By Follow Your Own Rhythm
For many years, I lived my life with a very false idea of who I was. I definitely went through an “identity crisis” starting in my earlier teens that bled well into my later twenties.
Always trying to be “perfect,” yearning to fit into some ideal box so that I can feel like I belong, and accomplishing certain things to make myself feel worthy and important were some of the things I did to find a sense of identity.
Who I thought I was, was so far from the truth that I began to live with a lot of anxiety, inner confusion, and a deep feeling of not belonging.
So I went on searching for answers, trying to find a deeper truth, knowing deep down inside that this couldn’t be IT. There was more to life than just this fearful, anxious, and confused way of being.
And thank god I did, because I discovered the source of my anxiety. The source of my anxiety came from the idea that my worth, my importance and who I am is defined by what I do, how I look, and who I am in the eyes of the world. I realized that these definitions of “who we are” are very much flawed and that essentially, I am a spiritual, eternal, and abundant being.
Being attached to all of these different ideas of who we think we are is what creates our anxieties and fears in the first place. The more attached we become to these false identities, the more our egos or “false selves” get strengthened, and the harder it becomes to break free.
So it is ESSENTIAL that you realize that even though these identities are part of your life, they are not the core of your being. They are not who you truly are.
15 Things That Do Not Define Who You Are
1. Your past
You are not defined by what happened to you, where you came from, what your story is, where you grew up, what kind of parents you had, how you were raised and what you did in your past. You are not the college dropout, the troublemaker son, the poor girl, the foreigner, the bully, the victim, the failing student, the fat girl, the skinny boy, the weirdo, the orphan or the abused child. You are not the person you used to be, and you are not the person that the world labeled a certain way. These experiences made you stronger, wiser, and more resilient, but it is not who you are. You gotta let it go and look at yourself with fresh eyes every day.
2. Your mistakes
You are not your failures or your mistakes. Don’t let the idea that you are a “failure” shape who you perceive yourself to be. Making mistakes and failing is part of being human. We are not born knowing how to walk.
3. Your tendencies
Let’s say you tend to get distracted easily, become shy around new people, or get angry when you don’t get your way. These tendencies are not who you are. Don’t let these labels limit you. You are much more than these habits, tendencies and learned ways of being.
4. Your name
Your parents give you your name upon birth. You have no control over this and you have no control over what kinds of things your name will be associated with. So why do we take attacks towards our names so personally? And why do we get so embarrassed? I’ll tell you why. Because we believe that our names define us.
My name is Barbara, and based on most people’s reactions throughout my life, “I don’t look like a Barbara” and Barbara is an “old person’s name.” I also go by Barbie, because it’s short for Barbara just as Katie is short for Katherine, and that name happens to be the name of the infamous Barbie doll who doesn't exactly have the best reputation. Needless to say, I have some name issues. But am I going to let these conditioned ideas about my name define my name, and more importantly, am I going to let my name define me? No way!
This also goes with titles you have in front of your name that indicate your position in life such as Ms., Mrs., Dr., or Professor. These titles also do not define you. You are not any less or more important, cool, or worthy because you have a certain name or a certain abbreviation in front of your name.
5. Your occupation
You are not defined by being a teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer, counselor, cashier, waitress, host, cleaner, mechanic, janitor, etc. Yes, this is what you do for a living, but this position does not define who you are. This position does not determine your level of worth, importance, or intelligence. It’s just a fancy or not so fancy label, but can you really be defined by what you do 40 out of the 168 hours of a week? I don’t think so.
6. What you own
Owning 3 vacation homes, 2 fast cars, a 5-bedroom house, and a bunch of brand name clothes might make for an extremely luxurious life, but it does not make you better or more worthy. Similarly, not having a lot does not make you less important. Also, when you define who you are with what you own, what happens when what you own gets threatened, damaged, or lost? What do you have left when everything you believe you are is gone? You have nothing. You feel broken. You feel empty. However, when your sense of identity is detached from the things that you own, then when these things change (as they always do), your sense of identity and feeling of wholeness remains intact.
7. How much money you have
Your financial status does not define you. Whether you’re rich, poor or in the middle, you have an equal potential for being happy. Don’t let the extra zeros in your bank account get to your head and make you feel like you are more entitled, and conversely, don’t complain and play victim because you don’t have enough money. Separate who you think you are from how much money you have, and see your financial stresses start to fade.
8. Your accomplishments
You are not your achievements, credentials, grades, degrees, rewards and anything else that you have accomplished. All of these things are definitely worth recognizing and celebrating, but they ultimately do not measure your level of inner worth and value.
9. Where you live
When we get so attached to where we live, we believe that we ARE that country, city, or neighborhood. And when we believe that we ARE where we live, we have a hard time changing locations, accepting new places as our home, letting other people into our “territory” or letting go of people’s opinions of where we live. Enjoy where you live, but don’t get so attached that you forget that where you live is not who you are.
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10. Your belief system
You are not your thoughts and beliefs. What you think is not who you are. You are not defined by your religion, your political stance, and any other beliefs and opinions that you may have. You can feel strongly about an issue or topic now, but that may very well change as you grow and evolve as a person. Your beliefs are not set in stone, and thus, are not who you truly are.
11. Your age
In this society, we are conditioned to believe that when we turn a certain age, we are a certain level of “old.” And usually, this feeling of “old” begins right around our 30th birthday. I mean seriously? 30? How? That is so young! There is definitely a flaw in this whole mentality that unfortunately, most people feed into.
You are as old as you feel and act. Period. Your age does not determine how old you are, and it definitely shouldn’t determine how old you FEEL. Let go of the need to identify yourself by your age. You are an eternal soul, forever young at heart, and you can do anything, at any age.
12. Your gender
Just because “this is what men do” or “this is how women are” doesn’t mean that this is how YOU are. Don’t let your gender define you, because it will limit you. Move beyond what is expected of your gender, and do what feels right for YOU.
13. Your role in a group (such as in your family, at your work, in society)
Your role as a wife, husband, mother, father, grandmother, sister, aunt, uncle, daughter, philanthropist, writer, coach, blogger, gardener, teacher, caretaker….these are roles you play but they are not who you are. Don’t get so attached to “being a mom” that you forget to be yourself.
14. How you look
You are not your physical looks. You were born a certain way in a certain body. This body is not who you are, but rather a tool that you use for living in this physical world. The type of face, body, hair and skin that you were born with, does not determine who you are at your core. You are also not the clothes and shoes that you wear, the way you style your hair, the accessories that you put on, and the tattoos and piercings that you have. Although it is fun to play around with fashion, always remember not to get so attached to how you look, that you mistake it for who you are.
A word of advice…
Avoid exhibiting behaviors that society expects from you based on your physical appearance. For example, if you’re a pretty, young girl, stop embracing being stupid and superficial and show that you have a deeper side to you, and if you’re a manly muscular man, stop embracing being a hard ass and show some emotion. Stop being who you are expected to be.
There are so many false expectations that the world puts on us based on how we look, that why not defy those expectations, surprise people, give them what they don’t expect, and show them a real, deeper side of you. And most importantly, don’t let your physical appearance define how worthy, wonderful and beautiful you are.
15. By society and by what other people think of you
There will always be people in your life who will judge and criticize you, and say things that do not truly reflect who you are. Sometimes, you will even hear the same message about yourself over and over again from different people which you will eventually start to believe is the truth. You will then start to define who you are based on these messages that you have picked up. But the truth is, no one but you knows your truth and no one can tell you who you are but you. Also, what people see in you, is just a reflection of their current emotional state, life experience, and level of consciousness. It is only half accurate, because it is based on their perception of you, so you can’t take it so seriously that you start to redefine who you think you are based on their opinions.
The thing that most of the above things have in common is that they change throughout your life. Your job, your age, your financial status, your occupation, your role in your family, where you live, your belief system, are all temporary. They come and go. So what is the point of trying to find your sense of self in these things when they will eventually pass? You’d just be setting yourself up for loss after loss, illusion after illusion.
Why is it so important to not let these things define you?
When you believe that you ARE these things, what happens is that every time your occupation, physical appearance, or belief system gets threatened or challenged, it’s as if someone just took a piece of your soul. You get extremely affected by any judgment towards these “identities,” and you might react in unhealthy ways.
Some unhealthy reactions are: you get angry and fight back, you develop deep anxiety and fear of people’s judgments or develop an unhealthy need to be perfect, you feel a deep sense of insecurity and worthlessness because you cannot meet certain standards, or you change your values, how you look, or the way you do things, so that you can be “approved” of by everyone else.
These are all unhealthy behaviors because THEY ARE INAUTHENTIC TO YOU. They are not reflections of who you truly are. They are merely reactions to a trigger done at an unconscious level. And when you do things unconsciously, you are not being true to yourself.
Life can become SO MUCH easier when you practice detaching your sense of worth and identity from how you look, what you have, and what you do. This way, if anyone has a comment to make about you, you take it a lot less personally, and are able to process it and let it go a lot quicker, because ultimately, you know that this is not who you are. This also makes it easier to not judge other people, as you understand that this isn't who they are either.
Don’t let the way society does things alter the way YOU do things. Be authentic. Think for yourself, believe what you feel is right, and do what helps YOU be a happier person. Do not wait for the world to make decisions for you. Be strong. Be yourself. Be free. And be happy.