“Who are you, who am I?
Are we more than strangers passing by?”
(This is a follow on from last week’s post in case you want to read that first!)
Back in October I embarked on a six month course to work on my branding with the amazing Nicki James. While I knew this wouldn’t just be about logos and fonts, I didn’t realise just how much I would be digging into who I am and what I stand for. Which completely makes sense and is very much in tune with my ethos. It’s vital for me to be honest and authentic in my business. I’m a bit of a rubbish liar. I was never the greatest actress (I only got a grade E in A Level Theatre Studies). I can’t “sell” anything that I don’t truly believe in.
I’ve been looking at the subject of identity through the lens of yoga for many, many years now. Identity starts very early on in our lives. From the day we are born, we are given labels. We are assigned a gender and a name. We spend our teenage years trying to both find our tribe and express our individuality. We spend the rest of our lives putting on new layers. Every new role, new venture, new pleasure is accompanied with the feeling that this contributes to your identity. Sometimes it feels like you’re just putting on one outfit on top of another. We can feel weighed down by all these layers of identity that we are supposed to be representing.
Yoga has given me the chance to carefully disconnect from those layers of identity that I have become shrouded in down the years. I feel less and less that these identifiers should define me. In particular, the identifiers that I haven’t particularly chosen; my sex, my age, my nationality, my skin colour, my medical conditions. It seems ridiculously limiting to say that I am defined by these arbitrary characteristics. I am increasingly conscious that these are just boxes that make it easier for others to identify me. They have less and less bearing on how I identify myself.
At least the parameters I have chosen for myself make some sense as contributors to my identity. My politics, my vocation, my hobbies. The music I like and the food I eat. But are they me. Conversely, can they really be who I am when I can it change them on a whim?
Or is who I am below all those layers and all those definitions. Is it the bit that cannot be defined? The tiniest kernel that lies beneath?
We are all “branding” ourselves all the time. We choose which version of ourselves we are presenting in any given situation. The clothes we wear , the way we speak, the things we choose to put on social media. This isn’t reserved to business owners. I’m sure many people will claim, “no, I’m 100% honest and I don’t care what people think of me,” but if you really ARE 100% honest, you’ll know that’s not true. Even if you choose to wear, ‘I don’t care’ clothes, that is a conscious decision you’ve made.
And in our modern world, this weighs us down. It was weighing me down. So I flipped the script. I realised that these things are not ME, they are the signposts that helps the world understand me better. My outward facing identity, all these parameters, are not me, they are merely a representation of me. Identity should exist to make our journey through the modern world easier, not harder.
When I say, “disconnect carefully” I genuinely mean it. You have to beware completely disassociating from yourself. We can lose our connection with the ground if we’re not careful. We still have to live and travel through this world. My body is still MINE. It’s just not ME. I’m not suggesting we throw all these identities and definitions away. It’s about being more keenly aware that they are constructs.
And I am well aware that I can come at this with the privilege of being comfortable and secure in my own body. The concept of identity is something I can somewhat play with but I know for others it is far from a game. However I wonder if this philosophy can lend comfort to those who, for various reasons, do not feel their body represents who they are?
There’s no conclusion to this investigation. It’s something I’m always curious about. I’m curious as to why humans are so attracted to tribalism (increasingly so in recent years). I’m curious as to why we feel the need to put ourselves in those boxes. To me it seems so restrictive. I sense it’s stifling human progress. I certainly felt it was stifling me.
Can you take a peek outside of the boxes you’ve put yourself in?