There was a time I wore my identities very tightly around me. Some of them were very essential for my protection and state of well-being. Daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law…these were vital ones. Much needed for self-preservation, safety and security.
In midst of this, I tried that of a dancer. It gave me a sense of specialness but didn’t seem peritent to survival. So I wore it when the fancy struck me – for joy, for fitness, for validation during the times I needed some self-worth. I also discovered the power of the friend one around this time. It’s is still a particularly sticky one.
Then I found one I loved – Writer. The word stuck around for a really, really long time. It’s one which I play a love-hate game with even today. Somedays I looked at it with fascination, somedays with pride, some days with a feeling of being an imposter, while on other days it felt like a thorn on my backside. I played with variations of this as well: journalist, poet, author, editor, content creator. The varied options kept the role entertaining. It provided variety, contrast, emotional highs and lows, all the things the mind seeks.
Dancing between multiple identities, I eventually felt tired. But instead of seeing the indentities itself as the problem, I chose a new one – Spiritual seeker. This identity is not all glamour and glory, as one may be inclined to think. A decade of living it has brought the awareness that truly epitimozing this one actually feels like a difficult task. I still wear this one, but with the awareness that it’s the last one I want to create.
Any identity we don, brings with it, its own set of challenges and struggles, gains and pains. But it is eventually seeing these all as ‘temporary’ that is helping me in a strange way. I no longer want to use it as definitions for who I am. I am starting to see that an identity doesn’t offer me the protection, specialness, joy that I imagined it does. An identity is actually continuous thought and movement. It is a defense, an escape from peace and tranquility into expectations and action. Being someone, anyone, can be a painful thing if you identify strongly with it. Being a mother for example… to feel the sense of responsibility and helplessness you feel as a mother, is not something that motivates you or fills you with joy. Mothering feels like a challenging role most of the times. It leaves you feeling things that cannot be communicated in words!
Words…in the end, identity is a word. It is a word that heavily relies on what meaning and values you give it. I have noticed the more value I give to certain roles, (wife, mother, writer), the more I struggle. Even now, though I feel a willingness to shed some of these identities, the attachment to them is strong. Old ways of behaving appear when I am playing that role. Sometimes, there is a feeling that “I” don’t exist without them. But I am learning to see that this is a lie.
I often feel a willingness to place these identities down nowadays. Do you want to try it too? Take a moment and set down the feeling of being a parent/spouse/boss/employee or whatever. Place it down besides you, like you would place a tea cup once you are done drinking it. You will use the cup again, and you will use your identity again. But just this minute, keep it down. It is there to pick up when you want.
Then check, do your shoulders feel different? Does your head feel lighter? Your breath feel free? Is there a pain on your back that is less painful? How do you feel when you are not wearing this and carrying this?
Every identity we wear, exacts a price from us. We do not realise it or we actually believe it’s a fair price to pay and an essential part of life. But do we really need to carry all identities with us, at all points of time?
I unknowingly seem to have picked up the identity of a writer and seeker again as I wrote this. But now that this is done, what I felt like saying has been said, I place them down. I will pick them up, when the I need to again. And it is as simple as that sometimes. Try it.