Not Knowing Who You Are

Self-identity can be beneficial, it can also be a prison

Photo by Noah Buscher

One of the greatest challenges in life is the quest to find out exactly who we are and what we want to achieve in this life. Some spend little time contemplating this and follow a path that is laid before them. Some (like me) spend far too much time contemplating this and are torn between the multitude of paths and opportunities in front of them, having part of us that wants to explore them all.

There are certainly upsides and downsides self-identity and lack thereof. self-actualization without introspection may give you a life full of rewards if you’re lucky, but just as likely you will end up so far down a path there is little hope of return. On the flip side with too much introspection and no action, you’ll never get to enjoy any of the benefits of the many opportunities in front of you.

The point is you don’t have to know who you are, you simply must be open to the beauty of exploration and identifying what you enjoy, how it improves or changes your identity, and how it fits into the person you want to be, which is and should be always changing. It’s perfectly acceptable to have no idea who we are and who we want to become, because that person is always adapting, always changing, and always improving.

Yet we allow ourselves to be fooled into adopting an identify, because we feel lack of direction and indecisiveness will effect our prospects. Sure if we have absolutely no direction and can’t make a single decision, we’ll be caught standing still. Yet we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking any direction we choose or decision we make is final. If we choose one path, there’s nothing to say we can’t blaze a new one when we get bored or stagnant.

I face this challenge constantly when placed in leadership positions. I’ve always naturally found myself put in charge because of my competitive drive and my love for mentoring and teaching others. The problem is, when I’m placed in those leadership positions, they expect me to manage. There is a key difference between leadership and management and I refuse to do the latter. I’m unabashedly good at motivating, teaching, and mentoring people, but I absolutely hate managing them and often refuse to do it.

Yet often I struggle with whether I should suck it up and learn to manage. I ponder, if I’m continually placed in these positions, should I not pursue those opportunities to change the organization and have a broader impact on people. Maybe even change how leadership is viewed. Yet there are plenty of ways to do that (i.e. writing) without making myself miserable, and probably those around me as well (I’m also notorious of wearing my emotions on my sleeves).

In truth I’m unhappy when placing myself in a box. Maybe I could excel as a CEO of a company I believed in, yet I also really enjoy the freedom without that responsibility. I love teaching and mentoring people, but the idea of managing them gives me heart palpitations. Sometimes I enjoy coding, but don’t have much interest in identifying as a software engineer. Often writing is very therapeutic and love the idea of inspiring others through my words, but the idea of pushing out content on a schedule makes me throw up a little. I love playing games, but the idea of streaming for viewers seems like it would take all the fun away. Then again, maybe a little of all these things would create an adventurous and amazing life.

Ultimately there’s no dictating body that can tell you what to enjoy or pursue with your life. You can create your own identity that is fluid and always changing. The only things that remains constant your pursuit of improvement and the relationships you build throughout your journey. Continue to cultivate both, and your identity becomes a lot less important.