“As long as you make an identity out of pain, you cannot become free of it.” – Eckhart Tolle
I posted that quote to my Instagram yesterday. It received mixed reviews…
You see, when you create an identity for yourself, you become one with it. So adopting an identity is [unfortunately] like creating a part of yourself. That said, the shitty part about adopting identities is that you feel a need to hold on to them in order to remain your whole self. Sometimes you might feel compelled to do certain things in order to maintain your identity… because if the identity is not maintained, you’ll “lose” part of yourself. And as a result you’ll lose a sense of your self-worth.
That’s horribly sad. And I’ve previously fallen victim to that way of thinking.
So if you want to know how to maintain a strong sense of self-worth without holding on to a particular identity, make sure you read to the end.
1) You Created an Identity From a Career or Activity
Have you heard of an identity crisis?
It occurs when someone who identifies as one thing (ex. a competitive soccer player), no longer participates in that thing (ex. no longer plays competitive soccer). And as a result, that person feels like they lost their identity – a part of themself.
I had an identity crisis once. It happened after I had a brain injury at 14 years old. After the injury, I could no longer play soccer at the same competitive level. So I “logically” concluded that I lost my identity as a competitive soccer player.
My injury also seemed to have changed the speed at which I process information. That said, I again “logically” concluded my identity as an academic and future lawyer was gone.
So when my identities were gone, I felt like I had no purpose to live… Thus my self-worth plummeted.
“What did you do next Ella? How did you find self-worth again?”
I decided to drop identities altogether. I realized that being a soccer player and an academic weren’t identities, they were simply things that I did. And the fact was, I did a lot of different things!!
Think about it, you do different things everyday right? Yes we all have routines, but some days we might eat different food, or do a different workout, or wear different clothes. So if you can do different things everyday on a micro scale, you can also do different things on a macro scale! Your purpose to live changes as you change; the things you do are not who you are but simply what you experience.
So I’m no longer a competitive soccer player, but that fact does NOT make me any less of a human. And adopting that mindset has allowed me to try so many new things, knowing the only reason I can actually try new things is because I am a human!
2) You Created an Identity from a Painful Experience
After my brain injury, I noticed things worked a bit differently in my body and I wasn’t too happy about that. As a result, I started identifying myself as a broken person with a broken brain. And by adopting that identity I subconsciously started limiting myself when it came to setting new goals and achieving my dreams; I figured I could never be as good as I wanted to be in life.
“But Ella, you turned your rock bottom into your breakthrough… shouldn’t I do the same so I can thrive as a result of my painful experience?”
You’re right – I did turn my rock bottom into my breakthrough. And I think it’s completely possible for you to do the same. But just like your rock bottom is not your identity, neither is your breakthrough.
Just because you went through some tough times, that does not make you a hero. It just means you learned how to live as a result of your life being challenged. And more specifically, going through tough times means you learned about the strength of your true identity — your humanness.
You have to learn to break free of your identities or you will always be a slave to them.
What you do, what you live through, and what you experience are not who you are. Remember that you are human and that is enough. Everything else you do enhances your Being; it does not create it.
So for me…
… I do not identify as a “soccer player”, an “academic”, or even a “brain injury survivor”. I’m just a human being doing my best to live and trying to help others do the same.
Hopefully this post helped you recognize your self worth. Because you better believe I see it in you.
As always, Happy Monday ❤✌
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*Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional advice.