A strong sense of self is the foundation of confidence and self-empowerment. Confidence and self-empowerment is a pillar of fulfilment and success. So basically, when we we have a deep connection and understanding of who we are we feel fulfilled.
In a world full of distractions, unrealistic expectations, ridiculous standards, impractical cultural narratives, and unobtainable, idealized perfectionism, a lot of us may have gotten off track.
We may have lost sign of, or we may question who we are.
Some of us may be too busy to even think of asking the question. That is, until we need an “Eat, Pray Love” year or buy an extravagant item hoping to find fulfillment. Mid-life crisis, anyone?
But if we want to have strong connections, mental and emotional well-being, and success in our personal and professional lives, we need to figure out who we are beyond the materialism and facades society has taught us to hide behind.
Personally, I believe we all want to find a deeper connection within, but we don’t know where to begin.
My friends, it all begins with identity.
What’s in an Identity
Your personal identity is a combination of personality traits, values, perspectives, beliefs, hopes, dreams and other qualities and identifiers that make you, you.
When you confidently identify, you are in control. However, it does not mean other people are going to respect that identity. And when others do not respect your identity or if they treat you poorly because of something you identify as it can bring emotional stress and self-loathing.
That is of course, unless you gain confidence and own your identity!
Types of Identities
Our first identities are our name, our gender, skin color, nationality, country of origin, height, weight, eye and hair color.
Then we continue to pick up identities through the course of our lives.
When we are children, we are a son or daughter. Then if we have children, we add the identity of mommy or daddy.
At work we may be the boss in one situation and the employee in another.
At the doctor’s we are the patient, at home we could be the IT tech support for our family.
To your grandchild you could be the excellent grilled cheese maker. To the internet stranger you disagreed with on social media you could be the “dumbest f*cking person they’ve ever met.”
To your dog you could be the best hooman in the world. To your cat, you could be their butler and server…
I assume you get the point.
The list goes on, and our identities evolve and change throughout our lives.
For instance, you could identify by food (vegetarian, vegan), types of jobs, age, relationship status. Or the strength of a friendship might evolve or devolve over the course of time.
Every person you’ve met has a different idea of who you are. They see bits and pieces of the full picture of you. They also filtered their version of you through their unique perspective.
If someone is thinking with a cognitive distortion or limiting beliefs, then they could think you are “just like every other woman” or “just like every other boy”.
The interesting thing here is that when we own our identity and get in touch with who we are, then we will attract people who will appreciate us for who we are.
Related podcast: Ep26: Acceptance, Empowerment & Body Positivity
Why a Strong Sense of Self is Imperative
“Nah, that’s just not me.”
Rejecting the thoughts and suggestions of others is going to empower you and encourage you to live more authentically.
When you have a strong sense of self you will act towards your goals, you will be better able to set up boundaries and you will find stronger connections.
You won’t be codependent and with your independence you will have the bandwidth and energy to get unstuck and find fulfillment.
People with a strong sense of self are less likely to succumb to peer pressure and they will have the tenacity and internal motivation to go for what they want—even if what they want is to relax and binge watch Netflix.
If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t good enough, then you have likely been subjected to limiting beliefs about who you are from your environment—welcome to the club.
From there you will have life-changing, self-love and mental & emotional well-being. All of this will act collectively to encourage success in your personal and professional life.
Not to mention that people are going to define you your entire life. Without a clear sense of self, you may believe other people if they try to put you down or hold you to low standards. If you aren’t careful, someone’s limiting beliefs, or generalizations may define you.
But when you have a solid sense of self, if someone tries to put you down, or make you out to be someone you’re not, you can literally say, “nah, that’s not me.”
Why We Should Focus on the Whole
It’s important for us to have a good grasp of our identity and how we fit into the current cultural narrative. This will help us navigate the world and find our place in it. It also helps us to have pride in who we are and to continue to create change for the generations after us.
However, it is imperative for us not to lose sight of our “Being”, who we are as a whole underneath the labels and identities.
Our “Being” is greater than identity. So while a focus on identity can help us get a clearer understanding of who we are we need to be in touch with who we are as an entire “Being” and not define ourselves by 1 or 2 identities.
For instance, with the fat acceptance movement. I’m all for it. No one should be treated like less than because of their weight. Remember, your weight is not your worth.
However, if someone identifies as “fat” and says “fat is beautiful.” Then they suggest that their beauty depends on them being “fat”.
Those who define themselves by their relationship status are in for a tough ride!
Now their weight has gone from being an aspect of their physical appearance to being a pillar of their identity, self-value and worth.
This will keep them stuck.
Similarly, those who are hyper-focused on their sexuality. It is understandable that after years of repression and being treated poorly due to who you love, some people are very proud of their sexuality. They flaunt it. I get it.
However, it should not be a key factor of their identity. Because they are not just a sexual creature. They are a complex individual with more to offer the world than their body for physical pleasure.
When I was a workaholic and used work as an escape, I defined myself by my job. Thankfully, I got out of that dangerous habit before they sold the company and had lay offs.
Had I not, I would have seen myself as an unemployed person with no identity instead of a diligent employee who will find something better!
How To Own Your Identity
If you’ve ever saw Runaway Bride you would recall when Maggie made different types of eggs to find out what she actually liked. Before Ike came into the picture and called her out on her codependency, she was eating whatever eggs her boyfriend at the time liked.
She also would fish with the fisherman, watch football with the football coach, and play in a band with the punk rocker. Of course there is nothing wrong with trying out things your friends like. However, in Maggie’s case she did not know her identity, and she molded herself to others.
Be like Maggie, make different types of eggs and choose which ones you like. I don’t necessarily mean eggs, it could be TV shows, music, books, activities.
One year I took a bunch of classes with groupons. I loved the modern dance class and I HATED pole dancing (they share poles with strangers—yuck!). Live and learn.
So while you try out different things you can also take down a mental list of how you identify as now:
- Are you a morning or a night person?
- Do you like coffee, tea, or both?
- How do you feel about abortion and pre-marital sex?
- Would you go to Mars if you had a chance?
- What are three words that you would use to describe you?
- How would other people describe you?
- What is your love language?
- Do you want to try a new hobby?
- Do you really like gossiping with your friends?
From there you want to take your list and consider who you are as a “Being”, as a whole. While you may be a mom in one area of life and a boss in another and a spouse in another, collectively you could be a kind person.
Are you empathetic? Sensitive? An advocate, or a mentor, or both?
Tests like the Meyers Briggs tests can give us a good direction but of course should be taken with a grain of salt.
A note from Lyndsey:
If self-development was easy everyone would do it. There are a lot of ups and downs and when you consider your identity you may find things out about yourself that you don’t like.
The great news is that you can work on improving your habits and thought patterns. If you didn’t know them you would continue to do them.
Start by understanding how you identify and then make a plan from there.
Congratulate yourself for showing up. Sometimes it can be the most difficult step.
Remember progress, not perfection.
Questions? Contact me here.
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN