We are going to continue on the topic of identity today. As we discussed last week, people often attach to the identities they have given themselves based on rolls, what they do, and who they spend time with. The problem with that, as we said, is that when people are no longer able to do what they identify with, they go through an identity death. This is what is happening for so many people right now. However, the other issue with identifying with certain aspects of the material world is that it puts us in a box and can constrict our true nature.
There are certain assumptions or expectations that come with the rolls and identities we attach too. An example of such assumptions are that a good mother is someone who gives their life up for their children, or good Christians go to church every Sunday. So often, once a person attaches to a certain identity, they feel that they have to behave in a certain way in order to live up to the expectations or assumptions that come with that identity. In doing so, they suppress parts of themselves and do not let their true nature come out. This can be very harmful. Denying who you are almost always leads to emotional or physical ailments. People who do this are also way more likely to project onto others which often causes dis-ease in their relationships. For example, if someone locks away the part of themself that loves to be silly and play, because they think that being a professional means being serious, they are more likely to either experience life dissatisfaction and depression, or get angry and judgemental whenever someone in their life is joyful and joking around.
Then there is the issue of what to do when your different identities interfere with one another. Most people identify as more than one roll. One person can be a mother, a daughter, a lawyer, and a dancer. How do they decide when to behave like each identity? A good example of this is when mothers are also full time professionals. Those two labels often come with very different assumptions for behavior, such as a full time mother is expected to always be there for her children and a professional is expected to always be there for her job. This leaves the individual feeling like they have to choose between being a good worker and being a good mother. I know plenty of working mothers who often feel like they are not good enough parents for the sole reason that parenting is not their only job. These individuals usually use this as a reason to participate in negative self-talk, which only serves to make them feel worse.
Now assumptions aren't all bad. They are a part of human nature dating back to prehistoric times when assumptions were formed for survival purposes. When a tribe realized that a certain leaf was causing an illness in its members, all leaves that looked like that were put in the dangerous category in order to avoid death. However, as we well know, assumptions are not only harmful to ourselves, but can also lead to prejudice and discrimination. So it is important to be aware of the ways that we are identifying ourselves and the expectations we are putting on ourselves based on those rolls. I recommend taking some time to yourself to think about all the ways you identify yourself and write them down. Then write down all of the expectations you or the world has for each of those identities. Then take some time to journal about your childhood. What did you like to do as a child, how did you act, what were your hobbies? Then think about the ways that you may have been denying yourself and write that down as well. Once you have a clear picture and understanding you can go about deconstructing those identities, assumptions and expectations and work on letting out your true self.
I would love to hear how this goes for you. In what ways have you been denying yourself or what expectations do you feel forced to live up to? Let me know in the comments below and if you would like more individualized help with this please send me an email so we can talk about working together.