“If you really have your own identity you’ll keep on doing what you think is really right for you, and you’ll also understand the next step you want to take.”
― Helmut Lang
Letting Go of Your Identity
In 2016, I was lost as I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. But deep down, I knew what I was doing at the time was not what I meant to do.
Despite all the great benefits of having a stable job, I felt unfulfilled.
To clear my head, I went on a rock climbing trip with some friends at a nearby National Park. There, I met a young lady who was also in search of herself. We had a deep and powerful conversation about our goals and visions. And during my brief trip, I also had time for some self-inspection and self-reflection. That free space created exactly what I needed as I made a self-empowering choice.
After returning to work that week, I went into my manager’s office and told him I’m leaving. Upon hearing the announcement, he was shocked and tried to persuade me to stay.
I thanked him, but my determination was resolute.
My choice of quitting my safe job was a catalytic event. The world I knew for many years has disintegrated. All the dedicated work that got me to that point just vanished. After my job title swiftly evaporated. I asked myself:
“Who am I now?”
Finding the answer propelled me to create a new identity. To start, I scanned my entire life including hobbies, professions, relationships, and organizations. Afterward, I came up with this list.
Student of Life
Although I’m all of the above, at the core, I’m a man.
I don’t associate myself with just one thing; I’m much more than that. My self-worth isn’t attached to things I do, but to the essential person that I am.
The surface level entities such as my recreational activities, professions, relationships, and affiliations can change. But at the nucleus, my true self – a man of integrity who lives with purpose and commitment, is always present.
No matter what storms or triumphs I face, I get to define what that interpretation is. That power belongs to me.
Create a Rite of Passage
In Southern Africa, there lies the Kalahari Desert, a semi-arid sandy savanna covering parts of Botswana, Namibia, and regions of South Africa. This is also the place when boys from the Xhosa tribe embark their rite of passage to transcend into adulthood.
Before going on the transformational voyage, the boys are stripped of everything – homes, clothes, toys, and even their names. In addition, their bodies are covered in white ash and clay for indifference among themselves.
Their journey is not only to travel to a new place, but also a psychological shift of rebirth – changing their lives and identities to become men. Through enduring the tough conditions and unfamiliar environments on their travels, these young men gain the necessary experience and preparation to endure life as grownups.
This essential ingredient in overcoming challenges and embracing uncertainty is something we lack in modern western society.
To gear up for the future, children go through the formal education system. And upon completing their degrees, graduates presumes success is inevitable and the road is smooth sailing without any hiccups along their path.
That’s quite different from reality.
Obstacles, chaos, and personal disintegration are unavoidable, and when they appear, most people don’t have the necessary training and experience to deal with them.
This crucial skill isn’t taught in school, but rather learned in the real world by facing and conquering hardships.
Having the knowledge and tools to handle various stressful situations is invaluable. This important trait of resilience will keep you moving forward no matter what occurs in life.
Although it’s uncomfortable, creating a rite of passage with your unique challenges can shape you into a stronger and more powerful person. As a result, you can become better and more effective in managing complicated tasks and stringent issues.
By voluntarily designing distinctive obstacles and goals for yourself, you can grow and develop into the man you’ve always wanted to be. It’s through the act of doing you gain the critical wisdom to transcend into betterment.
At the core, you’re driven by your primary identity. This is what drives for your actions, creates your unique perspective, and guides your life’s direction. Currently, you already have a strong sense of that. But to be creative, fill in the following sentence with at least four different answers.
“I am a/an ____.”
You probably associated yourself first with your job. Other options may include relationships, organizations, religious beliefs, or hobbies such as:
Clearly, you can be all of them, not just one. Your identity is endless and you get to choose what it is.
Although highly improbable, what you have listed can disappear in a second. For example, you may lose your job, partner, or the ability to participate in your favorite recreational activities.
But regardless of your title, at the center, you’re a man who has no limits. Your own boundaries can only be confined by you.
You can always reinvent yourself – who you want to be.
Your identity plays a huge part in how you interact with the world. It can subconsciously control your level of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth.
After experiencing a life-changing event such as losing your job, you may start to question your place in the world. But with this empowering opportunity, you can create a new identity for yourself.
You get to design the numerous possibilities which best fits you.
Set yourself free and choose what you aspire to be. That master key has and always will be within you.
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