I guess that one of the reasons for interest in the topic ‘True Identity’ might be that there is a sense that the world, humankind, would be better served if more of us we're operating from our True Identity – being our Authentic Selves.
But how to identify this True Identity?
As a life coach (I love that word ‘life’, it covers such a broad spectrum of aspects – not business, sport, voice, relationship, but Life) - as a life coach, clients often come to me with very specific areas or goals they wish to develop or to achieve.
But before too many sessions have passed - and sometimes during the first one - we may discover that the client is more interested in finding out who they really are and what they really want. The rest of it can wait.
I feel that the journey to reveal True Identity can really begin from here.
Self Awareness is the portal through which we must pass in order to recover or to change or to develop in any way, personally or professionally.
But how to discern which is our true identity, as opposed to the view that we may hold about ourselves right now? What are we measuring ourselves against? Which mirror are we looking into? What checklist are we working from?
It is likely that we are basing our sense of Self on what or who we have been told we are, or what we’ve had reflected to us over the years, beginning from the moment of birth. We arrive. We are given a name. Soon an identity seems to be mapped out for us. This pressure may be added to by an almost subconscious effort to shape our identity to fit in with our sense of what is societally, fashionably, intellectually acceptable – even if it’s meant losing any True Self in the process. As humans, we long to fit in. As mammals, we’ve historically needed to. It is often the more self- confident, resilient and well-supported child that grows into an adult who does not struggle with this. We do not all fall into this category.
Working together, using a variety of coaching tools including deep listening, reflections and gentle questions, the client begins to find out who they truly are.
I once heard an old Quaker quote used when referring to an enlightening process, “for our comfort and discomfort”. This fits well with the level of honesty which may be required to take a good look at ourselves. After all, we’re all a mixture of dark and light.
So. Who have we been told we are – by parents, teachers, employers? Does that still feel true?
Who are we when we’re home alone and we’ve stripped off the masks and costumes we wear in order to feel safe, acceptable, or even invisible out there?
(Personally, I spent my younger adult years behaving like an extrovert – even telling people I was - but later realising I was an introvert desperately trying to fit in. Exhausting.)
We get back to basics. What characteristics do we have?
I am…. Sometimes I can be….Sometimes I can feel…I like…I don’t enjoy…I believe…I feel joy when…I feel fearful when…I know I am good at…I have a tendency to…I hope to…
From these openings, we can start to write down our values and beliefs.
Are we living a life that matches our values and beliefs? If not, what gets in the way of this?
What steps however small are we willing to take in order to overcome these barriers?
Can we risk unpopularity? Stop worrying about what others think of us? Perhaps resist the pressure to stay the same? Colleagues, family, partners – dropping old habits like people-pleasing or compliance can cause annoyance to others around us. Becoming more assertive may rock others’ boats. Saying ‘No’ considered rude. Not working unpaid overtime downright irresponsible.
And it's never too late to live life from our true identity. Leave the corporate world to become a holistic therapist. Leave an unhealthy relationship. Give up the gym membership, chuck out the protein drinks and the weights, burn your bra, throw away your make-up, your fake tan, stop worrying about teeth whitener, greying hair and wrinkles. Run barefoot in the park…
Are we really open to new ideas? Take me for example – I couldn’t possibly boil an egg before piercing the fat end with a drawing pin then putting it into the boiling water. Always have – since someone like Delia mentioned it - probably always will.
How many other things do we do because that’s the way we’ve always done them because that’s the way that we have been taught is ‘right’?
Folding wet washing. I always take the washing straight from the machine, fold it carefully, wet. Leave it a while – then hang it up to dry – makes any ironing a dream. Milk first in the teacup – because I believed that was the way to serve it – until a friend told me recently that in her family it was considered rather common so to do. (Horror!) And, besides, turns out that technically milk after is the best way to calibrate the colour of the tea. Half a century I’d been putting milk first in the cup…(still do actually). Scones, cream teas – yes, please – jam before cream. Absolutely no question about that one. The prompt for me writing this today stemmed from my decision to ‘open my mind’ to replacing the expandable wire cross-bath storage rack that I’ve favoured for umpteen years, with a smaller tidier basket that suckers to the wall. Revolutionary stuff for me!
There does seem to be a bit of an overlap here with the three Rs, Routine, Ritual and Repetition and from there I expect it could easily be a slippery slope to obsessive compulsion.
Being a Sexagenarian, like many of my generation, I’ve had a lot of new ideas to get my head around: television, space travel, sonic flight, mobile ‘phones, the world wide web, fibre optic broadband, the microwave, microchip and several generations of G.
It seems only yesterday when I was intrigued to see a young woman talking animatedly to herself, on the pavement, as I was driving by. “Oh dear. Bless”, I thought and then realised that she was talking on the ‘phone, outside, in public. ‘Phones, I’d learned, (see how I still use the apostrophe - age-reveal), were objects kept in the hall of the home (or in a public red ‘phone box if you hadn’t the money for one) and used for business calls solely between 9 and 5pm Mon – Friday. Calls to family and close friends could be made 7 days a week but considerately - only up to around 9pm – intrusiveness must be avoided at all costs.
This isn’t a whinge – a, ‘when I was your age’ or ‘what’s wrong with the world today is…’type of thing. I’m pretty tech-savvy to tell the truth. I’ve embraced the technology – in most areas. I’m afraid I failed miserably however in the audio-device dept. I was keeping up with tape cassettes and had moved smoothly onto compact discs but I fell at the iPod fence and never climbed over it to download stream or store. But – credit where credit’s due – I can set up and host a pretty efficient online webinar!
In coaching terms, a list of our ideas is termed as ‘constructs’ and these come under the heading of Values and Beliefs. These will naturally have stemmed from what we saw, heard and were told when we were growing up. (This is a good moment to mention that I can never peel an orange in any other way than the one that my father carefully showed me.) We also learn things like, who’s in, who’s out in the Okay Parade, what’s acceptable behaviour, what is not. Watching and learning, taking our parents opinions, religious, political, societal, moral beliefs on board.
Breaking a bread roll rather than cutting it in half before buttering – Good.
Wearing red high heels, smoking in the street – Bad.
Then, having hard-wired these in over the first dozen or so years, along comes secondary school, hormones, acne, peer groups and rebellion. The teenage years are a natural time for separation. Evolution dictates that young adults actually need to start that separation process, preparing to split off and start an independent life.
We may also begin to question those values and beliefs, horrifying our parents by converting to the opposite views to theirs. Religion, politics, ethical and moral values – all these may come under the cold light of revaluation and review. Thank goodness for the questioningness of young people, for the opening of young minds, which up until now, may only have been filled from one limited, biased source.
They are our future. And I don’t use the term lightly.
I wish I’d been that kind of teenager back in the Sixties. Rigid thinking, fear of criticism, lack of confidence, these are some of the blocks to open minds. I have not yet heard the term ‘narrow-minded’ delivered as a compliment! Conversely, rigid thinking plus arrogance, prejudice and over-confidence can also be just as limiting.
We’ve talked about the opportunity for mind-opening through the teenage stage of education, peer-opinion and personal development – when else might we be ready to open our minds to change? I heard this the other day from contemporary spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, “at times of great adversity there is also great opportunity.” He was referring to the current pandemic, but he went to say that this can also apply to each or any of us in our personal lives. I know it did for me and I came to it rather late in life. I had reached my mid Forties before ‘adversity’ had me on my knees and ready for a complete rethink. What do they say, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” I’m grateful for that adversity for the push to open my mind.
When you are ready, working with a coach to open your mind begins with exploring that original set of values and beliefs together. Your coach has no opinion or judgment about your list, they will be more curious and interested than anything else. There may be questions like, “I wonder where that value comes from…”Have you held that belief for long…”Do you feel that type of thinking still has a use today…?
Any and all of the answers are okay. Acceptance and compassion for all, these are a couple of the keys to unlock the movement on those less helpful ones and we definitely want to identify all your beautiful, beneficial beliefs and values too.
Working with your coach is a great way to achieve mind-opening. Together we can work to remove any old ideas that are getting in the way, blocking your route to a broader and more colourful of experience of life, not only for you but everyone who comes into contact with you too. When we are living in accordance with our true values and beliefs, we are living a wholly authentic life.
As we let go of the more limiting narrow values and beliefs, we make a space for all the good stuff to come in. Thanks to the times we live in, there are wonderful mind-opening resources, literally at our fingertips for exploring these new ideas: books, articles, blogs, vlogs, podcasts and live events.
The world of open-mindedness is our oyster with its beautiful pearl nestled just inside. We don’t need a sharp knife or a Shakespearean sword to open it – just a little willingness.
I've been meaning to ask you this for quite some time, but you know how it is - hours drift into days, days into weeks - a sort of lockdown lethargy. But I'm here now to ask how lockdown has affected you. Over the weeks, conflicting scenarios have been playing through my mind - but that's the thing - it's my mind - not yours - only you know how it's affected You.
I'll share the scenarios anyway in case they are useful prompts. In no particular order:
as the weeks have passed you may not be missing your job, actually you're not looking forward to going back, you've realised you didn't enjoy it - it wasn't really you.
Or you may love your job but spending more time with your partner or your children makes you realise how much of their lives that you've been missing up until now.
You may be longing to get back to work because work was where you escaped from a difficult situation or a dysfunctional relationship - or just to avoid discussing it.
You may always have been the one at home with personal space, around and in charge of the children every day and the new dynamic is suffocating you.
You may never have spent so much time with your children and teenagers before and the same goes for them, I guess.
You may live alone, and either be painfully lonely or loving it and fearful of having to eventually go back out.
Letting go of standards that seemed set in stone – hair and nail appointments, coffees, lunches, gym visits, board meetings, wine bar after work, mini breaks, holidays, restaurants - and realising that life still goes on, may have led you to question other supposedly essential things.
You may find that you're eating more drinking more replicating an 8-week all-inclusive holiday but now you're not enjoying it.
You've had more time to read, write, to watch Ted talks, do an online course and found whole new vistas opening up.
You've discovered technical skills you always said you never had - as you've been forced into using online webinars and social platforms to keep in touch with family and friends.
I expect some of you have had to master online shopping too!
You may have developed other skills - practical skills like DIY, gardening, painting, decorating, carpentry, sewing, BAKING - the list is endless – (I can't tell you how many pieces of art have been posted on Facebook by friends who are normally out at work.)
All these changes may have made you realise that you're ready to make some changes of your own.
Some of you that felt so lonely may realise you could have gone out more when you had the chance and might just do that eventually - some of you will be the volunteers that have kept in touch with those of you ‘more at risk’, stuck indoors for longer than the rest of us.
Others have been volunteering their support and also felt the joy of doing service with no financial reward - sewing, packaging, delivering, contacting, cooperating with our frontline workers.
Of course, thousands of you will be our frontline workers, often the lowest paid but being recognised as essential to keep the rest of us afloat. How does it feel to have that belated recognition and appreciation at last? Risking your own health for others every day and turning up to do it again - what has that taught you about yourself?
Many, far too many of you will have lost both family and friends to this virus, often without the chance to say ‘goodbye ‘. Hugely difficult. Not the end of life, parting, closure that you any of you would have planned.
So much change, so many scenarios - many more than I can even imagine. I'm sure you'll add your own.
But I'm also sure that there will be many, many, more of us who have been challenged, changed, awoken, stretched and shown and are now wanting something different in their lives.
Whatever those changes and desires are - whatever your plans, as a coach, I am here to talk them through with you, to give them shape and direction, take the first small step.
The tabloid press may well prophesy post-traumatic stress disorder. I will be delighted to be a part of your post traumatic growth.
'Here When Your'e Ready.'
Although there will be huge differences in the way people are feeling in response to the past seven weeks or so, I am confident that not all is gloom doom and fear. In no way am I minimising the tragedy of lost lives, livelihoods and general freedoms. Rather, I am focusing on the good that has come out of a bad situation.
One of the extraordinary changes that, after 7 weeks, is almost becoming ordinary, is our use of online webinars to keep in touch.
Simply Self Aware has been online since the beginning of April and has developed in ways that I couldn't have imagined at the start. Of course, it was marvellous (and a relief) to have a few regulars online the first time I set it up.
After some discussion the idea of a guest speaker was raised. Why not? The world was now our oyster. We were delighted to be joined in April by Liz Abram, Performance Coach and Resistance Trainer on the gripping Ch4 series SAS Who Dares Wins.
Liz shared her ideas and tips on the topic of Becoming more Authentic in Your Chosen Career. Several new members and SAS Who Dares Wins fans jumped on that week - a welcome addition.
This was followed a fortnight later by Letting Go of Perfectionism, suggested by Liz as a good topic to follow-up with. Again - more people from around the country were able to join, when, before, distance would have prevented them.
Excitingly, May 27th's topic, 'Apologising', (based on the talks by Brene Brown) will be delivered by an enthusiastic new member from Gloucestershire.
I don't know how things will be when we come out of the current lockdown - none of us do. I do know that there will be members who will be pleased to be meeting up in reality again - and I certainly feel that being present together is hugely valuable.
But I also hope there's a way to keep the very best of the 'reach' and 'connection' that gathering online has given us. We will have to see...
Coaching can put colour back into your life.
Thinking about why some people come and some don’t...