Redefining Yourself After Losing Your Identity

Redefining Yourself After Losing Your Identity

Over the past month, I experienced what it feels like to lose your identity. Here’s how it went…

I just spent the three weeks moving into the “Summer House!”

No, I don’t have a stunning summer house in France.

The “Summer House” is where my fiancé (Matt) and I will be living while we have a house built. My optimistic daughter sneered when I told her about the “temporary house.” She found it to be an exceptionally awful name and decided “the Summer House” would be a more suitable name. I couldn’t agree more!

The entire situation is all kinds of dreamy – merging two families (we’re going from two to four kids), a wedding at beautiful Lake Lure with good friends, building a home in the mountains – BUT a whole lot of stuff came up for me.

The past several weeks have involved the move, the coming together of four kids, dealing with every detail of a home build, setting up my house for Air BnB and, of course, running my business. I’ll spare you the to-do lists that accompany each of those, but trust me when I say, holy overwhelm!

Beneath the endless logistics, a well of fears was brewing.

I was also working through stuffed away fears that bubbled up and manifested as a massive allergic reaction. This caused my lips to swell so much for three weeks, that I received many sideways glances from people who certainly thought was going for a Courtney Love, falsely inflated lip look. Ugh.

What fears could I possibly be having at such a happy time?

Well, there’s that old fear of commitment, along with the fear of making a stupid mistake, the fear of total and utter failure, the fear of expansion beyond my means, but I finally came face to face with the biggest fear of all…

The fear of losing my story.

The irony kills me a bit since that’s precisely what my business is about – your business has a story to tell. I help business owners create a personal brand, and tell that story. But now, I was losing my own story.

See, my story has been that of a single mom, powering through raising my two kids to be conscious, responsible, creative, capable, and safe – with no financial or emotional help from their father. I’ve been an island – working my ass off to grow as a marketing professional. Then gathering my courage to own my truth, and say goodbye the J.O.B. to start my business, where I’d make six figures my first year.

I wore my metaphorical cape as I to sweated and cheered through soccer games and band competitions. (For the record, I truly loved every single one of them.) I wore the cape as I made it to the front row (to the embarrassment of my kids!) almost every time for the concert performances, tucked them in at night, hid the Easter eggs, and wrapped the Christmas presents at midnight.

I did this for over thirteen years. This was me. This was my story. I was tough, determined, and my favorite word was “sticktoitiveness,” because it gave me strength. My story was about love, a strong bond with these two young humans; a story of success, blind faith, and proof that we can do anything on which we set our minds.

But during the move over the past few weeks, my biggest fear became the realization that in losing my story, I was also losing the identity I wore like a suit of armor for the past 13 years. It both shielded me and brought me comfort.

Of course, I am happy – it’s an exciting time and, as always, filled with endless possibility. But if I am completely honest with you, which I must be to look at myself in the mirror each day, I was fucking scared!

So what do you do when if feels like you’re losing your identity?

I don’t pretend to have the answers on how to deal with this. I’m guilty of learning the tools, then never using them when I’m in the thick of it. But I can tell you how I have been dealing in a way that has immensely helped me. It’s imperfect and incomplete – but it’s been doable for me. And I share this because I think there must be someone else going through this.

1: Recognize it. With the help of my village of coaches and my therapist, I had to recognize what was happening.

2: Honor it and lean in. It was completely understandable that I was feeling this way.  My entire life was changing. That person I was for the past 13 years, was changing. I gathered the strength to lean into the fear.  I believe you must do this if you are to enter the land of abundance ahead of you, and evolve.

3. Allow it. I had to let myself (and still am in the process) step away from my regular daily routine and work. I had to allow the time and space I needed to be present with this. I had to breakdown, plopping myself into a ball in the corner of my daughter’s room, and crying like a little kid after emptying out the remaining bits and pieces.

I did yoga; I walked; I wrote. I emptied, vacuumed, and cleaned as if I was clearing out all the stuff that I know had kept me stuck in the past. It was that same stuff that was coming up now. The vacuum never worked so hard as it did these past weeks.

I had to step away from my business for a few weeks. To me, it’s felt like a lifetime. By allowing yourself this time, you’re proactively eliminating the strange things that can come up as subconscious self-sabotage later.

4. Translate it and uncover the meaning behind it. What I’ve come to learn is that you don’t LOSE your identity. It shifts, it transforms, it evolves, but it doesn’t go away. I’m still the same person I was when I was ten, sixteen, twenty-eight, and yet so very different. This is the chance to rediscover, unfold, and unleash something new.

At this stage, you begin to understand it differently. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the irony of it all. I help people create personal brands, for God’s sake, I should know about this stuff!

Your identity drives your personal brand. Being clear on your identity and your purpose on a personal level, helps you step out and confidently present yourself to the world. Of course, I experienced so much fear when I felt this all falling away! This was who I was for over a decade, and now I was stepping into a new unknown.

I looked at what this all meant, the extreme growth it represented, this new pinnacle I’d reached. I simply had to give thanks to all I’d learned and accomplished on my own, and step gently into this.

Where this goes, I don’t really know. But, the stage seems perfectly set for a rebrand.

(And to my fellow warriors and coaches, if you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!)

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1 comment

Corinne Meharg

I’m reading this post in Tucson where we have a second home to get some sun and warmth and respite from the endless winter in Upstate NY. It truly resonates as I’m also at a spot where my identity is changing. My husband and I are both 68 and have started the process of transitioning from our orthodontic practice to “retirement”. I have to say that in quotes because you never really retire, you just change what you do with the bulk of your time. Since I have been Michaels chief coach and also do the books for the office, I am trying to reimagine what the future looks like. I’m looking forward to more joint projects with erin and lots of time with my grandchildren. I kind of think of it as slipping off the cape that I have worn for many years and putting on one that is a little lighter, but still strong and warm. Keep up your good writing and hope your lips go back to normal!

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