“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” – Thomas Szasz
What is lost can never be found, what is found can never be forgotten.
So echoes the quest to realise your true identity.
I remain convinced you do not discover your identity in as much as evolve into it. As you discard the image of the formed self, you allow the authentic self to emerge. According to author Neale Donald Walsch, “Your soul is who you are. Your body and your mind are what you use to experience who you are in the Realm of the Relative.”
A strong identity is upheld by the capacity to realise your life purpose and live it. Those who stray from their purpose lose their identity and later strive to assign meaning to their life. People in intimate relationships refer to similar feelings of losing their identity. These examples highlight the cause of attaching one’s identity to action – i.e. being, doing and having does not define identity. The ego adds a layer to the formed self to keep it safe while safeguarding its position in the world.
What if you failed to realise your purpose or if your relationship dissolved – what is your identity then? This is a common experience for those who endure a similar fate.
It begs the question – Who am I? If I am not my insert title here then who am I? Allow me to persuade you that a title does not make up your identity, it adds a layer to it. A relationship does not define you, it complements you – it draws out the best in you. If the relationship ends, it does not mean a part of you is lost. The relationship revealed aspects of your identity by adding a piece to the puzzle.
The perceived self is a façade owing to your past conditioning.
Reflect on that for a moment.
Who are you if not for the sum of your past? I.e. family, schooling, friends and life experiences. Who is the person you call “I” after all?
Allow me to cite a personal example. Over a decade ago I formed an image of being a successful fashion designer working abroad. My father was a tailor and mother trained as a dressmaker. Meanwhile I gained a B.A. in Fashion Design at university and fulfilled my dream to work in Europe prior to my realisation.
Yet the image of a successful designer was an identity I created to convince myself that a tailor’s son had made it big. Many years later when my father passed away, I recall that image perish along with him. I abandoned the identity of the successful designer since it was not what I desired after all.
“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” – Buddha
So we must venture beyond who we think we are to allow the authentic self to reflect our identity. We should dare to step outside our comfort zone, to peer through an alternate reality if we wish to discover who we really are. Your true identity may be found somewhere between your imagined self and outside your comfort zone. It was Bruce Hood author of The Self Illusion: Who Do You Think You Are? who states, “Who we are is a story of our self – a constructed narrative that our brain creates.” Whilst it may appear clinical to consider your self-image representative of your brain activity, I am inclined to believe this to be true on an inclusive level.
It beckons the question: why do we form an identity? Known as individuation, a Jungian term which refers to transformation of the psyche by uniting the personal and collective unconscious into conscious. It is the awareness of oneself to discover your true identity. Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, proposed we undergo eight stages to psychosocial development throughout our life. Self-identity then is seen to be an evolving process over the course of your lifetime.
In keeping with this understanding, make it a lasting priority to discover your essential self to avoid living an inauthentic life. Once realised, strive to live according to those values and principles by embodying them at the deepest level. Be wary though of associating conduct with identity given its inaccurate measure of character. Behaviour is fluid and changes as you grow and evolve.
True identity is formed through self-awareness, by letting go of conditioned thoughts and beliefs. At this level your choices are in alignment with your true identity. You challenge long held beliefs, by choosing to retain thoughts that resonate with your deepest self, while discarding others. As your life circumstances change, you integrate those experiences into your identity.
To strengthen one’s self-identity is commensurate with acting according to your formed image. Your self-esteem is reinforced when you uphold this image. As you look past inherited cultural identities e.g. tough, emotional, sensitive, brave, etc. you discover your own identity. Cultural identities diminish overtime while the authentic self is timeless and not bound by labels. The authentic self is often obscured beneath the veil of an imagined self which thrives due to the reinforced image of self.
Acknowledge your limitations while working within your perceived boundaries, by directing your attention towards your passions and interests. You let go of outdated beliefs to make room for actions that emanate from your authentic self. To discover one’s identity becomes a journey of self-exploration. You might venture from one extreme to the other while finding your true identity lies somewhere in between. Hence, once you have determined your values, abide by them. Whenever you violate your values, you weaken your sense of self.
To discover your true identity, surrender the formed image of self while allowing the authentic self to emerge. The authentic self cannot be weakened or destroyed since it remains the essence of your being at the core level.
Similarly, discard ideas, beliefs and destructive emotions which no longer serve you. Release them so your essential nature merges to replace the formed identity which you have given power to.
Once found, your true identity can never be lost since it has been present all along. It merely impersonates itself as the ego to help you find your place in the world.