Unmasking the crisis of Identity – a tool for transformation

By Jennifer Thompson

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July 15, 2020

“If you’re given the freedom to be anything or be anyone, what do you do with it?”

Chuck Palahniuk-

 

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365 Your Identity

Photo by Leo-Manjarrez

 

How our identity shapes us

Our identity is who we believe we are. It’s influenced by our genes, culture, and the things people said about us as we were growing up. At the most basic level, our identity is crucial to our survival and the tribe we choose to identify with. It provides us with a sense of belonging. Our needs for social bonding, loyalty, security, and acceptance are timeless. In new situations, we tend to gravitate to what’s familiar and what aligns with who we believe we are.

 

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365

Photo by Laura-Chouette-Swe

 

The ethnic neighborhoods that emerge in large cities. Essential for new immigrants seeking the familiar in their adopted countries. Little Italy in San Diego. The Jewish Quarters (Josefov) in Prague. Little India in Singapore, and Chinatown.
 
Identity can be crucial in providing a voice for a particular group. The “me too” movement and black lives matter are some high profile examples. How we self-identify influences the path, we chose to take in our lives.

 

The changing landscape

 

Our world is getting smaller. Through travel and a digital expansion that knows no borders, it is easy to choose to opt-in or out of these groups. Our needs for belonging and a sense of identity have not changed. But the landscape of identity and membership in various groups has changed.
 
For one, identity has become more fluid. In 2013, Germany became the first country that recognizes “indeterminate” sex on birth certificates. In some states in the US, gender-neutral birth certificates have become an option for parents. The LGBTQ continuum continues to expand. The “constants” which we grew up with are, no longer constant. People should not have to fit “boxes” we construct.

 

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365

Photo by Alexander-Schimmeck

 

Redefining

When we first meet someone, we ask them their names. And, in most contexts, the second thing we ask is, “what do you do?” Yes, as a culture, we are tightly defined by what we do.

But what happens when a person can no longer do what they have done for a long time? Either through injury as in the case of a professional sportsperson who may never play again.

Or what about job loss due to an economic downturn? How do you define yourself then?

But we know identity is not what we do. If you define yourself by your job and you lose your job, or you retire, you will feel a loss of your identity.

 

The dangers of identity

 

Jennifer Thompson

Photo by Maria-Oswalt

There are benefits to identifying with a particular community. But heaven forbid you if you go against any of their beliefs!

What happens when your truth no longer aligns with the premises of the group you’ve identified with? Christians have rejected family members who came out as gay.

Many Christians still believe you cannot be gay and Christian at the same time.

Our sense of identity is so deeply entrenched that any threat to it can elicit fear and anger and sometimes even violence. Clinging on to our identity can be divisive if we project our biases onto others.

The problem with the need to define people within an “identity” is when we extend our assumptions to dangerous conclusions. Unquestioningly.  We do it all the time with the individuals we meet. It inhibits healthy intimacy when we look at people through the lens of our subconscious biases.

As Eckhart Tolle said, “A group needs enemies because without enemies, it’s identity cannot continue to be defined.”

 

What are you identifying with?

As I mentioned at the very start of this article, our identity is who we believe we are. And that’s what it is – our identity comes from our beliefs. It’s what we think is right. Many of us rarely even question these beliefs. Many of these beliefs. These beliefs are society’s expectations of us and not based on our personal needs.

 

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365

 

The tragedy is that most people rarely question their beliefs. To examine their beliefs is to challenge their identity. And, most of these beliefs are subconscious. So, the identity we have of ourselves influences our lives. People cling on to their identity and use it as the justification for t
 
With what are you identifying? Your emotions, form, or role? If you define yourself by your job, how would you feel about yourself if you lose or job? Or retire? Will you feel a loss of your identity? The identity you hold for yourself determines how you make decisions and how you live your life. It is one of the most powerful forces in your life. Depending on how you self-identify, it can be hindering you from making progress in your life.

 

Who am I? 

 

Aristotle said, “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Our skin color, gender, sexual preferences, and ethnicity is part of our identity. Identity also includes how we define ourselves. I am competitive, forgetful, or kind.

 

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365

 

Defining ourselves by other people’s views of us prevents us from reaching our potential. No one knows how far you can fly except you. Are you aware of how you define yourself? Smart, poor, spiritual, attractive. Bad at sports?

 

Identity as a powerful tool towards lasting change

Be mindful of your inner dialogue around your identity. How often do you defend that identity? Saying things like, “I’ve been smoking for 40 years, it’s going to be hard to quit.” Your beliefs about who you are can imprison you.

Changing how you perceive yourself is very difficult. It’s an attempt to change your identity. Your brain looks for evidence outside yourself to continuously confirm this identity. This could be one of the reasons most therapy is ineffective in helping people make long term changes.

 

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365 Your Identity

Photo by Laurenz-Kleinheider

 

If you want long-term change in anything in your life, it must start with questioning your beliefs around your identity. And then redefining yourself in that area, you desire to change. The locus of control is always within yourself – not outside of yourself. Do you see yourself as someone who can change?
 
What are some of the things you regularly say about yourself, “I’ve smoked all my life; it’s too hard to change?” or “That’s just the way I am.” “I am just like my family.” etc.
 
What area of your life would you like to change? An improvement in your relationships? A better job? Better body? What is your identity regarding that area you want to change? Want to make lasting change? Change the way you see yourself and commit to habits that support that new identity.

 

“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.”

– Doug Cooper – 

 

 

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure here.

 

Resources

Jennifer Thompson Compelling 365

 

Jennifer helps people discover how to live life on their terms. She coaches women in achieving their personal and business goals. She has written numerous books on money: Women and Money: 7 Principles Every Woman Needs to Know to Be Financially Prepared in Any Economy and Growing Up With Money: Raising Financially Resilient Kids in an Age of Uncertainty.

You can reach her at jenniferthompson@compelling365.com

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