Updated: Apr 22
When we’re born, we enter the world with no idea about identity, we are simply existing in a strange new awareness. At this point in time, we’re neither a boy or a girl (to ourselves) we have no understanding of status, money, what is right, what is wrong. We don’t fear death, as we have no conception of what death is. We aren't worried about flying, spiders or heights, we are simply intelligent energy whose instincts know it needs sustenance to survive. As we grow our parents or carers start applying the construct of identity upon us, identifying us as a boy or a girl, dressing us in the appropriate clothes and buying us the toys that they think match our sex. Tanks for boys, dolls for girls. (thankfully this is being diluted know) Our identity begins to form at a very early age. As we grow older we follow our parent's choices for us, get told what we need to be in life, what paths they would prefer us to take and what identity they would choose for us.
This isn’t done in any selfish way, merely the guidance they had been given and therefore the pathway they believe to be right. Of course, on the whole, it is done to protect and good intentions are at play. More recently some parents have chosen to break these stereotypes down and choose a more neutral pathway for their child, allowing the child to choose their own version of ‘identity’. Nonetheless, we go through life attributing opinions and labels on ourselves based on what we believe we are, what we believe we can do and what we believe we know.
“I’m good at football” or “I hate golf because I’m rubbish at it”
“I’m a guitarist” or “I’m a lawyer”
“I’m wealthy” or ‘I’m poor”
“I suffer from depression” or “I am fit and healthy”
All judgments and labels we place upon ourselves to give us a detailed description of our identity, something we can pull out in conversations to either align or separate ourselves from the identity of another person. Now obviously it would be unhelpful to have no understanding of your identity in certain situations, simply going to the bathroom or changing rooms in a public place could be problematic for some. Understanding your abilities in a certain situation would also be helpful to yourself and others. You could enter the world open darts championship if you wanted, after all, you may have played a few games in the pub with your friends, but it may result in an early exit from the competition. Which is fine, as long as you accept it for what it is and don’t place judgement on yourself for it.
We go through life labelling ourselves to others and creating a uniform of sorts, made out of our beliefs on who we are and what we are able to do. Which is limiting, limiting because it draws conclusions on situations before they have happened. “I can’t do that because I’m bad at it” or “I suffer from depression and today is a bad day”
This belief system that we have about ourselves is based on memories built up over time, and when it’s clear that our memories are flakey at best, it’s no definitive blueprint for the truth. Going back to our discussions around the bodies ‘fight or flight’ system where we are inherently predisposed to avoid danger (again, where danger is a construct of beliefs, not necessarily truths) We naturally build resistance up around our beliefs in order to pseudo protect ourselves. Some people with vivid beliefs about their health or situations can be housebound for years, fearful of venturing out into the outside world, staying inside their safe place to protect themselves. Ironically for fear of death, when they are living in a no-life existence anyway.
Imagine how your life would transform if you observed your beliefs about yourself as merely that, a constructed set of memories or labels. How liberating it would be to say, that’s not what I believe, that is my mind's construct of what it wishes for me. How would it feel when you accepted you for being you, with no label. Not having to ‘perform’ a part in your description of yourself. You may well be a world-respected virtuoso guitarist with fans around the world. But one day when waking you find you cannot play the guitar anymore. Do you stop being you? Or stop being the world-famous guitarist? The guitarist would dwell on the tragedy, of their loss of ‘who they are’, their sadness at not being able to be that person anymore. Whereas the self separated from the identity would still be ‘me’ and could have acceptance in their presence, and happiness in the present moment, taking the loss of ability to be simply what it is, happy that they changed millions of people's lives with their talent over the years.
Our memories also create identities for people we meet or people we know. “He’s my friend” “I don’t like her” “He’s really successful, I want to be like him” “She's really fit, I wish I could be as fit as her” We base our opinions on our self-made identities of others, from what we see, believe and hear. How often have you made a judgement on someone's identity based on what someone else said about them? This forms part of our identity, our opinions on others and how we react to them. “I can’t go to the gym because it's full of really good looking, fit, healthy people” or “I’m not going to that party because ‘she’ is there, and I don’t like her” Take away the judgment and identity beliefs and feel liberated at the abilities that present themselves.
Are you really ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at something? Of course, some people have abilities to do certain things in a shorter amount of time, over a longer distance or be more consistent at something, which in turn means they may win a race, a competition or simply bake a well-risen cake. This is on the whole due to their dedication to what they enjoy rather than any form of psychological advantage. By saying you are good at something requires a form of measurement, as does saying you’re bad at something. If measurement didn’t exist, would you be good or bad? If you were the only golfer in the world, would you be the best golfer? You are simply someone who plays and enjoys golf. Winning or losing is a human-made construct, all part of the illusion of life. Accept your abilities for what they are without judgement and be happy with them.
Once you can see your identity for what it is, a self-made belief system built on memories and perceptions rather than any solid truth or rational logic you will be free to accept situations, relationships and life experiences with a fresh perspective and overall acceptance of what is, rather than what could or should be.