The Difficulty of Changing Identity
Choices and Progress
Change is Instantaneous. Progress is Slow
Have you ever entered a conversation that changed your life in a moment?
The other person says something like, “this may come as a shock to you, but (insert life-changing sentence)”
All of a sudden, life, as you know it, was never be the same again.
The power of these moments is that they can alter your identity instantly.
The sudden jolt of identity withdrawal is like having the rug pulled from under your feet.
Whether you perceive the change as good or bad, you will likely struggle with your shifted self-image.
Naturally, we feel anxious as our story about the person we thought we were does not exist.
The whiplash of sudden life change can spill over into other areas of our life as you question your existence.
“What will others think of me? How do I Introduce myself? What else was I wrong about? ”
Your simple life story becomes violently disrupted, and you find yourself in a state of limbo. Your stability is gone.
You ask yourself, “Who am I, and where do I belong?”
Stability is an Illusion
Why are we so resistant to change?
Maybe it is because we compare our life’s to other people and observe that they seem to have had a logical progression from point A to B to C.
Their progression towards an imagined future seems so linear and logical.while our own trajectory would give a NASA astronaut motion sickness.
When you think about it, a smooth path is seldom the case for anyone.
While progress is natural, change is often jarring and surprising.
Life morphs into unimaginable scenarios that seem impossible to comprehend and even more challenging to explain.
Our brains try to make sense of our life’s story until a significant life event sweeps us off our feet. Then, all of a sudden, we are thrust into non-stability.
Trust follows a similar trajectory.
Trust, like progress, is hard to gain, but it takes only one event to find out how easily we can lose trust.
What to do? How do we deal with the earth-shattering change that is bound to happen to us multiple times in our lives?
A Choice is the Only Choice
If you don’t like something, change it; If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. - Mary Engelbreit
How many times have you thought that an event like getting fired was the worst thing that could ever happen to you?
Then some time passes, it becomes evident that the event was the best thing that could have happened?
Indecisiveness is futile until you realise that you have the choice to change your circumstances. The only way to beat the anxiety you feel when going through an identity change is to take some morsel of control when you can.
You have the choice to change the way you perceive the event.
In life, there are not many clear-cut choices. I believe there is no such thing as a right or a wrong choice. There is only A choice because there is never a sure-cut way to know all the consequences and ramifications.
The Taoist Story of a Man and a Horse
My favourite illustration of the choice of perception is this;
There was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. Then, one day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The following day the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy for what they called his “misfortune.”
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
The story perfectly illustrates the inclination to jump to a conclusion about an event. But clearly, the final verdict is challenging to predict.
Let Them Have Their Opinions.
The neighbour in the toast story was quick to judge, and this is how we perceive that people jump to conclusions.
We spend so much time thinking about how other people will perceive us. But, unfortunately, we usually do not give these fictitious people the benefit of the doubt.
The truth is people don’t pay as much attention to us as we think.
We assume everyone will be judging us negatively. The reality, however, is that they are occupied by thinking of themselves and what others think of them.
It is extremely rare for someone to focus closely on you. We usually have to pay someone to listen to us with undivided attention.
So why not give these fictional “other people” the benefit of the doubt?
What if we could picture this fictitious “other person” as always thinking kind and generous thoughts rather than being so judgemental.
It is sometimes essential to think about how others perceive you, but why does the typical “other person” have to be mean and condescending?
Even if other people do think negatively of you, what does it matter?
There is no way you can please everyone.
Some people you meet are not going to like you.
When I realised this, it changed my life.
I developed a sense of courage that allowed me to do things like start this blog.
I feel more comfortable enough with myself and my choices to proceed in the face of uncertainty.
The Power of Choices
Everything in your life is a reflection of the choices you’ve made. If you want different results, make different choices - Unknown.
In a world where you are free to do and go where you please, nothing is off-limits to those that show commitment, patience, and resourcefulness.
If you recently had a massive life-changing event occur, it is natural to feel anxious.
If you are changing, you are growing, and if you are growing, you are living.
Growth can be painful, especially when struck with a loss of identity in the process.
One remedy is to take control of your perception to craft your story. But, of course, there is no such thing as a “right choice”, so set your indecisiveness aside and move forward.
Suppose you are worried about what other people think. Stop. People don’t pay nearly as much attention to you, and why would they?
Envision and craft your fictional “other person” who would be proud of you. Picture them accepting you regardless of the circumstances.
Take control of your life story and your thoughts will follow.
Growth is a form of love, and both can be painful at times.
Now that you have a gap in your life, you can mould your identity to become the best version of yourself.
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