On Identities

The identities we define ourselves by matter a lot. Whether they manifest in beliefs in our minds or in conversations with others, ask yourself whether the identity you choose is truthful.

For example, I am a writer. This identity is true, but it’s not because I write “well.” That part is just a story my ego cares about. I am a writer because I sit down, and I write. And that story serves me. It’s accurate, and it’s encouraging. It puts me on the hook in a way that is not debilitating because I can control the outcome. I determine if keys are pressed and words are typed. And if I write, then I am a writer.

But perfection and quality, the story alongside the identity, cannot always be controlled. So put aside the identity, “I’m a good writer.”

Quality is debilitating. Anyone can write one “good” sentence. But you’ll never be a writer without a lot of “bad” sentences being out there. That’s part of the process, it’s part of the identity. Almost none of us go undefeated. Even Muhammad Ali went 56-5. But in each of his five losses, he was still a boxer.

We shy away from identities because self-definition puts us on the hook. It’s the fear of putting ourselves in the arena. As a result, we either shun identities to protect our egos or delude ourselves into embracing identities that are not true. We either become the painter who shuns the label because we haven’t sold enough paintings to be a “successful painter.” Or we walk around calling ourselves singers, even though we don’t sing, or call ourselves businessmen, though we’re not in business.

Don’t hide behind an identity that isn’t truthful. And don’t shy away from an identity because you’re afraid. Criticism and setbacks will come. But if you embrace the identity and put yourself on the hook, you’ll be more resilient.

“I am there for my friends when they need me.”

“I am a writer.”

“I get back up when I fall down.”

I can control these identities.

So be precise, be accurate, be outcome-agnostic and process-focused. Stop hiding, have courage.

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