Identity and life roles; how to avoid isolation and devastation
Throughout life there will be roles we inhabit which we identify strongly with, like being a parent or professional. Although it is healthy to identify with these roles, the old adage that too much of a good thing is bad for you can be quite true. The danger in identifying with any one role too greatly is, should the role dynamic change or even cease to be, it can devastate us. Have you ever heard of the ’empty nest’ syndrome? This is how it happens.
For me it happened when I identified too strongly with being a model, as soon as I no longer was one, I was depressed, as if part of me had ceased to exist. I soon found other roles to latch onto, which I now know only perpetuated the problem, rather than eradicating it by choosing to focus on my core identity instead.
On reflection the issues I had surrounding my identity were compounded by the fact I often hid behind different masks for the life roles I inhabited, never quite being authentic and revealing my core self. During those years it was a very lonely existence. It was as if the rough seas of my life roles had thrown me overboard and I was trying to swim against the tide, with my fear of intimacy battling against my authentic self so that I would remain masked and stay hidden.
Of course it is natural each life role you inhabit will draw on different elements to your character, but your core self should always be the captain of the ship, steering you on a calm course throughout each life role, letting your genuine character and authenticity shine.
Since embarking on my journey with therapy I have learnt how to better harness my authenticity, developing a core identity which stands true irrespective of any life roles I inhabit. This happened so gradually that I cannot remember any defining moment of revelation, though I do recall feeling completely at ease with myself, which was a brand new feeling for me. I felt at peace.
Developing a core identity
One of the ways you can develop a core identity is to list each of the life roles you inhabit in columns. Underneath each column then list your traits, character and behaviors associated with each role. Really dig deeper than just face value – the most important thing is to delve deep enough so you can find common ground between each of your life roles. You might not be able to do this in one sitting as it may be new to you to consciously analyze your life roles and core self in this way. Revisit the list until you have common traits, character and / or behaviors throughout each of your life roles.
Once you have found commonalities, write these up under the list heading – you guessed it – ‘core identity’.
Then consciously act predominantly in your authentic, core identity for each role. This isn’t to say you need neglect the other traits, character and behaviors unique to each role, but rather, that they set the backdrop for the main attraction – your core identity! Over time you too will grow completely at ease, gaining a greater sense of peace.
If you would like to read more on authenticity please read my article titled ‘How to Stop Worrying What People Think and Be Authentic in 6 Easy Steps’.
Do you naturally gravitate towards your core identity in the many life roles you inhabit? What is your core identity? Did doing the exercise help reassure you that operating within your core identity is really just about being yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
Stay tuned – next week I’ll be covering the dark side of life roles and unpacking some of the nasty emotional baggage that can take us all by surprise.