Defining your identity & reconnecting with yourself and the world
I have spent three months intensively defining my identity. That’s when I felt like I am starting to reconnect to a deeper truth. And connecting to home.
Having a personal identity seems to become more and more important, as we have more time and freedom to reflect our way of living and who we are/ who we want to be. I have always had the privilege of taking time to figure out who I want to be by finding books in friend’s shelves, travelling the world and taking two gap years fully investing my time into what I believe matters.
But what exactly is your personal identity, how many identities of yourself are there and how do you (re)connect with who you are (and when do you know you’ve truly found yourself)?
Personal Identity (ID)
This is your chosen identity, the way you decide to be seen by others, how to interact with the world around you and most importantly the way you see yourself. It is 100% subjective and due to constant change. Your personal ID is shaped by your dreams and visions and the values which define your actions and interactions. This goes to the very of core of your mind, influences the way you think, how you come up with new ideas, how you make decisions and what you consider important.
Opposite to your internal personal identity your reputation is the way people around you actually see you. It is the way people perceive how you act and how they think you are. There is always a gap between how you see yourself (self-image) and how people see you (public image). Therefore, constant self-reflection based on honest feedback from friends and family is so important. Or go a step further and collect opinions from strangers or people you are working with. They might be even more honest, because they have less emotional constraints towards you and often describe your public image based on your first impression.
Business Identity and other identities
Beside your personal identity and your reputation there are more identities of yourself, which influence different domains of your life. This might be the person you are at work, where spend a lot of your time is often different from how you behave at home. This throws up the question:
Do multiple identities diminish your integrity or are you even schizophrenic?
This question is worth investigating and I would love to hear other opinions on that! Personally, I would answer the question with “No, not necessarily”. It depends on how different your identities are and what they derive from. I derive all my identities which I have consciously from my personal ID (which I try to align with my reputation) and adjust them slightly to fit the domain. If my behaviours and values in different domains vary gravely I investigate that gap and try to resolve this ambiguity.
How do you find out about your identity and when have you found it?
These are two ways I identified to define my identity:
- Share: I continuously share my thoughts, recent experiences and current matters that occupy my mind with people around me. I have often been told I am a loud thinker. This way I literally hear myself think and recognize important insights or discrepancies. Additionally, I get an instant response or reaction from my conversation partner.
- Listen: To process the response and gain value, active listening and an open mind are essential. I love to share, entertain and talk to people. On this trip, however, I actively tried to listen and ask the right question to help my conversation partner (that’s what coaching is all about), instead of leading the conversation. I learnt so many valuable things, which I then processed for myself.
The whole process of sharing and listening seems to be the most natural way to interact and develop, to learn and reflect. The key is to do this process consciously and repeatedly to gain and give value.
During my process of (re)defining my ID I have encountered a point where I was satisfied. I would describe this feeling as true happiness combined with a great relieve which leads to a feeling of simplicity and a new (previously hidden) world of opportunities, like those bonus levels in games where you can’t die and just collect bonus points.
Imagine a tree of opportunities highlighting a set of branches just for you, helping you instinctively decide your next plans and actions. The tree helps you navigate through a jungle of tempting opportunities, indecisiveness and disorientation.Changing your plans regularly or following the wrong path in your tree makes it incredibly difficult to follow through your plans, leaving you unsatisfied and restless.
How does defining your identity help you (re)connect to yourself?
That’s simple, literally. Your identity (which includes a vision, values and your travel directions) helps you decide on what is important and which opportunities to take.
(Re)connection is the process when you do what aligns with your identity and therefore feels right for you.
I learnt how much I need my family and friends, and how much I am looking forward to having a family myself. The last six years I was running away from something. Something I couldn’t even name, but it was enough to prevent me from settling down. I don’t claim wanting to settle down immediately, but for the first time in those six years I feel like I am not running to escape, but for a bigger purpose. I took on many different perspectives to now be able to realize when something feels right:
- I feel like only building my dream-house is not what I want. Rather would I live a hybrid life travelling with my dream-tiny-house between Germany and the world.
- I feel like only work in a great company is not what I want. Rather would I make corporate experiences to build up an impact network of companies, foundations and contributions.
- I feel like working 40+ hours a week in my office is not what I want. Rather would I start my day with breakfast with my family, work over a Chai Latte, play with my kids or hang out with my friends for lunch, work at the office or a café until dawn and help people to new opportunities before going to bed.
- I feel like letting my future kids play a suburban playground is not what I want. Rather would I provide them the world as a huge playground and have the time to play with them myself.
I don’t know what is going to happen next. And that feels pretty good. I feel like I have found my direction and roots and now the adventure of living in the moment has taken off.
To get another view on how to define your mission read the article The 3 Key Ingredients for Your Personal Mission Statement from Christopher Connors in The Mission. In my article “About adding a purpose to life and impact others” I share my own ID and go into more detail about my vision and travel directions (as I call my most important goals in life)”.
I would love to hear about your visions, experiences and opinions. Leave a comment or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect!