Monday, October 12, 2015

Discover Your Identity

“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.”
― Doug Cooper, Outside In
Van Gogh - Self Portrait

We all have beliefs about who we are and what we can do.  But as humans we also have enormous capabilities and capacities beyond what we think is possible.  Growing up in the 80s one of my favorite TV shows was the Incredible Hulk.  In this show Dr. Banner was consumed by the idea that we can tap into a superhuman strength when we need it. He was also extremely distressed that he could not tap in this strength when it was needed to save his wife.  He creates the Hulk in an experiment to understand this primal super human strength. The Hulk becomes a curse for him and it was the product of an accident during his experimentation.
Incredible Hulk TV show of my youth

The power to tap into our tremendous potential comes from our identity.  Our identity is where we ask the questions: how do we define ourselves and what do we believe we can achieve? Often we have all kinds of ideas about what we can’t do and why we can’t do it and they are simply not true.  When I practice yoga, sometimes I come up with elaborate stories about why I can’t do a pose: my thighs are too big, my arms are too short, etc. And then months or years later, I may get to that expression of the pose (that I had previously deemed impossible) and I realize my story just wasn’t true; it was in fact just a story.
Self Portrait - Artemisia Gentilischi

Identity is the most powerful aspect of the human personality. Once we define our identity we are determined to remain consistent with our definition no matter how limiting the definition may be. If we want to transform ourselves we have to be ready and willing to expand our identity.  We can expand our identities by building new, empowering sets of beliefs, letting go of our stories and being open to all possibilities.  A great way to do this is by doing yoga, meditation, reading, journaling and exposing ourselves to new ideas and experiences.

Self Portrait - Artemisia Gentilischi
The Key Principles of Identity
1.  Identity determines our actions. We act according to our views of who we are—sometimes these views are accurate and sometimes they are not.

2. Once we know who we are, we must try to accept ourselves. If we attempt to live our lives in a way that’s inconsistent with who we are we will live from a place of frustration, stress and disappointment. We need to embrace our  needs, desires, strengths, fears, values and beliefs in order to tap into our tremendous potential.
3. Don’t maintain the illusion that a single behavior decides who they really are.
Sometimes we experience moments of anger, anxiety and/or defeat, and that result in saying or doing things that are inconsistent with who we are.  These Inconsistent behaviors are not parts of our overall identity but instead momentary lapses. We should investigate these behaviors, forgive ourselves and move on.
4. When you take responsibility, you restore your identity. When we create unfavorable or hostile situations, we should take action to repair any harm that we may have caused and again forgive ourselves and move on.
5. Expand your identity by doing something that is out of character.
We grow when we try things we might find strange or out of the ordinary. It is the because  these activities are uncomfortable to us that we have the possibility to learn more about ourselves.  It is by doing these new things that we can expand our identity and grow.
6. Our personal identities are always evolving. We have the power to reinvent ourselves at any moment. We can create new, empowered, expansive identities that are consistent with our beliefs and desires if we want to.

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait
Write of list of your likes and dislikes.  Write a list of things that are “out of character” that you might consider doing to shake yourself up a little and help to expand your identity.
Cindy Sherman - Self Portrait

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