The scientific definitions of Identity are complicated. But self-identity as I understand it, is a global understanding of ourselves which includes our values and beliefs, personality traits, knowledge of one’s skills and abilities, one’s occupation and hobbies, and awareness of one’s physical attributes. But a person’s identity isn’t that concrete and a number of other things can influence our identity such as culture, religion, social class, gender, age or life stage and political views. A person’s identity is fluid and changes over time.
We start developing our identities as children and in adolescents those stronger identities come through. In high school I focused on being invisible, a nerd who liked to curl but prayed to be unnoticed. I was shy and didn’t want to attract attention. I wasn’t a jock, a popular kid, or a partier. As I reflect on how my identity developed or lack thereof I see how those typical high school groupings can help to form the foundation of ourselves.
I have spent about 25 years in crippling self hate, hating my body, feeling fat and ugly and refusing to make eye contact with myself in the bathroom mirror. Due to this low self-worth all of my social interactions (those without my Nursing Mask) were awkward and embarrassing.
I believe that my fear to stand out interfered with my ability to get to know myself. That fear for me has held me back in many aspects of my life. My fear and lack of self-love paralyzed me and made me strive for perfection. I believed if I was perfect I would be happy and the pain would stop.
Before this journey I knew very little about myself, when I thought about who I was my mind would go blank. I couldn’t really identify who I was but what I knew was this:
1. My astrological sign is Capricorn and it very much describes my personality as serious, a workaholic, a perfectionist, organized, and at times a tad controlling and bossy 2. My career is something I love to do and I’m really good at it. I’m proud to be a Nurse Practitioner 3. I love to learn and practice medicine. 4. Emotionally I’m extremely sensitive and have suffered from severe social anxiety and depression 5. As for hobbies I don’t have many but I enjoy art, curling, walking and running 6. I enjoy the arts, nature, and travel 7. I’m also interested in alternative stuff; tarot cards, intuitive readers, crystals, angels, etc. but am embarrassed to talk about it.
Over the last 16 months I’ve undergone a huge physical transformation and have lost 80 lbs (I will discuss this further in an upcoming blog). The weight loss at the beginning was very much about food but the maintenance of that weight loss is now very much a spiritual journey. Learning who I am (the good parts and not so good parts) has helped me understand why I am an emotional eater and what my personal narrative is and what are the issues that need healing and/or discovering.
A friend of mine suggested to me to take a personality test (Enneagram – contact me for more information) so I could dive deeper into discovering my identity. What I learned is that I am a Type 3 – Achiever personality which is why I’m obsessed with perfection. Acknowledgment of this has been essential to my self understanding. When I’m healthy and balanced I can quiet the inner critic, allow myself to be vulnerable, try new things, and speak up. At my worst I focus on perfectionism and people pleasing that fosters an all or nothing approach, a feeling of emptiness and worthlessness that influences every decision or interaction I have. These insecurities exacerbate my anxiety and need for control to feel safe. It brings out a part of me that is bossy, rigid to new ideas, impatient, and desperate for external validation. I’ve learned how to show myself unconditional self compassion which has been paramount in me having the courage to put myself out there and try new things (like writing this blog). The self compassion has been the cornerstone to my successful weight loss because the journey doesn’t need to be perfect. The journey is about stepping up and learning from my mistakes and continuing to show up anyway.
I recently read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, who is an expert on the science of habit formation and who has devised a simple plan on how to implement habits for self-improvement. Check out his webpage at https://jamesclear.com/introducing-atomic-habits . James discusses in his book that the thing about habits is that it’s the small things we do on a daily basis which initially don’t appear to be much that make the biggest impact long term. The downfall is because they are small and don’t provide instant gratification they are easy to not continue. These habits are putting your workout clothes on right after you get home because you will more likely go to the gym; or tidying up your apartment everyday will make you more organized. He had lots of tips and I highly recommend his book.
What was especially interesting to me was how he suggests that we need to change our identity rather than focus on our goal to be successful. For example changing our inner narrative to I am a healthier eater or runner I want to lose weight creates a strong identity which leads to instituting habits that fulfill that identity. His journey on becoming an author was what inspired me to start a blog. Changing my narrative to I am a writer and instituting a habit of I will write for 2 mins everyday after I eat lunch is what has allowed me to create this blog. Using a small interval of time like 2 mins makes the habit more likely to be completed because who can’t do anything for 2 mins and this tricks your brain into just starting. Being specific about the time and place your habit will take place also increases your success in completing it. This narrative and self compassion have been the most instrumental in my journey of getting to know myself. Loving and accepting all parts of myself (the good, the bad, the ugly) and holding space for myself is what brings me happiness now.
What I now know about myself – I’m still uncovering more:
I am an amazing Mother I am an incredible wife I’m a loyal friend I am a runner I am a yogi I am a writer I am a reader I am a painter I enjoy people socially in small doses I am an excellent Nurse Practitioner I love unconditionally I’m forgiving
I am an empath – I am not oversensitive I am healer I am spiritual I love to travel, the arts, nature, and curling I love to learn ……. And so much more What do you know about yourself? I would love you hear from you.