“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” ~Ralph Ellison
Who are you? Yes, you! No, not what the world has tried to make you. Not what your past tells you. Not what your worries tell you about your future. Who are you?
If you’ve ever felt like your identity has been completely shattered, then I have news for you…
Good! You’re on the right path. Give me a second, because I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this.
Well, how do I begin reclaiming my identity once it’s lost? First, in realizing what your identity is. What is an “identity?” Were you born with one? No. Did you suddenly become your “identity”? No.
You created it. We are merely the creators of our identity.
When I was in college I used to define myself as a singer. I was at the best university in the country for musical theater and singing was all I did. In fact, it was the only thing I really cared about.
People would always ask, “What do you do?”
“Oh, cool! What else!?”
“Uh, I sing.” But it was more than what I did—it was who I was. WARNING: This is very dangerous.
Why? Because what happens when you lose the very thing that “makes you” who you are? Well, I’ll tell you…
My senior year of college I lost my voice completely to a cancer diagnosis. Yeah, pretty dramatic, even for a kid studying the dramatics.
For two years, my booming baritone turned in to a whisper. I no longer knew who I was. If I wasn’t a singer then who was I? Am I a cancer patient now? How will the world know how to define me?
After months of wrestling with this concept of who I was, I finally got some clarity. My best friend and I were speaking one day and I brought it up, “Now that I can’t sing, I don’t know who I am anymore.”
She looked me square in the face and said, “Alex, do you think I’m your best friend because you can sing?” I honestly didn’t know.
“Do you think people only admire you because you sing well?” Again, clueless. “Your talents don’t define you. You are none of those things. You are a loving, generous man, and that has nothing to do with your singing.” Light bulb to my inner light!
Maybe this is all obvious to you, but for me it was a huge revelation. Hopefully you’re not suffering from my label syndrome. Our identity is not our labels!
For the first time I started waking up to the fact that we are only what we say we are. We limit our potential by trying to box ourselves in to descriptions that the world can understand.
The soul does not understand labels. We’re not meant to be barcodes that run through an assembly line like products in a factory. Our identity has nothing to do with our labels and everything to do with our qualities.
We were created so that we can create from our inner qualities. That is our identity.
So let’s shift the bloggersation.
Knowing and having a sense of identity is still important as long as it’s not about your occupation, achievements, or external gains.
So what is your true identity? Your true identity knows nothing of fear or labels. Your true identities are reflections of love. How the heck do we uncover that?
I’ll tell you!
Here’s an eight-step process to help you uncover your true identity (I’ll be the guinea pig):
1. What are the labels you’ve created for yourself?
Easy: Singer. I’ll throw in actor just for fun.
2. What qualities do those labels have in common?
Approval seeking. Giving. Passionate. Loving. Serving.
3. What qualities do you identity as limiting?
4. How can you challenge that limiting identity?
By doing something completely embarrassing and/or failing on purpose in front of people. Perhaps making some typos in this bloggesthofihgjh post (that was fun.)
5. Was there a key decision that gave you this limiting identity?
When I saw how much my dad loved me after a performance I gave. I thought the only way to get that love would be by performing. Essentially, seeking approval/applause = love. (Anyone else relate?)
6. What are the consequences of this limiting identity?
Thinking that the only way I can get love is by performing and getting the approval of others. Not showing my true self in fear that I might not be “approved.”
7. What is your life like without this limiting identity?
I’m fulfilled because I’m communicating from a place of authenticity instead of trying to impress. I realize in order to have true love I must love myself first. I know that my true artistry will come when I’m creating from my place of purpose not what I think others want to hear.
8. What action can you take to prove your limiting identity wrong?
Finish this blog, send it off to Tiny Buddha, and not care whether or not it’s accepted (although I hope you’re now reading this, Tiny Buddha readers. So meta).
So there you go! That didn’t take long and you can do that for any limiting quality you might have. My only hope for you is that you become your true self so you can create beauty for others.
Oh, and FYI, if you were wondering, I’m cancer free and my voice is back! I now know more than ever that my true indentify is how I show up in the world, not what the world would like to call me.
Let me know in the comments: What’s your true identity look like? How do you plan on claiming it?
Claim your purpose, live your love, and spread your light!