Do you have a strong sense of identity? Do you know who you are? Who you really are?
Of course, some of you might now be thinking to yourselves, what a stupid question! I know who I am and what I do. My name is …..and I like …… but this isn’t what I mean.
I don’t mean what is your name or what you do. I don’t mean your likes or your dislikes but I mean what makes you tick. I mean the more complicated layers of your character and your personality. Those that were forged right back in your early childhood and which have been added to over the years like layers of paint on a wooden door.
I am referring to the events and the experiences that were ingrained in you long before you can remember; yet which have become an inherent part of you.
Good and bad, they have all built layer upon layer to form your identity as it is now.
And in addition to the events that happened to you or the behavior of others towards you, will have been formed and moulded by your social environment, by your culture, your ‘tribe’.
Your frame of reference is what surrounded you in your home, the streets of your neighbourhood, the shops and your school while you were growing up It was in your religion, the social events and the friends that you kept. It was in the languages spoken around you and to you, your skin colour, your social class, the clothing that people wore and the food that you ate.
We place labels on ourselves and on other people. It’s human nature to catalogue and attach meaning to what we see. Almost unconsciously we learn to recognize those that are like us and those that are different. We absorb and we adapt to the labels that others have placed upon us. We are the good girl who mustn’t show off, the boy who must never cry when he falls and hurts himself or the older sister with the responsibility for younger siblings upon her shoulders.
We are the teenager desperate to fit in, the child desperately searching for validation from a disengaged parent and the unhappy soul who is doing his or her best to be invisible in order to avoid abuse.
So many adults are lost in some way or another. The void can sometimes be filled by a career, a family, a house and holidays. Shopping, drinking, partying and drugs can also glue the pieces together but very few of us can claim to be totally at ease with who we really are, or at least we can’t until we acknowledge and reflect upon what it is to be ourselves.
When we manage to make sense of what our identity is and who we really are, there is a shift in our lives. Things become clearer and we become more confident in our own skin. We search less for outside validation and we worry less about conforming to what is considered the norm. We are generally more content and we tend to do more of what we want and what makes us happy.
I should point out at this stage that there’s a clear distinction between recognizing and being comfortable with who we are and being perfect or seeming to have everything sorted in life. Getting our lives sorted is not about being perfect because nobody is perfect and anyway that’s just an impossible goal; which will never make one truly happy.
Feeling at ease with myself and who I truly am.
How can you build self identity?
We can never reach perfection because we are always growing and changing but we can be at ease with and accept ourselves.
We can work to understand and eradicate our insecurities.
We can do our best for ourselves and other people.
We can accept others (and ourselves) unconditionally, without judgment.
If we don’t know ourselves inside out then how can we ever be in a position to judge others?
And it’s in getting to the root of understanding ourselves that we uncover our own true identity.
When we understand how and why we think and act as we do and when we understand how our beliefs have been formed, then we can be secure in the knowledge of who we are.
Once you grasp this, whatever you have been hanging onto can be let go.
Believe me, it’s liberating, but it’s not easy.
Once you seriously start along this journey of establishing your sense of identity there will be light-bulb moments when it dawns on you why you feel certain deep emotions. For instance, can you remember when and why you first felt guilty? Do you know the very first time that you felt unsure of yourself? Do you know why you find it scary to walk into a party without knowing a soul there? When you understand why certain things have the power to make you feel a certain way, and possibly have been doing for most of your life, you can work on identifying the triggers and learn how to shrug them off.
Do you have a clear set of core values? Do you know why you believe the things that you do and why some things are more important to you in life? The morals that you live your life by are also a part of your identity and were developed according to your frame of reference while you were growing up.
As we leave home and enter the work place, college or we travel, we decide for ourselves which values and beliefs from our childhood we want to discard. We understand more about the world and we might want to follow a different path. We may change our view of what is right and wrong not realizing that our identity has been established and what was established as we grew up might not be who we identify with now.
The good news is that it is possible to build our self identity which can only help to make us stronger, more self assured and more confident.
We can do it by being kind to ourselves and to others.
We can do it by forgiving (I prefer to use the term releasing) ourselves and others from guilt and shame.
We can achieve it by being non-judgmental and open minded.
We can do it by being cheerful and positive.
We get there by reflecting upon our actions, thoughts and deeds over a period of time, analyzing them and understanding them.
We can build upon the characteristics that we like and we can choose to let go of the beliefs that no longer serve us. We will know who we are at the core.
When we live in a mindful way with thought and care and when we let go of the negative things from our past that we believed were at our core, then we can find peace, ease and ultimately happiness.