Identity. This blog post is inspired by a podcast I listened to this morning between Rich Roll and Zac Bush, on The Rich Roll Podcast. I highly recommend seeking it out (click here), and listening intently.
Our identity, the story we have created for ourselves (or perhaps more accurately, often, the story we took on during our childhood) has one of the most profound impacts on our behaviour, our health, our life.
Let’s get straight into this…..
If we identify with our self as ‘the helper’ of ‘fixer’, we create a sense of worth through helping others. At first glance there seems nothing wrong with this – it’s highly admirable.
If we identify ourselves as ‘a resilient’ person, able to take on and get through any struggle, we get our sense of worth from overcoming challenges. Again nothing wrong with this it would seem. We talk about resilience a lot – it’s a key part of a healthy mind and body.
So let’s say this differently….
The resilient person will require ‘challenge’, to maintain and fulfill their identity/story.
Like, the helper requires people or things to ‘fix’ to maintain their identity/story.
We will be unconsciously attracting problems, challenges, ‘broken stuff’ into our lives to feel worth, to keep our identity intact. Essentially to keep our story alive of who we are.
Might this end up with ‘the helper’ working so hard helping others that they are now burnt out, and unable to help any more? Not only will there be physical pain (i.e physical symptoms such as fatigue) but the psychological pain, that may manifest from losing that identity, can be far more painful.
There is research to back this concept up, discussing personality traits and conditions such as chronic fsatigue syndrome.
I’ve certainly had conversations over the years where this resonates. The person I was speaking to seemed very proud of their ability to relentlessly march on. They were respected for it by friends. Colleagues looked up to them. It was their identity. It was how they fitted in, in their communities. This is not healthy for long term sustained health or performance. The challenge I think is when in ‘it’, when ‘in’ our identity, out story, we can’t see the problem(s). There is a reason why they were sitting infront of me in clinic with health issues – but often they couldn’t connect the dots. We are the author, so absorbed in creating our story we lose sense of reality. The story becomes reality. We are more than our story.
But I thought identity was good to have? Can it not provide some context to how we fit in? Does it not help us navigate relationships, and this world?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Someone far more intelligent, and spiritual, than me, may have some insight there.
But what does this mean for us moving forward? If our identity can be a root cause of our ill health, what do we do? How do we change our identity if we feel this resonates?
Well, there is going to be a different answer for each individual asking that question. We may need to start establishing some healthy boundaries to protect our health and energy, so we can continue to serve others.
Perhaps then it is more about balance – as I feel it so often is. That feels like a good start at least.
And what does this mean for identity?
I honestly don’t know. Should we not have one? Do people talk about transcending our individual identity? Should we be focusing on a higher level consciousness, global consciousness (or some other fancy term!)?
And what about service? Isn’t serving a higher purpose through service good for our health? Plenty of people and research says it is.Which brings us back to maintaining boundaries, holding everything lightly as my colleague Victoria Fenton blogged about recently (click here). Is it about sustainable service? A level where we can operate for 100 years. This seems sensible. It means we can’t overly identify with it however – which is perhaps the take away message.
Intuitively it feels right – to not hold tightly on to any one identity. Afterall I am not any one identity, as you aren’t. I am not even my body. I am part of something greater.
In fact this comes back to my idea of health and vitality – flexibility, fluidity, adaptability. Health for me is free flowing information – energetically, spiritually, physically, cognitively.
Should this be true for our identity also?
Who is Alex? Who I do want to be? What do I need to do to become that person? How much of who I am now is as a result of having consciously decided what my deepest dreams and desires are, and, how much of it is the result of conditioning – school, parents, friends, society as a whole?
Personally, at this point in my life, I don’t feel the need for an identity – not in a traditional sense. I have been very aware of people putting an identity on to me at various points in life. But right now, I wouldn’t say I know what my identity is – and I like that. It feels quite liberating to me. We are more than our name, our bodies, our careers. We are more than our circle of friends, and family. We are energy – living a biological life. Weird huh?
Although reflecting about this more, if I’m honest I would perhaps identify myself as a lost boy, seeking some degree of truth, wisdom, seeking connection, meaning (purpose) in life, while trying to hold this lightly enough to simply enjoy the ride along the way. Some of what Zac discusses in the podcast resonates so deeply around connection. We have so much more potential for connection, I know I certainly do. And that’s perhaps why I came up with that identity at this point in time. I am seeking ways to connect more – to everyone and everything in life. I feel this takes courage to truly open our hearts – cue Brene Brown!
I know in the past I haven’t held my identity lightly enough as my passion for knowledge, and the pressure I have placed on myself, has 100% contributed to what ever health issue I may have had going on at the time.
And when I say lost I don’t mean this in a negative sense – I mean it in the sense that I know there is something far greater at play, that we can’t see, feel, hear, touch or taste but is very much present in our lives. I’m lost because I am searching/hoping for some degree of evidence for this. While weirdly understanding in some ways it’s all around me.
And if all else fails, hopefully my pscyhedelic experience in four weeks time will work its magic on my brain networks and I will experience what so many others have – a sense of oneness, connection and divinity like nothing experienced before (I say this tongue in cheek obviously….well…).