Do you ever feel like you’ve forgotten who you are? That your identity has somehow become buried beneath being a boss, parent, partner and someone’s (grown) child? When we introduce ourselves, we tend to identify with a role appropriate to the context.
In extended family gatherings, you might introduce yourself according to your connection to other people, “Hi, I’m John; Barbara’s brother.”
At a dinner party, you may introduce yourself based on your profession, because as far as schemas go, people are bound to ask, “And what do you do?” They’re sizing you up, in terms of your status, how much you probably earn and whether you’re a good connection for them to further acquaint themselves.
But what happens when you retire? Or you’re made redundant? How do you define yourself if it’s closely tied to your job, or your spouse and you become widowed?
These roles are not who you truly are, although who you are is somebody with multiple facets to your identity that you accentuate or play down depending on the situational context.
There will be times in life when you’ll question your identity and it’s those times when we’ve lost a sense of who we thought we were and are unsure of who we are becoming. We’re sort of “Lost in Transit”.
So, what can you do about it?
Rediscovering who you truly are, when you peel back all the layers, is deep work, especially if you’ve entangled your identity with your job. Or you’ve changed so much of yourself to become “the perfect partner” for someone else, you no longer recognise the reflection staring back at you in the mirror.
Here’s three ways you can start to reconnect with your own truth about who you are:
Begin focusing on your breath. Inhaling, allowing your stomach to expand and allowing your stomach to retract as you exhale. That will help you to become present. When you’re present, you’re not focusing on past events or future concerns. You’re alive, existing in the moment. Dedicate 5 – 10 minutes each day to being present. Being in a calm, peaceful space where no labels can define you.
Intentional writing is a great way to uncover hidden thoughts about situations in your life. Finding and changing those unconscious thoughts and patterns is the key to freeing yourself from a life you’re no longer happy living. Spend a couple of minutes focusing on your breathing and then, begin writing questions and allowing the answers to come to you. This is an access all areas Q & A with your unconscious mind. Write down the question followed by the answer, which may then prompt a subsequent question.
If you’re new to intentional writing, you may want to start with a feeling or behaviour based Q & A first. For example, Q: “Why do I become stressed?” Write down whatever answer springs to mind. Q: “What is the purpose of being stressed?” Write the answer. Q: “What does stress stop me from doing?” Write the answer. Q: “What could I achieve if I wasn’t stressed?” Write the answer. Q: “Does that scare me (and if so, why)?” Keep writing until you uncover the crux of the matter.
More people are becoming aware that the gut is considered “the second brain”, thanks to neuroscience research findings. This has implications for our gut health, gut instinct and makes sense of wanting to “sleep on it” when we have a major decision to make. Your gut needs time to ‘digest’ information, because it has a longer dwell time than the brain in your head.
In addition to digestion and other biological functions, your gut has what is called, “prime functions”. That is self-preservation, identity and mobilisation. If you feel “stuck”; if there’s a situation where you decide not to act, it may be that you lacked “gut courage” to take action. If you need to move on a situation, to make a decision, you may need “gut courage”. You may be wondering why identity is associated with the gut? The gut is the first part of you that forms in the womb. So anytime you need to work on your identity, your gut is a great place to start. mBraining by Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka takes you on a journey that’ll help you understand your gut brain, how to work with it, identity and more.