The universe seems to be sending me on a little trip into "Identity" lately ....
1. I have had quite a few discussions with people - both young and old - about identity the past few weeks. 2. I have proposed a blog post for Innovate My School that talks about the pressure teens feel to know who they are and where they want to be in the future (this is an upcoming blog - cheeky!). 3. I just had a lovely email from an old family friend, and in this email was a link to the 16Personalities website - what is this 16Personalities website I hear you ask? It is where you can discover your personality, very, very accurately .... mine was so scarily accurate (the test is basically the Myers-Briggs personality test, and I always get the same results every single time). It is a starting point, or a stepping stone to delving under the hood, so to speak, and discovering what makes you tick - a very "identity" exploring tool if there ever was one.
So, three things that have popped up in my life, directing me to this particular topic, I think it's the universe asking me - "So Liz, what are your thoughts on this particularly sticky, tricky, messy, topic?" My thoughts ..... my life I see as being split into three different particular episodes, or identities (four if you include my childhood) -
Episode 1: in my teens, I identified as a swimmer, a Paralympic swimmer. My life was filled with swimming laps, competing every weekend, stopwatches, and looking up to coach's who could take me to the top of my sport.
Episode 2: in my 20's, I identified as an academic and Fine Art's student - in fact I had great dreams to become an academic! I worked really hard at Uni, going from a student getting passes and credits, to actually finishing top of my class and gaining 1st Class Honours .... I then received a scholarship to do a Master of Philosophy degree. My life was filled with art and art galleries, assessments, paint, charcoal, and researching for essays.
Episode 3: in my 30's (of which I am halfway through), I now identify as an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and firm believer in your potential to achieve ... well .... your potential. I work primarily with young people, speaking in both primary and high schools, and have also developed a schools programme called RWS| Resilience Wellbeing Success.
Three identities ... or so it seems. But when I break down the nuts and bolts of each, when I delve back into my childhood, when I really go deep with all my "stuff" I can recognise crossovers and patterns, identifying personality "features" so to speak, that have threaded through my life. Despite having such a diverse "work" life, I have had a strong sense of my self, my identity through my life, and in a sense this has meant that each "episode" has been an exploration of certain aspects of my identity ...... that is not to say that during these "episodes" I haven't felt pressure to be or present myself a certain way. Yet, I believe that the barrier to these pressures is to cultivate as strong a sense of identity as you can, and keep on cultivating it throughout your life.
For children and teens, they are at the very beginning of this exploration, but unlike us adults, they have a sense of freedom towards this exploration, they have yet to experience self imposed prejudices, and the social pressures to present themselves in a certain way. To be fair, as you progress through the teen years, these prejudices and pressures start to grow, in fact they accelerate at an alarming pace! It is this that, as adults having walked the path before, we have to help teens with, to be guides and mentors, and not dictators or tyrants (not that I am calling anyone a tyrant .... not at all!!).
Do you remember what it was like to be a teen and how you felt about your identity? Are you a young person who is grappling with this stuff? What are your thoughts? Have you done the Myers-Briggs personality test? If you're willing to share what personality type you are, please do! (I'm an INFJ - and like I said above, it is scarily accurate!)
(image from We<3It)
Okay, synchronicity (or serendipity, or magic, or whatever you call it) seems in full swing today .... you see, when the universe really wants you to think about something, or intimately get to know a particular theme, it will tend to chuck signs at you like no-one else's business.
It started for me this morning, as I sat and meditated*, my mind opening up to the truth that I am digging deep for inside of me, getting a little nutty, a little crazy, a little gritty. Like magic, out popped my child self, grabbing my big adult self by the hand and dragging me into the creative intention I had set myself, and my child self was smiling, giggling, skipping herself out of the mud; my mud. And then I started to realise that only I can get myself out of my mud, but on the flip side I can't get anyone else out of their mud either .....
Next, a conversation later in the day, where the issue of healing and self help arose, and how we can't actually help other's that don't want to be helped. In fact, it was agreed, a little begrudgingly, that I (we) should step back, step back from that incessant desire to stick our noses in, let our opinions be heard, and force our intentions onto others (even if it comes from BIG LOVE). We can only heal ourselves, or work on our own shadow mud pits, other peoples issues are their issues, and they have to choose to work on these issues themselves .... as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
Later tonight, as I sat here catching up on my email subscriptions, I opened the latest newsletter from Danielle LaPorte, and low and behold, the first thing in her newsletter "I stopped trying to heal people…who didn’t really want to be healed." An anecdote about her own experiences with the desire to heal others, but the recognition that "if you don’t actually want to do the healing work, (change, let go, serve others in the growing) like, what can I do?" Thank you Danielle.
Thank you Universe.
Sometimes we can get so mixed up in what we think makes us a good person .... we think that to be a good person we have to 'save' people, help them help themselves, take control of the situation, be everything to everyone else (and dare I say it, neglect ourselves in the process). STOP!! Let's clear the waters, if you are getting deep down and busy in your own mud, digging up those issues and internal obstacles, really looking at who you are, and working on your own Self, then you are taking the steps to being the best person you can be .... and hey, in that process you become the best you for those around you. Instead of trying to 'fix' others, you find that you can be there for them, non-judgemental like, and just be that hand to hold, or shoulder to cry on on their own journey, through their mud.
So dig in for the long hall with your own self development, and be that good family member, friend, or even stranger, that can be an unconditional support along this journey we call life .... and watch it as the universe starts to flow and starts to grow.
*Have you noticed that when you misspell meditation it often comes out as mediate ... I did that up there in that blog post, and then I had a flash, a lightbulb, isn't meditating a form of mediation, mediation between yourself and your Self (aka the universe or universal consciousness)?
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright