Our identity is integral to who we are, as the people we are right now. It is the essence of how we relate to ourselves and to others around us. Our identity is what we say when people ask us who we are, what we do, what music we like, etc. Through life we all go through ‘phases’ of trying to figure out what our identity is going to be, we associate with certain groups of people that we share similar thoughts with. We try to change our identity when we don’t like what people might think of us, we ‘reinvent’ ourselves. Get a new hairstyle, change the clothes we wear, change jobs, have a different relationship, move town, these are all ways that we try to change our identity. To shape ourselves differently and hope that the essence of what that change is trying to emulate seeps into our core; into our habits, beliefs, values, behaviours, attitudes, ethos, vision, goals, emotions.
For me there is one statement that really stands out when people talk about themselves. It’s a sentence that shows what people think of themselves.
I am ____________.
The I am statement is so fundamental to how someone views themselves because they are labelling themselves. They are assigning themselves an identity which will have particular beliefs, attitudes and values around it. Ask someone the question ‘What are you?’ and the answers will almost always be an I am sentence.
I am Ben.
I am a sister.
I am a golfer.
I am a doctor.
I am nervous.
I am a musician.
I am happy.
I am unemployed.
I am a goth.
All of these I am sentences give us something that that person believes they are. They are speaking of a part of their identity and these attributes within their identity will have meaning to this person. Some of them are good and some of them are negative for that person. For example, I am unemployed could have a negative connotation to that person because they feel shame. On the flipside, they could think of unemployment as a positive thing because they have retired and have more freedom. It will be different for each person and there will be a multitude of these I am statements that make up one whole identity. However, if we go high enough up the ladder all of these identities will feed into a handful of I am statements, maybe even up to 1 single statement. For example,
I am free.
I am a good person.
I’ll leave it up to you to draw the specific line of how the top list might fit into the 2 statements just written. What I will say though, is that our identity matters. It helps us make sense of the world and ourselves. Where we get confusion, change our identity and perhaps have a ‘mid life crisis’ is when our handful of really high up I am statements aren’t supported by our lower down I am statements. Hence, we buy a flashy car, move house, break up with a partner abruptly. Something happens to make us check our high I ams and see if we’re still following them to be who we really want to be. If we aren’t, our unconscious takes the necessary steps to make sure we’re still following the right ‘map’, these steps are largely outside of our awareness until they become major changes in our life.
So, I leave you with this question.
Where are your I ams taking you?