Who are you? What do you align with? What makes you uniquely YOU? I have spoken to an increasing number of women about my age (millennials) who don’t know how to answer these questions that should give some insight into their identity.
We either default to societal labels, such as our job titles, “I’m a lawyer” or perhaps some other marker of status and success— “I’m an award-winning author.” You hear comments minimizing their impact like “I’m just a stay-at-home mom,” or women simply have no idea how to respond. They don’t feel confident enough to toot their own horn, or they are blinded and hypercritical, and can’t see all the ways they truly are great and unique.
The real culprit—I think most of us have not stopped for hardly two seconds since childhood to take a good look at who we are and what we like. We are chasing a career or chasing familial expectations of what a successful life should look like and we are losing ourselves in the shuffle.
When we emerge from the haze, burned out, and detached from ourselves, we have no idea where to turn. We are lacking confidence in our ability to make decisions about our life—because fear paralyzes us about making the wrong decision. “What if I choose the wrong major, career path, or partner?”
Identities are complex, they are personal, they are fluid and we need to learn to not shy away from sharing them. This is how we connect with other people—shared interests, shared backgrounds, common goals, and seeing our humanness reflected back at us.
You may be lost, fearful or have just lost confidence in your ability to own your identity. We all get knocked down by tough times in our lives that challenge what we believe about ourselves.
But here is the thing. YOU get to choose to control the story and content you put out into the world regarding your identity—and then just leave it. How others perceive and react to your narrative really should not be of major concern to you. Let those who gravitate toward your story and energy come and become part of your support network and let go of those who will hate or criticize.
Some will love you for your identity and who you are. Some won’t. The sooner we learn that rejection is part of life and being human, the faster we can move on from trying to please everyone and live a life that feels aligned with who we truly are.
For me personally, I hid behind the identity of “doctor” for far too long. Sometimes when I’m traveling and struggling to convey what I do or who I am (particularly in another language) I have reverted back to picking up that label. But it feels less heavy now. I feel less attached to it. I can use it with a selective few to help me explain my identity in a more complex way, but I actually enjoy when I have newer relationships and they don’t revolve around “what we do” but rather who we are and what we enjoy.
That is the beauty of meeting travelers. Daily life looks different so we don’t as easily fall into the routine conversation of “what do you do (for a living)?” There are more exciting things to talk about like where we have been, what we hope to do or see, travel tips to share, and just interesting observations about cultures and humans in general.
I encourage you to take time to explore your identity, your interests, your values and look at how you are projecting yourself to the world. To the outside world, is your identity ‘successful career woman who has her sh*t together and is always offering to help others’— when in reality you are crumbling inside trying to keep yourself from losing it every day?
It is less about how you want the world to see you but more about if you are living your life openly and feel a sense of alignment between what you are projecting to the world and who you truly are. It shouldn’t take effort. If you feel like you are constantly managing your image and trying to put up a front, I encourage you to take a look at why you feel this way and if something needs to change to allow you to feel confident and free in your identity?