Many of us use terms to describe our identity. If we are talking about our sexuality identity we might use words like straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, vanilla, kinky along with a plethora of other terms. Sometimes we string them together, like butch dyke switch or straight male cross-dresser submissive. If you’re questioning what any of these terms mean, lets simply say for now that there is a whole world out there and you might be identifying with only a small section in it!
We also create identities around relationships and relationship style – monogamous, polyamorous, swinger, romantic partner, wife, boyfriend etc. There are plenty of other places we create identities as well: within family, work, how we eat etc.
We use these terms to be known in the world. We create communities and tribes around these identities so we can share with people like us. We also use them as a point of contrast to know who is different than us. This is especially easy to see when the topic of politics comes up.
But can our identies become self limiting? I’d assert yes, they can.
Let me start with a personal example looking at one of my identities. I was raised a vegetarian since a baby. For my parents it was for health reasons and their religion advocated it. When I was a senior in high school I was curious about meat so I tried a bite of steak. Probably not the best first choice for me but either way I decided no, I am still a vegetarian.
Over the years from time to time people would say, this is delicious, you must try this, you’ll like it. I would try it but never really enjoyed it and clung to my vegetarian identity. Beyond some inconvenience when traveling, being vegetarian worked for me and I didn’t have a big enough incentive to change.
Fast forward to here and now. I’ve been doing a lot of things recently to create more energy and improve my physical & mental well being but was still feeling sluggish. My acupuncturist challenged me to eat for what will best support me nutritionally and help shift my body chemistry. She asked me to try salmon.
What to do? If I hold fast to my identity of vegetarian I won’t really know what impact salmon will have for my health and it could limit me. So it’s a choice point. I can eliminate this as an option or try it.
Since I’m exploring how to eat for what by body needs instead of what tastes I enjoy, it changed the conversation for me. I was willing to choose to try it because it is in line with my overall wellbeing commitment to myself.
So how did it go when I tried it this week? I can’t say I loved it, but I ate about 5 or 6 ounces of salmon and felt good right after I ate, later that night and into today. Overall it was a success and I am willing to try it again and will have it later this week. Will this be a lifetime shift to eat salmon and will expand my palette further to include other fish or meat? It’s too soon to say. But what I have learned is in loosening my hold on a lifetime identity about how I eat and focusing on my bigger commitment to myself, there are some new possibilities ahead and I always get to choose each day. In building my muscle here, there is an opportunity to expand outside my comfort zone with other identities.
The take away I’d love for you to get is not just to hear an example from my life to illustrate how an identity can become limiting but to see something for yourself in your own life. What are you getting for yourself from this?
A few other questions to get you thinking are:
- What identities do you use to describe yourself?
- What identities have you inherited? (for example, I’m a good daughter so I won’t do X because I’d upset or hurt my parents.)
- What identities are in line with the big commitments in your life?
- Which identities are limiting you in reaching your goals?
From building some awareness here you get to make a choice. Will you continue with your current identity or explore something new? I look forward to hearing about your journey.