Your identity doesn’t need to be in crisis
Welcome to your identity worksheet. Yes a worksheet. That means grab yourself a drink of choice and writing/typing implements. Now, read on...
Struggles with identity are more common than many think. Being unsure about your identify can come from childhood and be deeply rooted; however it can be a recent thing through a change of circumstances such as redundancy or retirement.
For example, a question of identity can crop up when a parent waves a child off to college or to their own house. Suddenly they are no longer Mum or Dad in terms of their daily role. Or maybe a person has always identified themselves as a nurse; then they retire. So who are they? What is their role in the world now?
As usual when I start considering things like this I do a web search for definitions. The Cambridge Dictionary online showed two that intrigued me and I think are worth unpacking a smidge so if you are struggling to understand who you are, the rest of this article may help.
- Who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others.
- The reputation, characteristics, etc. of a person or organisation that makes the public think about them in a particular way.
So let's consider these further together.
The word that jumps out for me in the first definition is ‘different’. The qualities of a person that makes them different from others.
Time for some homework…step 1
- What qualities do you have that make you different from others?
- What makes you unique?
- What qualities do you have that you are proud of?
- What qualities would you like to have?
Now for the second definition.
This one is coming from a different perspective and shouts to me about perception. This is saying that your identity is also defined by how others perceive you.
Homework step 2
- How do others perceive you?
- If others were to describe your identity to me what would they say?
- What would you like your reputation to be?
- What would you like people to say about you when you aren’t in the room?
- If you were to suddenly disappear, what would you like to be remembered for?
Answered all of those? If so, great. If not, maybe speak to a coach to help you pull your thoughts together.
Now, as you would expect, there’s a but here. A big but. I like big but's. 'Buts' require action. What is it? Well of course it’s ‘so what’. Knowing your qualities is interesting but not necessarily useful.
Homework step 3
Time for some thought organisation.
- Collate your answers to the five present focus questions.
- Collate your answers to the four future focus questions.
- Make a note of the differences between the two.
- Create a plan on how you are going to add these missing differences to your repertoire.
There are many ways to achieve that plan. Of course as a coach I'm going to suggest speaking to a coach. However there are other avenues. One useful way is to do some modelling (no catwalks or quick changes required). For each quality you’d like to add to, or more accurately, allow to shine from your identity, think of someone you know in life, or from the media, or even out of a book, who, in your opinion, exhibits that quality. How do they do it? What do they say and do? How do they act?
Now have a play. Say what they say. Act how they act. Copy their body language. How does that make you feel? Does it match with what you want?
Do this for each quality over a period of time and decide what works for you. Demonstrate the behaviours that portray the identity you want. That way we go full circle back to the second definition, that you are demonstrating characteristics, etc. of a person that makes the public think about you in a particular way.
If others think about you in a certain way. A certain way that supports your sense of identity. Then your sense of identity deepens.
As Aristotle (though there’s argument who came up with it) is attributed to say, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I’m going to tweak that.
We are what we repeatedly do. Identity, then, is not an act, but a habit.
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