Who are you? The dangers of identity

It’s interesting how we define ourselves. 

A few years ago, if someone had asked me who I was, I would have said: high-achiever, sporty, middle class, academic, Londoner, likes to travel, over-thinker, punchy at times, maybe a bit intimidating to some (or so I’ve been told), perpetually single. 

Reading this now, I feel a deep, deep pain in my heart. 

To be honest, it’s a pain that if I sat with for a while, might actually result in tears. It’s a pain because of how utterly restrictive it is. It’s not a bad identity in any way, there are a lot of those ‘labels’ that are aspirational and beautiful things but the danger with it is that if we stick tightly to those specific labels, what happens if we want to deviate from them one day? 

What if, for an afternoon, I want to under-achieve. 

What if for a day or so, I want to be soft and super vulnerable and cry?

What if, at some point, I don’t want to be perpetually single?

Identities are interesting things. Have a think about how you define yourself? What are the labels that come to mind when you think about who you think you are. Hopefully there are some wonderful things that come to mind (I have no doubt as all of you who read my stuff are wonderful humans), but ask yourself whether in any way those labels are restricting you?

The thing with identity is that we cling to them like sloths to a tree. (fricking love a sloth). We cling to them because they give us a sense of SAFETY. A sense of who we are. A place in the world. In society. It makes sense because back in the day we needed to identify ourselves as something because otherwise back in tribal days we probs would have been ostracised which nobody wants. We all look for the belonging that comes with identity, clever brain. 

BUT… what about when the identity we created for ourselves doesn’t really suit who we are now but we are still trapped in it? Well, that’s when it gets tricky. 

A lot of us are so attached to our labels that if anyone or anything starts to challenge it we get one hella triggered. If someone had told me I wasn’t hard working or an over-achiever (or tbh even just inferred it)…woowwweeeewweewwaaaa I would have had a meltdown (of the internal variety).

So imagine what happens when we decide for ourselves that we don’t want to be an over-achiever anymore? It’s like the mind is driving us forward telling us to ‘do do do, more more more’ and our heart is like naaaah that identity was killing me. 

Who do you follow? Head or heart? Old identity or new identity? 

Most of us, until we do the unpicking work, will continue to follow the old identity because it keeps us safe (no more being ousted from the tribe), which in turn keeps us stuck and unable to change. 

Part of the process of making change in our lives is a process of disconnecting from one one identity and recognising that you are so much more than any kind of label you could have put on yourself. Recognising the joys but also the limitations of those labels. Recognising how they have the potential to keep us stuck and boxed in. 

The thing I hear most from my clients is this idea of being ‘trapped’. The reality is that we are never actually trapped. 

What we CAN feel trapped by is the identity we associate with which no longer fits. 

I’ve moved on (in part) from my old labels. I recognised how limiting they were for me, they kept me in an identity which felt inauthentic (#buzzword) so I purposefully decided to let them go. 

What is my identity now? Perpetually growing, changing, evolving. Following my nose and my gut. Trusting in the evolution of my experience, letting myself be whatever the hell I damn want to be and that, periodically includes some rogue-ass labels. 

  • What labels do you put on yourself?
  • What truth is there for those labels?
  • What are those labels enabling you to do?
  • What are those labels stopping you from doing?
  • What labels would you like to have?

Here’s to creating new, empowering, ever evolving, identities. 

L x

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Instagram: @lucy_puttergill

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