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The Problem with Identifying as One "Thing"

If I were to ask you, "Who are you?" how would you respond? I imagine you would begin by telling me your job title: I'm an accountant, a teacher, a barista, etc. Perhaps you would tell me that you're a parent, or you would identify yourself by your religious affiliation or your political party. But deep down, these things can be a part of who you are but none of these things are YOU. When you were 5 years old, before you had a job or knew your religion or political beliefs, you were still you. You still existed and you would agree that you were you back then. None of these things are who you are, yet we identify so strongly with these categories we put ourselves in. Not only are these things not you, but there is danger in becoming too entrenched in an identity. When you identify as one thing (your profession, your political party, being a parent, etc.), you're discounting all of the other amazing things that you are and that make you, you. You're also potentially setting yourself up for disappointment if your current role doesn't amount to what you want. Any role that you are in can change at any time. We don't want to think about this, but the job that we hold as our identity can fire us, our child can become estranged, or we can have a spiritual experience that leads us in a completely different direction.

For a period of three years, I was a vegetarian and I remember that when I ate meat again, I felt extremely guilty and like a horrible person. For those three years, my identity had become Vegetarian / Animal Lover / Environmentalist. I still consider myself as a person who loves animals and cares about the environment, but eating meat again definitely hurt my self-esteem. And last year with the pandemic, I felt bad about myself because business wasn't as great as I hoped it would be (even though everyone was struggling). I identified primarily as a business owner and if I couldn't reach the level of success I wanted in my business, I saw myself as a failure. Anytime we put all of our eggs in one basket, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment. If I gained my self-esteem from a number of things instead of just my career, I'm sure I would have felt a lot different last year. Moreover, if I focused on what truly makes me, me instead of focusing on titles, my self-worth wouldn't be tied to any external forces.

An Exercise to Help You Find Your Identity:

Your accomplishments, your appearance, what you can do, or what you have does not define you. So what does? Just you being in existence, who you are, and how you treat others and yourself makes up your identity. Write a list of words that describe who you are. These words should be adjectives (who you are), not verbs (what you do). Take your time writing out authentic words that truly describe who you think you are. You can look at my list below for inspiration.

I am:

  • I am funny

  • I am curious

  • I am thoughtful

  • I am conscientious

  • I am ambitious

  • I am open-minded

  • I am easygoing

  • I am calm

  • I am unique

  • I am silly

  • I am quirky

  • I am sincere

What really makes you, you? When you start looking deeper at what makes you the person you are, nothing can shake your self-worth.

Your gal, Kayla


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Kayla -- the face behind these posts, carb lover, homebody, cat mom, and book addict.

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