How is your identity holding you back?

Are you suffering from a case of mistaken identity?

“What do you want to be,” they ask? I’ve pondered this question a lot. And at some point I realized that it’s the wrong question. That question often leads us to choose an identity that is deemed ‘worthy’ by whatever society and family we find ourselves growing up in. One that leads to financial security, safety, and demonstrates our sense of responsibility. Or one that follows in a family tradition. And it doesn’t apply to career path, but to any label like husband, wife, friend, or acquaintance just to name a few. The label or identity that we adopt creates a whole set of expectations for how we are ‘supposed’ to show up in a relationship that have little to do with who we really are. Does this feel familiar?

The real question we should be asking is “who am I?”

I know I have been faced with that dilemma A LOT. And for many of us, it’s easier to pick one of those careers or labels and build our identity around that. There’s many reasons why we do it; fear of standing up to our families, of showing our true selves, of choosing the wrong path and then being “wrong” and suffering the consequences (which are all made up). It can also make decision making so much easier, for once we’ve decided on an identity we do things and choose things that support that identity.

Depending on our identity we often dress a certain way, participate in particular activities, even eat in particular places. I find myself caught in this swirl of mistaken identity sometimes, though much less now than I used to. When I travel for work (and I hesitate to call it work) I find myself tempted to dress “up” a certain way for the plane, so I “look the part,” when what I really might want to do is wear comfortable jeans and sneakers and a t-shirt. Because at heart, I’m simple and that’s what I’m often most comfortable in. I have nothing to prove by what I wear, but rather by how I show up. But I won’t look like a “professional,” instead I’ll look like me.

How does maintaining this identity hold us back?

As soon as we make one decision based on an identity that is not really ours, we’re on a different path that just might not be in alignment with our real values. The choices in front of each of us will be different and more in tune with that identity than our true self. And we’re more likely to miss opportunities that really resonate.

How do we shed that Identity and find our true self?

We have to choose to get naked. Having conversations to explore our values and take a peek at what our real dreams are is a great place to start peeling away the layers. Slowing down and pondering before speaking and making decisions will allow some of the real person inside us to come out. Challenge yourself to not speak or respond in any way for a full 5 seconds after someone asks you a question, or after you ask them a question. Leave some open space to see what thoughts arise, and to really listen. And get curious with yourself and others.

Show up as you.

And notice what happens.

#staycurious #leadership #create