felt before. And all that even though, or maybe because, I abstained from drugs completely; no alcohol, no caffeine and only low amounts of sugar.
As with everything, at some point the ecstasy faded. Now I had to choose, out of an enormous pile of opportunities, which ones to pursue and implement into my images of myself and the world as a whole. This isn’t something you do from one day to the next. For more than a year I used my time beside work and social events to test out different ways and strategies. Most of these ways I first traveled in my imagination alone. The central questions always were: “If I adopted a specific Identity or Mindset: Who would I become, who would I be at the end of the line? Would that life have been a good one, the inherent goals worthy of pursuit?”
The question what a good life actually is, lies completely inside the eye of the beholder and thus will surely change again in the days to come. Nothing is forever; everything is in flux, pursuing balance. We have the power to choose the tools we want to use to carve out our identity and the path of life we want to follow. Luckily many people have walked this earth before us and even though they didn’t walk our exact way, they left us instructions how to avoid most of the pitfalls and how to prepare for the difficult stretches.