“Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
As I step into 2016, I'm launching a new website and beginning to write a monthly blog again. Part of this process has been writing my Bio to give prospective clients and students some idea of who I am. It was challenging to do without writing my entire life story to provide context. At first, I found myself listing all of the titles that I use to identify myself - mother, daughter, friend, lover, project manager, MBA, life coach, writer, homeowner - all of them true, but they don't really provide insight into the energy that I bring to my life and my relationships. The list felt more like an inventory of clothes that I have hanging in my closet. I wear these different aspects of my identity every day, in different combinations, but it's only when I take them off that I reveal myself in a naked and genuine way.
Honestly, it's important for me to have an identity 'wardrobe' to wear each day to help support comfortable interactions with others who rely on me to 'dress' myself in a way that makes them comfortable and provides social cues as to how to engage with me. The problem is that sometimes I confuse the identity labels that I wear with the deeper truth of who I am. I've also had a tendency to put on items that were given to me by others, even when they are uncomfortable or don't fit at all. For many years, I tucked away some of the more feminine aspects of my soul. My identity was tied to my career and climbing the proverbial "corporate ladder". My sense of self worth was tied to promotion, salary and recognition from my coworkers. It was exhilarating at times, but when I caught an occasional glance of my own reflection, I no longer recognized myself. I was tired of parading around in high heels. I longed to put on dancing shoes or to run around barefoot. It took a health crisis to make me question why I was tired most of the time and to start peeling off the layers of my identity that no longer served me.
I started looking through the wardrobe of my soul. I found there were aspects of me tucked away in the corners - crumpled dresses that were vibrant and soft to the touch, dancing shoes that had only been worn a few times, funky hats, hiking boots, and sheer blouses that felt lightweight and exposed more of me than I had let be seen in years. My favorite discovery was a yoga mat! Who knew that I was a yogini? And recently I found a box of massage oils and mantras; I put them on my bare skin and discovered the Tantrika in me. I trembled as I came across some of the shadowy aspects of my identity that I'd hidden away years ago. I'm still scared to wear these aspects of myself, although when I try them on, there is a certain beauty to their darkness.
So my Bio ended up being part fashion show and part strip tease as I pulled out some of the identity labels that I wear everyday, slid into a few of the more risqué aspects of myself, and exposed a little of my bare soul. I also put on a new name this year - just another layer of identity. It wasn't so much a disowning or discarding of my legal name or my "old identity" as it was an adornment. It felt like putting on a band of gold that symbolized my commitment to myself and the vision that I'm creating for my life. Ultimately, it's just a name like all of the other labels that I wear in this lifetime, but I chose it because it means "beautiful" and that felt like an aspect of my spirit that wanted to be acknowledged.
Who are you? What 'labels' do you wear every day and do they still fit you? What aspects of yourself are longing to be expressed but are hidden in the closet of your soul?