In a world filled with societal expectations, cultural norms, and the constant pressure to fit in, it’s easy to lose sight of who we really are.
We often find ourselves conforming to these expectations and labels imposed upon us, and we tend to neglect the incredible power and freedom that comes with choosing our own identity.
Ask yourself: what if you embraced your authenticity and took charge of your own narrative? How could that change your life? A journey of self-discovery and identity is one that can be transformative, empowering, and deeply fulfilling.
Let’s discuss the importance of choosing your own identity and the profound impact it can have on your life. Conversely, we’ll discuss what happens if you don’t! We’ll also explore the reasons why it’s crucial to break away from societal molds and expectations, how to make conscious, informed decisions, and explain why we need to define ourselves on our own terms.
Don’t Become a Victim of “Do What Comes Next”
All too often, we pursue a path for ourselves that isn’t exactly what we had always hoped for. Perhaps our family had a business, and we were expected to carry on in that business because well, it was the “family’s”.
Maybe we graduated high school and weren’t sure of our career options, so we just continued to work in the place we’ve always worked.
In both situations, years can pass by, and we don’t realize that we have just become the victim of “Do What Comes Next”.
One of our instructors found himself in this revolving door. After working for several years with his relatives at the family restaurant, he became well versed in the industry. Climbing the ladder and traveling the country as a Chef, he had accepted that this was going to be his career path even though it was not what he had chosen for himself.
By the time he was in his 20’s, he had a high level of competency and skill which translated into a high level of confidence. Every restaurant gig he held, he mastered. However, he didn’t actually enjoy what he was doing.
Ironically, the strong confidence he had gained over the years finally pushed him to seek things he enjoyed…and the rest is history. After owning a couple of different companies and several different martial arts dojos in Las Vegas, he found his purpose. He felt true satisfaction to know that he was doing what made him happy: a profession that he mastered as a high-level martial arts instructor who can also make a mean beef brisket!
Whether it was an intentional decision or an unintentional one, we can get caught up in the idea that pursuing something different might be too difficult, too “out of the box” … or maybe the thought of beginning a new endeavor makes us fearful. Either way, we are denying ourselves the possibility of finding a place in the world that works for us, where we can be our authentic selves and find fulfillment.
We cannot become tied up in the idea that it’s “good enough”. The acceptance of mediocre circumstances leads to a mediocre life. If you find yourself stuck in the revolving door of “Do What Comes Next”, it’s time to evaluate your goals (both short and long term) and define what’s important to you.
People who have a strong sense of self and a firm handle on their goals are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, are more confident, and have higher self-esteem. They will refuse to accept peer pressure and avoid situations that aren’t for their benefit. These characteristics won’t entertain negativity from other people, will refute incorrect perceptions, and will lay a solid foundation for intentional choices.
The Consequences of Unintended Actions
“We must not allow other people’s perceptions to define us” – Virginia Satir
So why is it a bad thing to allow others to form (influence) your identity?
The perception that people have of you can shape your own ideas. You might think this doesn’t sound correct, because today’s society places a great amount of value on individuality and the right to discern what reality we want to accept. If we don’t agree with the perception that people have of us, we don’t have to accept it, right?
Unfortunately, it isn’t a matter of purposeful intention to manifest an identity that someone else has created for you but rather an accidental absorption of it. When we don’t have a firm grasp on who we are and what we stand for, we tend to go with the flow of those around us and create an open field for indecisiveness and low self-esteem.
“Lacking a strong sense of self can make it hard to know what you want—forging feelings of uncertainty or indecisiveness for important decisions. As a result, you may feel that you are drifting through life, carried by other people and circumstances rather than momentum” (Cherry, 2022)
Relinquishing an active role in your own life only creates confusion, misdirection, and ultimately a sense of failure that can leak into your relationships, career, and every other piece of your life. Low self-esteem breeds low confidence which allows you to believe your potential to succeed is non-existent.
Think about how your friends and family influence you. Maybe even consider your extracurricular activities like browsing social media or binge watching a TV show. How do these people direct your decision making, if at all? Have you experienced both positive and negative outcomes due to a decision based upon someone else’s advice?
We cannot stress this enough: it is vital to become secure in your identity and your sense of self because if you don’t, you become a sponge that absorbs both positive and negative energy which allows others to make decisions for your life where only you will feel the consequences.
“Having a solid sense of self is essential to your overall well-being, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health—fueling your recognition of your worth” (Cherry, 2022).
Purposeful Decision Making
Perhaps the most effective way to reign in your personal identity and begin creating a strong sense of self is to build your confidence.
Confidence can redefine your potential. As we have mentioned, many who struggle with low self-esteem and identity displacement suffer from low confidence overall.
According to Cherry (2022), those with a strong sense of self possess the following traits:
- Independent decisions: You make choices of all kinds with confidence because it aligns with your unique identity, and you accept yourself completely.
- Self-Awareness: You participate in activities that nourish your soul and well-being. You’re also able to admit your flaws and are confident in learning new things about yourself.
- Boundaries: You can separate yourself from others and set boundaries, and you don’t aim to please people.
- Flexibility: Change can be unsettling, but you can handle adversity and uncertainties—viewing each challenge as an opportunity for growth.
- Emotional intelligence: You understand how (and what) triggers certain emotions and can apply healthy and appropriate reactions.
The motivation to push forward through adversity and to believe in yourself lies solely within a powerful sense of confidence. So how do we begin to gain this trait for ourselves?
Skill acquisition is a powerful tool. When a person decides to pursue a skill like martial arts, they have begun a lifelong journey of learning. Martial arts isn’t just about self-defense, it’s about self-discipline…self-awareness…self-esteem…self-control…which eventually (with knowledge) will build confidence.
When someone actively works to acquire and improve a skill, they gradually gain competence and mastery in that area. As their proficiency increases, they become more confident in their abilities. They develop a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, knowing that they have acquired a valuable skill through dedicated effort and practice.
In martial arts, we wear our identity around our waists – our belt rank. Our belt rank is a visual representation of our accomplishments and what we’re capable of and is a strong reminder of what we have done over time to reach this level of competency. Confidence comes naturally when you can climb the ladder of accomplishment, regardless of what subject or skill it is.
It’s clear that embracing authenticity and defining ourselves on our own terms is a transformative journey. Society’s expectations and labels can stifle our true potential, but by refusing these standards we open ourselves up to a world of self-discovery, empowerment, and personal fulfillment.
Choosing your own identity is not always an easy path. It requires courage, self-reflection, and the willingness to challenge societal norms. However, the rewards are immeasurable.
By embracing authenticity, we give ourselves permission to fully express who we are, to pursue our talents unapologetically, and to craft a narrative that aligns with our true selves. Embrace your authenticity, make deliberate choices, and let your chosen identity shine brightly.
Remember, you have the power to choose your own identity.
Cherry, H. (2022) Here’s How Your Personal Identity and Sense of Self Affect Your Growth. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2022/06/16/heres-how-your-personal-identity-and-sense-of-self-affect-your-growth/?sh=469fc31469bf