Lost and Found: Misplaced Identity
Author: Samantha Thuesen
One day you may find yourself questioning who you really are. Depending on the lives we lead, it can be easy to lose ourselves, whether it’s because of friends, work, or life at home. Oftentimes we have different personas for different situations: a serious demeanor at work, a goofy attitude with a childhood friend, an easygoing air with a new acquaintance. It’s not uncommon to behave differently in front of certain people; you’re not going to make small talk with your best friend, and you’re not going to talk about your enemy from high school with your boss. In some cases, you change personas for the worse, and you need to find a way to rid yourself of those negative identities. We can get so caught up in all our identities that we have trouble locating our original selfhood. I’d like to share some of my techniques for dealing with this sense of, what I’ll call, “identity misplacement.”
Write down what you’re feeling. You can spend all day thinking about how you feel, but until you write down your thoughts, they will remain an unorganized mess in your head, causing stress. Take a pen to paper and address your emotions in chunks. For instance, let’s say you’ve been spending a lot of time with one of your friends who gossips a lot. Being human, you may indulge in the gossiping yourself, but later you feel guilty about it. Because you’ve been spending so much time using that “gossip persona,” you start to question what kind of person you are. Am I a bad person? What happened to my morals? First, write down what you and your friend gossip about, then talk about how gossiping makes you feel. This will remind you of your morals. Address if this friend is a bad influence, and create a plan of action to confront them about it. Writing down your thoughts is much more constructive than driving yourself crazy; it allows you to find a solution to your problem, and thus find yourself again.
Volunteer. When all seems lost, kindness is guaranteed to bring us home again. If you’re taking on a negative persona, it’s possible you’ll feel selfish. There’s nothing more humbling than giving your time to those less fortunate than you. That’s not to say you should use charity for the sole purpose of making yourself feel better, but use it to remind yourself of what’s important—that there’s something bigger than yourself. Charity is not always a completely selfless act; you receive joy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Surround yourself with kindness and you’ll without a doubt remember who you are.
Have one-on-one conversations with loved ones. It’s when we’re in large groups of people (mainly people with whom we’re not close) that we put on a thick persona. Sometimes you need to take the time to be one-on-one with those closest to you so you can spend time being yourself. Again, it’s not always a bad thing to “put on a face” for people, because that’s the whole point of getting to know someone. Just make sure you keep in touch with that part of yourself people want to get to know.
Lamisha Serf-Walls from HuffPost wrote an article called “7 Tips to Find Yourself When You’re Feeling Lost” where she addresses a similar issue: feeling lost in life and “going through an incubation period and transformation.” I found a couple of her tips to be applicable to the issue I’m describing as well.
“Go on an adventure.” I’ve given the same advice in other articles addressing completely different situations, but adventures are always beneficial. Lamisha writes, “Whether it’s a day trip, a solitary retreat, or a week-long drive along the coast, go out and explore the world. This will not only allow you to tap into the flow, but it will also give you the time and focus to really reconnect with yourself again.” Nature is where we originate, and it’s the best way to remember our roots, our morals, and our selfhood. You don’t even have to look toward nature if you don’t want to; find adventure anywhere that isn’t home, as long as you’re taking yourself out of your regular environment.
“Get quiet and listen.” Lamisha writes, “Everyday there are signs, messages, and guideposts that will inspire you to act, but you only notice them if you are open.” In context to her issue, you need to “get quiet and listen” so the world can guide you instead of trying to guide yourself. I interpreted it differently for the issue I’m addressing. Some may call these different personas of ours “acting,” which can get tiring after a while. Sometimes you need to sit back and reevaluate your environment; bring yourself back to reality. It’s important to take time for ourselves to be alone with our thoughts, but it’s also important to give attention to your thoughts when you’re with people, so you can think before you act. The easiest way to slip into a negative persona is acting first and thinking later. You’ll gain more respect from others and for yourself if you tread carefully in potentially uncomfortable situations.
Whether you’re trying to find your individuality or ridding yourself of negativity, these techniques can help guide you in the direction of your true identity. Putting on different personas isn’t always a negative thing, but regardless, it’s important to know how to find ourselves if we get lost.
Read the rest of Lamisha’s article for the entirety of her great advice!