From the time we are born, we search for our identity. There is a constant tussle to establish our presence. Our cry announces our birth and from thereon, we rarely stop.
We talk, we fuss, we laugh; we are always doing things to find our place in the world. In school, it’s all about ranks and competing with others, as an adult it progresses to a game of titles and hierarchy. We get busy living a life based on others’ perceptions. We forget to commit to seek and understand who do I want to be and what do I want to be remembered as?
People work hard to establish a position, get power over another, define territories, and fight wars; not realising that the battle is raging within to search for empowerment, peace and love. Organisations see the same with people at different positions of authority. Human evolution is an interesting cycle to watch. The story has not changed for centuries, interestingly only the backdrop has changed. Hamlet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Pandavas and Kauravas, are timeless stories of society that are all played time and again all over the world. We are far more advanced technologically and aware scientifically, yet human emotions continue to have their hold on us and we continue to succumb to their influence.
After having children, I took a break from work and was concerned about losing my identity as a professional. There are many women like me who are in search of their sense of identity; wondering who am I? What is the purpose of my life? Am I a mother, caregiver, housewife, friend….? This concept of identity troubled me and I was curious what did the word identity mean for my life.
People work hard to establish a position, get power over another, define territories, and fight wars; not realising that the battle is raging within to search for empowerment, peace and love.
In the period of search, this anxiety acted as a catalyst and I sought to recreate my career. The irony is that the more I searched for myself, the more I discovered my insignificance and smallness in the universe. The perception and need for identity created so much noise internally. Gradually, I realised that I was chasing my tail, my ego. I had simply taken a break from being a professional to fulfill other roles and those roles were my identity as well.
“I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.” Roy Croft
Our identity is established in society by who we are for the world. This can only be achieved when we understand ourselves. We play different roles with different people. A woman plays the role of a mother, spouse, daughter, sister, professional and so on. For each relationship, her identity is established based on her inter-actions with them. In one relationship, she may be caring and courageous whereas in another she may be seen as immature and irresponsible. The lack of integration in persona results in conflict in inter-actions and creates emotional chaos in our life. It is our actions, not our activities that define who were for the people in our life. The intentions with which we conduct our life define a place for us in the world.
Life also gives us an opportunity to recreate ourselves. We are not limited by skill but attitude.
Great leaders or people who inspire us in society establish their identity based on the values they represent. Gandhi was committed to freedom through non-violence, Steve Jobs to creative excellence, Sachin Tendulkar to sportsmanship and Mother Teresa to caring for the under-privileged. Successful people work consistently and constantly to for what they want the world to identify them with. They identify their self worth and then passionately and courageously commit to living their life to build a relationship with the world from there.
Life also gives us an opportunity to recreate ourselves. We are not limited by skill but attitude. Education helps us understand ourselves, build discipline and opens our mind to different subjects and facets of life. Several associations today support women entrepreneurs who set up small-scale enterprises for making jewelry, cakes and cookies, candles, gift bags, clothes, party organising and many more. Having a full time career and titles alone does not define success. It’s how you live life and what you do in life that ultimately defines success.
“Committing yourself is a way of finding out who you are. A man finds his identity by identifying. A man’s identity is not best thought of as a way in which he is separated from his fellows but the way in which he is united with them.” Robert Terwillinger.
About Ashu Khanna
Ashu is a transformational leadership coach. She partners with senior executives to create a higher vision and achieve holistic success. She is the author of the book, ‘I Am Freedom.’