Questioning my identity has been something I’ve done throughout my life. Sometimes it served me and helped me course correct to move towards the person I wanted to become. Other times, it created self-judgement and insecurities that were counterproductive. This has come up more recently as I am navigating through what I want my next steps in my career to look like.
I have been trying to figure out what has been holding me back in fully sharing with all of my family, friends, and acquaintances; the fact that I am a life coach for people who live with bipolar disorder–something I suffered with myself. I have been working with several life coaches on this topic. In my coaching sessions, I discovered I still have some sensitivity and shame towards my own story of living with bipolar disorder.
I noticed I would say to my coaches, “I am bipolar.” It hit me one day, the words I was using makes a huge difference in the way I still see myself. The truth is, I have bipolar disorder, but it isn’t my entire identity. Even though I no longer think of myself only as someone who lives with a mental disorder, the way I was still describing myself didn’t match the way I thought of myself. This created discord between who I said I was and who I knew I was.
When I finally accepted my diagnosis over 20 years ago, it was natural to tie bipolar disorder to my identity. I allowed this fact to overpower my self-image and I couldn’t see myself as anything else. The negative way I viewed myself made me feel stuck and produced a lot of self-pity. Over the years, I realized it was just an aspect of my identity, but not all of it. I slowly overcame the limiting beliefs that identity created for me.
I have often been told by the psychiatrists and therapists I have worked with that as someone diagnosed with bipolar, I am a very high functioning person. I never knew how I was supposed to respond, but deep down I wanted to be so much more than that. I didn’t want my diagnosis to hold me back in any part of my life. I wanted to be just as successful as the next person and to be a contributor to society. I made a conscious effort to take really good care of myself so I can be trusted to take care of other people.
This made me recognize the significance self-identity plays in our life. How you see yourself is more important than how others see you, or how you think others see you. We really never know what other people’s opinions of us are, unless they actually tell us. And it isn’t very common for people to go around offering their honest thoughts about us. Therefore, it isn’t a productive use of our time or energy to be overly concerned about what people think about us, but to focus on what we think of ourselves.
No one else can control the way you think about yourself–only you can. The way you think about yourself determines how you feel about yourself. How you feel about yourself affects the actions you take on a day-to-day basis. These actions ultimately provides you with the results you have in your life.
If you are not happy with the results in your life, you have the power to change it. Identifying who you want to be if the first step if you want there to be change. Change does not happen overnight and it is not something you can wish or want into being.
Sometimes we take on identities that we believe society or other people in our lives expect of us. As women, we think we are supposed to be selfless mothers, respectful daughters, supportive wives, etc. Sometimes these identities are so far from reality that it create conflicts within ourselves, particularly if it’s not who we want to be. But some of us put up the pretense because it may be easier to go along with the script than to stand up for ourselves or to fight against the predetermined narrative.
I was listening to today’s podcast episode of Your World Within by Eddie Pinero. There were two things he said that I think is worth sharing. “Don’t worry about losing other people. Worry about losing yourself trying to please other people.” “We’re all better at being ourselves than some impersonation of what we think the world wants us to be.”
My goal is to continuously evolve and change the pieces of my identity I don’t like or could be better. I love growing and improving myself as a person. I think it’s one of the most amazing things about being a human, we have the capability to fine tune and create better versions of ourselves. The possibilities of who we can become are infinite. Every day when we wake up, we get to choose the kind of person we want to be. Who is it YOU want to be?