Re-defining Identity is a Guest Post by Rach Wheatley
Not to sound all doom and gloom or anything but as women we tend to have a lot on our plates. It’s a rare thing to have freedom of time, money and responsibility. I’m not entirely sure that having these things all at once would be healthy for us anyway because really don’t the best things in life, like love or a great career, take work?
Often juggling our busy lives and working at having the good things feels really comfortable and satisfying. Days and weeks go by with the usual mix of drama and same-same. Life is interesting enough to not be boring yet comfortable enough to feel secure. Part of this security and comfort comes from have a grasp on our own identity.
Take me for example. Backtrack four or so years ago and I was living that secure life and had a pretty good handle on my identity. I was a wife, I had a career as a counsellor because I valued helping people, I worked at keeping good relationships with family and I socialised as much as an introvert could.
But then there comes a time (or two!) in our lives where that secure life gets turned upside down. Life events happen to all of us. They can be tragic or exciting, unexpected or planned. No matter the circumstance these events have us questioning our identity and cause us to re-evaluate who we are, what we believe and what’s important in life. Maybe a loved one passes away, or you have an accident. Maybe you move to a new place, change careers or enter into a new relationship.
For me, it was motherhood. Motherhood was something I desperately wanted for myself. It took a long time for that dream to happen so I felt prepared. I knew that everything would change and all that jazz but I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel at all the same person after becoming a mother. I was faced with the need to re-evaluate my identity. And it was hard. I let go of a career I used to see as a lifelong pursuit. I was forced to let go of judgements and pre-conceived ideas of parenthood and life. Friendships have changed and my marriage suffered for a while.
Despite it being a rough experience at the time this re-evaluation wasn’t a bad thing. Now I’m an entrepreneur, mum and wife. It turns out I like networking and I’ve become way more adventurous. I’m focussing my future on things that I love like speaking, writing and supporting others. I feel more grown up and maybe even a little more wise. And I’m learning new things about myself all the time.
So when these life events happen what can we do to lessen the shock and re-learn the basics about ourselves?
Don’t ignore it
When things are churning in our heads and our hearts it’s natural to want to push it all away into a deep dark place where we can pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s a coping strategy that in some circumstances is needed and useful. But it won’t go away for good and it will keep bubbling up until dealt with. All the energy you spend pushing it away will hurt more than accepting the identity change.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We all know that “I’m fine” is a load of bull and it’s what we tell ourselves and others when we don’t want to acknowledge actual emotions. I say this from experience and with compassion. Questioning our identity feels scary, confusing and uncertain. It’s totally understandable if “I’m fine” is all that you can manage at times. But, there will come a time where you will need to put your big girl knickers on and say “I’m scared.” You might be surprised by the relief saying that out loud brings.
Know that it will take time
Some life events happen in an instant. Some happen over time. In turn the resulting need for re-defining your identity may occur to you overnight, in a matter of weeks or so slowly you almost miss it. The process of figuring out who you are will, however, take time. And you will need to be patient with yourself. You’ll need to have people around you who are patient with you, because you may reach points where you think you have it all figured out only to realise that you’re just not there yet.
In the process of figuring out who the heck you are it’s important to try new things. Some of these things will stick. Others will flop. Some will surprise you and others will have you in hysterics wondering what on earth made you think you’d enjoy it. It’s all part of the process and if you let it, it can be a lot of fun.
My identity has changed. I’m glad it did. And I wish you all luck to your dear Reader in your endeavour to re-define your identity.
Rach Wheatley is a proud mum and wife who juggles day care drop offs, collecting pretty things and getting sweaty via a range of fun/crazy fitness adventures. Using her extensive background as a counsellor and project manager Rach works with women who want to live with more meaning. She thrives on helping women live out their life purpose through business development. You can find Rach chatting and writing about purpose in her blog, Project: Breathe.