“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who should be?”- Danielle LaPorte
I have been thinking about identity, how it changes, evolves and matures. Identity is defined as a collection of attributes, values and qualities. These define how we see ourselves, the roles we have and how we think others perceive us. Identity is formed from infancy, the labels others put on us, and the labels we put on ourselves.
How do you ‘lose’ your identity?
Losing your identity, your sense of who you are, can happen suddenly following a life changing event, or be a process over months or years. It can happen, from changes such as losing a job, an illness, bereavement or becoming a mother.
What can happen, if you lose your sense of self?
Loss of identity can lead to anxiety, depression, loss of self-confidence and loneliness. When this happens, we may seek approval from others. As a result, our sense of who we are is dependent on external factors such as our appearance, our status and how much money we have. We may believe this will give others a better idea of who we are.
Yet we worry about being judged, how others view us, and may ask ourselves; ‘am I good enough?‘. We are consumed by images on TV, in magazines and on social media, all telling us who we are, what we should do, how to be a better employee, partner and mother. We compare ourselves to others and put on a mask to show our best-self.
What can you do, if you feel ‘lost’?
- Reach out to friend: Sometimes we may not realise that others are feeling the same way. By opening up and telling someone you trust how you feel, can hep you to clarify your thoughts, feel better and may lead to a conversation of shared experiences.
- Do what you love: Take ten minutes, sit down with a pen and paper and write down any interests you have, or if this is difficult write down any past interests you had. Ask yourself ‘would you like to do something that involves this interest?‘ or ‘would you like to learn a new skill?’. If you answered yes, allocate time and allow yourself to do something that you love.
- Surround yourself with positive people: The people we surround ourselves with, have a huge impact on how we see ourselves, our views on who we are and on our confidence. By joining a group or starting an activity in your local community can give you the opportunity to find like-minded people.
- Sign off from social media: If you find social media is having a negative effect on how you feel about yourself, you can sign off. We can become consumed by how many ‘likes’ we get, comparing ourselves to others and hiding behind a ‘profile’ showing everyone how happy we are. This can all lead to negative thoughts and negative self-talk.
- Be gentle on yourself: Remind yourself daily that ‘You are good enough’ and ‘You are doing the best you can’. We live in a society that focuses on beauty, status and being able to cope. There are times in our lives when it is difficult to cope, to carry on. It is okay to feel like this. We are all human, with emotions and experiences that have shaped us into who we are.
Rediscovering your identity
Your emotional well-being depends on how you feel about yourself. Being aware that you have ‘lost’ your sense of who you are, is the first step in finding it again. Counselling can help you explore who you are and define the ‘real’ you, so you no longer need to rely on reassurance from others. You will be able to value yourself from within and focus on your self development.
Take care, Sarah