Does this sound familiar? You know you can get stuff done but the new goals you’ve set for yourself don’t seem to be coming any closer and weeks turn into months. Your friends talk about you as the ‘doer’, the one that makes things happen. So why is the new path you’ve decided to explore still greatly undiscovered?
After leaving my corporate career 8 years ago I had drawn up a vision to build a more flexible life where I would be in charge of my own time and able to shift easily between work, family and hobbies. The vision was clear but I had no idea how I would get there and what would be the work that I’d end up doing.
The biggest thing standing between me and my vision was the way I viewed my own identity and who I was.
I had labelled myself. I believed I was my work.
It’s so easy to do this. If you do something successfully for 15 years it’s easy to believe that that’s who you are. Forget that you were born a girl with plenty of facets, interests, values and talents. Then overtime it all got narrowed down under one sticky label, an identity.
To be good at something, be praised for our work, become useful or even indispensable may become addictive, a comfort zone. It doesn’t matter what the work is we end up doing over a long period of time or the environment we surround ourselves with, it often turns into one’s identity, a label. ‘A mother’, ‘a lawyer’, a ‘consultant’.
It’s easy to feel safe behind a label.
And to think that this is who you are because this is how all your friends know you. This is why your collegues praise you. This is what your partner expects of you. This is how your parents see you. This is how anyone who’d come to contact with you would talk about you. And this is what it says on your CV. Full stop. A label. No room for change. Or is there?
The stronger our current identity is, the more difficult it’s going to be to change it. To un-label.
The label stops you from dreaming
In the worst case the way we see our own identity stops us even dreaming about something new, something different, something more exciting. Because you do exactly what it says on the tin! And if the new adventure is not mentioned in the label how can one go about exploring it?
I remember when I left my big job and was free to do anything I wanted I wasn’t able to embrace my freedom. It terrified me. I kept referring back to who I was rather than boldly drafting ideas based on who I wanted to become.
This seems very typical, a lot of DrivenWoman members want to explore new avenues but find themselves almost paralysed unable to open new doors. It’s easy to fall back to old routines without even noticing. And how could we refer to something that may or may not exist in the future? But if you keep referring to your current identity it stops you from changing and keeps you stuck.
The label stops you from taking the first step
Can’t go on a mountain climbing trip because you aren’t that sporty (…yet). Or you can’t start a food blog because you are not a good food writer (…yet). Or you can’t go to a programming course because you are not that good with a computer (…yet).
You see my point. The labels are all in our own heads. The self-limiting identity keep us from even exploring something new. ‘What would my kids think if I went on a programming course, I can’t even use Twitter‘, you think. And to feel satisfied with our day it’s best to keep to the activities we are familiar with, the ones we are good at and know we will be praised for by people around us. Keep performing to our label, make it to stick even harder.
When one’s identity is very strongly linked to one thing, to one’s work, it’s extremely difficult to start moving away from it.
Don’t re-label, add a sticker
Perhaps you’ve arrived to the point in your life where you think, right, new something else. I need to move on from what I’ve been doing as it doesn’t fully satisfy me anymore. It’s easy to get paralysed by thinking you need to completely re-label yourself, become something new, something different.
180 degree changes are very difficult to pull off and unlikely to work. Our past is part of our future. Change is a gradual process, not an overnight sex-change!
Try to think of it as adding a sticker next to the current label. “NOW WITH ADDED VITAMIN-C!”
This is what I did. My first step outside my ‘brand consultant’ label was to write a cookbook. So I added a sticker. A brand consultant who’s also passionate about food. Ok that works.
Writing the cookbook freed my mind to think that I can actually do anything I want. The next step was starting this network, which on the outset wasn’t really related to any of my previous labels (and was super scary for that reason!). But I just knew I had to go through that fear and simply see what’s on the other side.
What I found was a complete freedom to do anything I want. I don’t have to label myself anymore. And certainly I’m not my work.
I still love brands, but I’ve now got lots of labels sticked to my forehead, in no particular order. A brand lover. A women’s empowerment gal. A selfish mother. A design geek. A wanna be fashionista. A crazy friend. A super wife. A self proclaimed foodie.
And I have no intention to stop here. I’ll soon be working on couple of more prominent stickers to add to my collection!
I wrote a cookbook but I didn’t turn into a food writer. Just by taking up a new interest or exploring a new avenue doesn’t mean that you will have to become that for the rest of your life. It’s simply just what it is, an exploration.
Do one thing that scares you this week. Something that no-one will praise you for. Something that your kids/collegues/friends will tell you that you are mad! Sign up to a course you know nothing about, go do a sport you’d never normally consider or finally start writing that blog you thought about for a long time.
What ever you are up to, have a great week!