The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself, and your emotional health and well-being depends on how you feel about yourself. If you've ever had that feeling that you've forgotten who you are and what you, and your life is all about, you'll know that it's the kind of feeling that can really dull your sparkle. The case of the lost identity doesn't just happen overnight, it creeps up over a period of time, and before you know it, you're in that limbo land of not knowing who you are or who you want to be.
Loss of identity can happen in response to loss - loss of a role that defines us. This loss can happen through redundancy, motherhood, being a carer for a loved one, divorce, being widowed, or even losing yourself in a relationship. Healthy relationships, whilst undoubtedly creating an element of co-dependency, should also encourage us to maintain our own identity and be ourselves. Unhealthy, abusive relationships can take away and completely obliterate our much needed independence and identity, making us feel like we don't know who we are any more.
Loss of identity leaves a black hole and an emptiness, and can lead to increased levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, a loss of self-confidence, social anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, a loss of self-confidence, social anxiety, and loneliness, all of which threaten our ability to connect with other people and to connect with ourselves.
Take motherhood for example, pre babies, your identity may have come from your career, your financial independence, travel, socialising and loads of 'me time'. Baby or babies arrive, and life all of a sudden switches, to being focused on being the best mum you possibly can be and you take on a whole new exciting identity called 'mummy'.
Those early mummy years are magical, but at some point, you may decide you want to, or indeed have to go back to work. There's no 'right or wrong' time and every persons situation is unique to them, however, imagine you've devoted your time and efforts to being a full-time mummy until your children start school. You've done an amazing job; a job you've excelled at and feel proud of what you've achieved.
Your children are now at school full-time, they are more independent and the time has come where you are in a place where you can now think about going back to work. It can be a really daunting prospect, because after years of 'being mummy' you've now forgotten who YOU are. You've been so focused, and busy doing things for other people that your former, confident, kickass pre-baby self now seems like a distant memory, even a dream, and that full-time, clearly defined dependent mummy role you've had, is now changing. Not only can you not remember who we are, you also don't know who you want to be, or indeed what you want to do.
If you are stuck in an identity black hole with a whole host of options and choices to do something new, it can be stifling.
So how do you reclaim your lost identity? It's all about self-discovery...
1. Self Awareness
Awareness that you have lost your identity is the first step to finding it again. Accepting that you are in that place and committing to working out who you are and what you want is a big contributing factor to reclaiming your lost identity.
2. The things that make you happy
Identify the things that make you happy, the things that you are passionate about and make a list.
3. The things you are awesome at
Identify your strengths, think about the things you are awesome at. Everyone is good at something, find yours and write them down.
4. The things that are important to you
Think about the things that are important to you right now, the deal breakers.
5. Your values
What are your values? How do you define you and what you stand for?
6. The things you want to do (your hopes and dreams) and the things you really don't want to do
Write a bucket list of the things you want to do, places you want to go, things you want to achieve. Also do yourself a 'f**k it list', identify the things you really don't want or don't need in your life going forward.
7. Set some goals
Identify some goals, even one is a great start! Think about why that goal is important to you.
8. Make a plan to smash those goals
Work out a plan that will get you to your goals. Start small with bite size chunks and make it happen.
Losing your identity is not a bad thing, it happens and it's normal, because life doesn't stay the same. We are constantly evolving and adapting and changing in response to the world around us. Losing something enables you to find something new, and you may find you create a whole new you - a you that has been hidden away all this time. When you know who you are and what you want, you will reconnect with yourself again, with others, with your life, and you WILL sparkle again. Therapy takes you on that journey of self-discovery, gives you the insight to understanding you and to fall in love with your life again.
Catherine Asta Labbett, is the founder and owner of Yorkshire based 'Bringing Sparkle Back' delivering Psychotherapy, Relationship and Life Coaching exclusively for women.