“I’m not the sort of person who…”
Fill in the blank.
“…is good at maths.”
“…is comfortable with public speaking.”
“…is into exercise.”
As adults, who we are can sometimes feel set in stone and too established to change. We have made a decision about who we are – and who we are not – and we live our lives within that decision, avoiding the things we’ve decided we’re no good at, or don’t enjoy, and keeping a closed mind to new possibilities.
I want to talk about identity, and how – if you so choose – you can change your identity and pivot into new areas which interest you.
You aren’t hostage to the person you were at school, hating cross country and being sullen.
You no longer have to be the unhappy shell you were while you were while with your ex.
You don’t have to be the person other people think you are. You don’t have to do any of these things if you don’t want to.
Before I was self employed, I was a psychology lecturer for 12 years. For loads of that time, I was really overweight. I was outspoken and dismissive about how “running and jumping” were for people who couldn’t amuse themselves with a good book, and I felt really connected to the identity of being someone who values intellectual pursuits over physical ones.
When I started going to the gym, I didn’t tell anyone about it because it didn’t fit with the way I had presented my values. This created stress and internal conflict because I had this wonderful thing I was part of and I couldn’t tell people about – it was changing my idea of who I was. The more I came to value training and the benefits I was getting, the more it threatened my identity of the cerebral psychologist – someone living so much in their own head, that they even taught you about yours!
It wasn’t until I left teaching and chased after this full time that I realised that identity that you create for yourself is something that you can change whenever you want to.
You are not your job title, or the role in your family, or other label, and that’s absolutely fine.
Good. Awesome, in fact.
It frees you to attach to far deeper values: I am kind, I put family first, I am non-judgemental – these signature strengths you already possess which make you wonderfully and uniquely you.
It also absolves you of having to endure an identity which may no longer fit you properly, or that restricts you. Maybe there are qualities you want to develop – like a wish list – qualities that you want to work on.
The first step in developing your wish list qualities?
Invest in those qualities. If you want to develop your creative side, write or draw or crochet. If you want to improve your knowledge on a subject, enrol on a course. If you want to work on your business, hire a mentor.
Invest in the behaviours that you value. Invest in your happiness, your health, and invest in your life. Back yourself the way a true friend would, and give yourself permission to grow.