The truth about your identity and how to find your purpose.
Are you feeling frustrated because you don’t feel you have an identity? Have you been bumbling through a variety of careers throughout your life and never felt fulfilled? You are not alone. One of the most common questions I get is ‘How do I figure out my identity?’
We live in a culture that is defined by labels
We live in a culture that is defined by labels, in which our ‘status’ is defined by what we do, what we own and very rarely who we are. Yet ironically the people our society reveres are those who have simply been themselves, Elvis Presley, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X the list goes on…These are people who all have one thing in common, they did what they felt was right for them no matter their circumstances. Whether it was Elvis’s desire to move his body in a way that scandalised his era, or Nelson Mandela’s courage to speak what he felt was the truth in spite of putting himself in great jeopardy, fundamentally each of these people backed themselves and this is what we honour them for.
Why is ‘being yourself’ so hard?
The strangeness in this is that one would think that to ‘be yourself’ would be the most natural expectation of any human. And yet I believe we revere these people because we subconsciously recognise as a collective how challenging it is to ‘be yourself’ in a society that largely breeds and educates us to ‘fit in’. A lot of us come from families that have long hereditary beliefs in unworthiness, where children are quickly taught to keep their passions as hobbies or to limit their dreams according to the demographic they belong to. Our core beliefs are based on these generational hand me downs and quickly become the driver for a lot of our behaviours and thought patterns.
The only time we ask ourselves "Who am I?”
In addition our ability to express ourselves and our honest opinions are effected by our belief that we need to be validated by those around us, our desires driven and shaped by social media and commercialism. Our ability to even know what it is we like to do can be infested with self-doubt or even shame because we don’t already know. To the point that the inevitable question: “Who am I?” is really only ever able to come to the surface when we are drunk, high or depressed and we have the capacity or the desperateness to ask after our own truth.
Go easy on yourself
My point here is go easy on yourself, it isn’t your ‘fault’ that you don’t know who you are. We have so much stuffing knocked out of us by our cultural conditioning: How we should look and behave, who we should be friends with and date, what we should own and do, that it is no small wonder that when or if we get to the point where we ask ourselves, “Is this it? Is this all there is to life? Is this role as Parent/Employee/Business Owner/Carer all that I was born to be?”
You’re so much more thank you give yourself credit for.
So when clients come to me worried because they feel lost and in search of their identity I explain to them that what they have actually lost is their sense of themselves. Their ‘identity’ has never existed, they may have adopted a label for a while but they were never truly defined by it no matter how much they had convinced themselves they were. You as an individual are a rich pattern of character traits, ideals and desires, you are a highly intricate entity and no single label could ever sum you up, nor should you want it to. You are magnificent in all of your complexity why would you want to slap a mere ‘role’ onto yourself?
Purpose, not identity is the key
I know, this may be an upsetting perspective to some people, “I just want to know what I am here for Kay! If I knew who I was I would know what to do!!” I get it, I used to be one of those people, so I understand the desire to find your purpose in life, but this is very different to your identity. And lets face it the only reason you wish to find your identity is because you believe it will help you find inner peace and happiness. This is understandable, but the way you’re going about it is going to be painful and non-productive if you chase your ‘identity’. By doing this you will be chasing your tail, as you as an individual are a constantly changing state, no label will ever define you, nor should you want it to.
So how do you find a sense of purpose?
So how do you find a sense of purpose? How can you arrive at a place where you wake up every day and love what you do and feel great peace from doing it? Well in order to help you get there we firstly need to understand you and what makes you tick.
Ask a Friend
To start this process we need to examine how you respond to the world, how you choose to act within it. By this I mean: are you kind, generous and easygoing? Or are you irritable, impatient and fearful? Or perhaps you’re a mix of both? By starting to become familiar with who you are we will start to unravel what it is that enables you from a character perspective. This helps us understand your strengths and perhaps what you would consider weaknesses, not to judge them but to be aware of your soft spots that you might need to acknowledge, perhaps work on, or get support with. The best way to start this process is to either ask a best friend or family member to write a list of characteristics they would use to describe you, or write the list you believe they would write. This might be confronting but it will give you a good starting point to understanding who you currently are a bit better, this is a necessary foundation, whatever you choose to do in the future will be helped if you are characteristically aligned with it. For example you might find launching your own B&B a bit challenging if you don’t like talking to people, but working on improving your confidence could help you with this.
What do you do in your spare time?
Secondly think about what you do in your spare time, what do you do when you have no other demands on you? Yes you might read a book or watch TV but what kind of books or shows are you attracted to and why? Do you watch renovation or cooking shows all the time? What are your hobbies? This might seem trivial but in actual fact these are the pointers we need to follow to remember who we were before conditioning and experience made you hide it all away.
Who inspires you?
Next lets look at who inspires you, the traits these people display are ones that you find attractive which means they have traits you would like to demonstrate more of.
Who do you surround yourself with?
The people you surround yourself with have the biggest influence over you and therefore over your ability to thrive. So look at the people you surround yourself with, do they lift you up and support you? Do they reflect the qualities of the people you admire and aspire to be? If not, consider branching out, join new groups or go to new events where you might meet people who have similar interests, not only will this further inspire you, it will also help you get a better understanding of what you like and what you don’t like which is the overall objective!
The most powerful question
The most powerful question you can ask yourself when trying to find your purpose is this: What would you do for free? The reason this question is so helpful is because it will really help you narrow down your hobbies and past times to your passion and passion is the key to freedom. As the expression goes “ If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.”
The only obstacle
So now you should have an idea of your passion, perhaps a new group of friends and activities, a deeper understanding of who you are and what makes you happy. You may even have a clear and definitive idea of what your purpose might be, maybe you are now busy enjoying the process of exploring it for yourself, or maybe you’ve hit pause. Perhaps whatever you are left with may still not seem plausible to you as a career option or purpose in life. And this might be because of the last obstacle, the thing that can get in a lot of peoples way….self doubt.
This is why knowing yourself is the key
This is why knowing yourself is the key, because when you really know who you are, you can start to trust yourself and self trust will always overcome self doubt. Developing self trust is a process that will organically start to happen by following the above steps, if these steps seem beyond you the likelihood is you carry beliefs from prior experiences that are undermining you. If this is the case I recommend you get support from a councillor, healer or coach like myself. Whoever you are drawn to will have the answers you need, trust your intuition.
You were born believing you were worthy
You were born believing you were worthy of all the happiness and joy in the world and you could do anything you chose. It is only the people around you and the experiences you have had that may have taught you differently. The good news is you can unlearn these things and start to embrace the magic that sits within you, you just have to want to look for it!
I wish you all the best with it bold adventurer, a life of passion is a life well lived.