There comes a time in every person's life where they stop and feel a sense of disconnect from themselves. “I don’t really know who I am, or what I want,” they say, “Why do I feel this way?”
My clients often approach me as they are struggling with who they are; they’re questioning their self-identity. Self-identity can be thought of as the roles and expectations that we harbor for ourselves. While these are concepts we hold internally, they are shaped by the world around us.
We begin our life’s journey with a “blank slate” of identity. So where does our self-identity actually come from and are we able to change it? First, let’s go back in time to our infancy. From there to adulthood, our sense of selves is dramatically shaped and reshaped by not only the people in our lives, but by the society and culture that we exist within. As we mature, we form a living mosaic of identities, some harmonious and some conflicting.
When we think of the term identity, you may first think of sexual or gender identity. Or perhaps spiritual or political. But identity is a spectrum and there are many parts to it. Your place in the family could be part of your identity; are you a mother, a husband, or none of these roles? Are you a leader or a follower in the workplace? Do you wake up and know your purpose is to help and heal? All of these things and more make up the many facets of the unique gem that is you.
As a psychic advisor who specializes in tarot readings, one of the things I always remind my clients of is that Tarot is not just about getting answers, it’s about the questions we need to ask ourselves.
So, let’s get started by asking some questions about self-identity and self-awareness.
What is Self-Awareness?
As we start our lives we are assigned identities or roles by others. It’s like being gifted a pair of shoes. At first, the shoes are all you know so they’re familiar and comfortable. Yet over time, as our self-recognition grows, these same shoes begin to grow tighter. Perhaps there’s slight discomfort at first; a pinch in the toes, blisters on your heels. You try to shrug it off as temporary growing pains. But then, your knees begin to ache, followed by the hips and lower back with such a sharp pain that even taking the slightest step is agony.
When we relate this concept to self-identity, we’re of course talking about an emotional discomfort or pain, not a physical one. Events happen in our day to day lives that either confirm or challenge our self-identity. You may identify as an easy-going person yet be told by a love interest that you’re high maintenance. This tension between how you perceive yourself to be and an event that contradicts this can affect self-esteem and make you question this aspect of your self-identity. “Am I REALLY that difficult to get along with?”
Events also occur in our lives that challenge our self-identity in positive ways. You may have grown up in a “traditional” family but always felt like the black sheep. Then one day, you stumble across a community online while scrolling through your social feeds. Perhaps you find a story of someone who felt uneasy in their life or body and found their true identity, be it gender or sexual. In this case, this disconnect between your identity and a new identity can serve as a wakeup call; you see a life that’s not yours but could be.
At some point in our lives we realize that parts of our self-identity no longer fit; the shoes just aren’t that comfortable anymore. It’s a simplification of a complex issue, but the moment we understand this we are practicing self-awareness. Self-awareness is the knowledge about one's sense of self; to be conscious of the state of the mind. If we consider the shoe metaphor, self-awareness is the realization that the shoe no longer fits. Realizations like that can be scary but have hope! You can always buy a new pair of shoes!
Giving Up Your Old Sneakers or “How to Save Your Sole”
There is wisdom in common expressions such as, “Old habits die hard.” People find comfort in the familiar. Yet, we have to remind ourselves that just because something is familiar, does not make it healthy. This is why it’s important to allow ourselves the permission and the compassion to change.
But we have this fear that if and when we do allow ourselves to change, these changes would be rejected by those we love. Yes, gentle reader, there is the chance that your metamorphosis into the new you could lead to friction with your loved ones, but it’s so important to remember your truth: nobody else has to walk in your shoes but you. Your self-identity is just that, yours!
By denying ourselves the ability to change for the sake of others, we inadvertently deny ourselves the chance to live the identity that is uniquely us. Like trying to walk in ill-fitting shoes, we make ourselves uncomfortable for the perceived benefit of others. No one wants to be seen as “difficult.” However, by denying ourselves the freedom to change into our truest self, we lose our self-identity which can lead to unhappiness.
Many of my clients come to me feeling this sense of deep disconnect between the identity they portray to the outside world and to their true identity within. They’ve developed this self-awareness but have questions about changing.
“Change can be scary,” I explain, “but it doesn’t have to be.”
Why Should We Change our Identities?
According to a modern science report from the US Government, “Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.” You might be asking yourself, “What does science have to do with the consciousness of self?” It is important to derive wisdom from multiple sources. I use this reference because we need to remember that water is the most versatile element in nature: It can become a solid, a liquid, or a gas. It is an element of change and like water, you too have the power to change.
Being self-critical and questioning the identity you were raised with can be hard. It is letting go of what was essentially “you” all your life. Yet, keep in mind that you don’t have to release every aspect of an identity-- just the parts that no longer fit you. You can mix and match to suit your specific needs. This is one of the hardest lessons for some people; how do we decide what stays and what goes?
Questions to Ask Yourself
It’s time to look inward and ask yourself the question, “who am I?” We often ask this in a general sense, but it’s helpful to break it down further and question the individual pieces that make up our whole self. As you read the questions below, clear your mind of who you think you are. Allow yourself to ask these questions and to let them float in your mind without being answered.
Do you push aside attractions to the same sex because your learned identity has made you feel that it’s inappropriate? Perhaps you need to examine your feelings as they are, without judgment, to help find your truth?
Do you feel at odds with the gender you were assigned at birth? Does day to day life feel like you’re living in someone else’s body, or that you have a secret identity?
Do you find yourself drifting from the dominant culture you were raised in? Do you feel like you’re stuck between two worlds? You may need to examine aspects of your ethnic and cultural identity to find one that is your own.
Religion / Spirituality
Do you live your life in a way that conflicts with the religious or spiritual values you were raised with? Does this bother you and is it something you have to keep secret? Do you feel a desire to explore belief systems outside of your own religious or spiritual identity?
Work / Place in Society
Do you wake up dreading the workday? Is your mind filled with daydreaming and ideas for passion projects? Perhaps you need to examine your relationship with work and how this affects your identity. Is it time to finally strike out and make your own way in the world?
Doing the Work - Building Our New Identity
We know what self-awareness is and we’ve identified that we need to change, but how? This is where the practice of mindfulness comes into play. To be mindful is to simply pay attention to our thoughts, emotions, the world around us, and how they affect each other. Building your new identity will be an active mental process and as you step out with this new identity, being mindful will help you realize what works and what doesn't. Remember that self-awareness is the idea, but mindfulness is the act.
Think about it this way (back to the shoes again!). Whenever possible, you will always try on a new pair of shoes before buying, right? Rebuilding your identity is an active process and it won’t be straightforward. You’ll try on many different pairs of shoes, and maybe even end up with a mismatched pair that fits you just right.
How do we actually know what is and isn’t right for us? Building your identity is more than just a mental process. There are tangible actions you can take and exercises you can perform to help you through this process. As you practice mindfulness in your daily life, you need to keep track of the ways in which your self-identity is challenged and affirmed.
Then use the activities below to reflect and help rebuild your new self-identity:
- Journaling - Write your thoughts and feelings down. Read what you have written and view it through the lens of self-awareness. Do you feel the same way when reading as you did when writing down your thoughts? Or does it seem like you’re reading someone else's journal? Pay attention as these may be cues you need to evaluate these aspects of your identity.
- Talk therapy - It’s helpful to verbalize your thoughts to others. Open up to a trusted friend or family member that’s a good listener. As you share your thoughts aloud, listen to the words and how they make you feel. Do they feel different when spoken vs being heard inside?
- Consult with a Psychic Advisor - Remember that a psychic advisor can provide insight and help you on your journey. This may not always mean answers, but sometimes more questions.
- Morning Meditation - Practicing meditation is like stretching before your run. Clearing the mind using meditation makes room for mindfulness. Remember that mindfulness is crucial to any activity that will help you on your journey of rebuilding your self-identity.
Our self-identity is imparted on us when we’re young, but we have the ability to flow like water and change our course. Realizing there’s a disconnect between who we think we are and the person we feel we are is the first step towards change. Mindfulness practices and activities that encourage reflection like journaling, talk therapy, seeking psychic advice, and meditation can work together to help you rebuild your identity.
Yes, there will be stumbles along the way, but remember, that’s ok! Water curves through narrow valleys and rapids before reaching the ocean. New shoes take time to break in. Your journey to self-identity too will have many twists and turns but will be followed by awareness and achievement. Your true self is not out there in the world waiting to be found; it’s within you at this moment! Go find it!