Monday, January 25, 2021

Navigating An Identity Crisis

December 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Self Esteem

As women, we often struggle to not be pigeon-holed into just one facet of our lives.

At the same time, we all wear so many hats … and it’s hard to not be defined by those hats: they shape us, they give us substance, and they are undoubtedly a huge part of who we are.

But here’s my question to you: What happens when you don’t want to wear that hat anymore, if it’s no longer a good fit?

What if we want to put that hat on the rack again, maybe come back to it, maybe leave it for someone else to borrow … or maybe we just want to get rid of it altogether?

What happens when, for example, you’re a law student who realizes your true calling is in community organizing? Do you/can you quit law school in favor of your passion?

Or you’re a stay-at-home mom who wants to be known as herself again, or by her former profession … before she was “Mom”? Do you/can you find a way to go back to work, maybe part time?

Or, heck, what happens when you’re like me, recovering from disordered eating issues and you want to be just known as a women’s lifestyle blogger, not just as a recovery blogger? Do you/can you extricate yourself from the blog you literally bred from the ground and move on?

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; Sir Isaac Newton taught us this in physics class.

But when we’re talking about our life’s goals – or the paths we set out for ourselves … it’s not so easy to weigh out those actions and reactions. They come at a cost … and require a lot of thought and internal dialogue.

Earlier this week, I admitted on my blog, Tales of a (Recovering) Disordered Eater that I’m having a big of an identity crisis right now — wondering how to maintain and nurture  the community I’ve grown to love, while broadening my range of topics.

(It’s been over a year and a half that I’ve been blogging about my recovery and I feel healed; I don’t just want to be known as a recovery blogger anymore …)

I’m also at that weird in-between stage of life where we’re ready to start a family (i.e., put on the “mom” hat), but with my husband still entrenched in his MBA, we need to wait a little longer.

So I’m personally in a state of limbo in those two areas of my life, and am curious as to how you feel about identity crises we women face throughout our lives.

Ultimately, life is about discovery on a multitude of levels. The “you” at 25 is probably not the “you” that you are at 45 …  so the question becomes: how do you handle putting hats back on the rack … or branching out and trying on a new “style,” loving yourself all the while?

I don’t have any answers here, but I thought WeAretheRealReal might be a good forum for discussion. I welcome your thoughts; comment away!

How about you? What hats are you wearing now, and are there any you’re struggling with?


No Responses to “Navigating An Identity Crisis”
  1. Candice says:

    I recently announced my pregnancy on my blog and, while I don’t have a huge readership and mostly write for myself, I don’t want to be a so-called “mommy blogger.” So I think a lot about balancing what I write about, but so far it’s been easy. Being pregnant hasn’t made me want to talk about being pregnant every day.

    You have to do what feels right and true for you. If you don’t, it’ll reflect in your writing and you’ll lose readers and interest, regardless. Being true to yourself always makes for better writing. 🙂

  2. lissa10279 says:

    Congrats, Candice, that is great news and I totally see what you mean, about not wanting to necessarily be defined as a “mommy blogger.” Thanks for being an example that it can be done!!!

  3. This is an amazing post! As women it can be really hard to struggle with all the different hats that are in our lives and some of those hats are ones that we didn’t even put there in the first place. Very thought provoking! 😀

  4. lissa10279 says:

    Thanks, Andrea–I’m glad it resonated!!!

  5. Shelly says:

    Oh man….about 90% of the reason I suffered from an ED, anxiety, and panic was because I was having a huge identity crisis (at age 18…which isnt surprising). Unfortunately, I was so scared of who I was and what I wanted to do I became the f@ck up. I am an identical twin, when we started going in different directions I freaked out because I didnt know who I was supposed to be if I wasnt a twin. So I did all sorts of negative things, got really good at them, my identity became a drunk, anxious, anorexic addict who couldnt get her life in order. Then I became a nurse, which I never really wanted to do, but thought it seemed like a wise career choice. I was wrong. I flailed around, never feeling like I had found my passion and I always had this feeling of anxiety and emptiness.

    So I cleaned up my act and 2 and half years ago when i ventured into recovery, I looked around and said “what the h@$# do I do know.” After I had a huge existential crisis (it was bad and still creeps up rom time to time) and battled my way through OCD and agoraphobia (really, I cant catch a break…I still deal with these on a daily basis, but i actually leave my house now..woot!) I took a job as a nurse, hated it, and then decided I would never do that again. I guess nursing was something I thought I had to do. Since I spent all that money, time, and effort I should just suck it up and do it..right? um, no.

    So right now (at age 30), I spend a lot of time writing and I am thinking of going back to school next semester to do photography or even take writing classes (what i really wanted to do when I younger, but thought I needed a major where I could get a real job)..And nothing irks me more than when people say, well, why arent you a nurse? A get a twinge of guilt and then I say, ” because I hated it:” and leave it at that.

    Over th past two years I have realize dI can do whatever I want. And you dont have to have just one identity. The concept of one identity really kept me stuck, but then I realized I can be lots of different things.

    I guess I have learned I just have to take risks, do the things that make me happy and be who I really am…good or bad (bad stuff I am working on in and just keep moving forward!

    • lissa10279 says:

      Shelly, it sounds like you’re in such a good place now, and that it took those existential, rock-bottom moments to get where you are now. Congrats on your recovery!!! That’s wonderful that you are following your heart’s content and not nursing if that isn’t what speaks to you. You’re right, too, that we can have more than one identity and be many things … not pigeon-holed!! Great advice! 🙂

  6. Nell says:

    The hats I’m wearing now? I have to say, not all are chosen by myself. In fact, most are hats that have been “gifted” to me by various people coming in and out of my life. I believe most of us don’t choose our own hats- we just try to be comfortable with what we’re handed. When we choose, however, that hat is that much more precious. The ones I’ve been given more than a few times over the past few years are…

    “Child Prodigy” (my most hated)- I hope I will simply grow out of it given a couple years more. I’ve actually been hoping that since starting my Master’s but, well, if wishes were horses…

    “Young Professional” (the one I’m proud of)- I worked long and hard for that one, including wearing several hats I’ve since retired and hope to wear this one for a couple years more.

    “Lawyer” (profession). I love this hat, it entitles me to intellectual superiority and perpetual snark. Oh, and it makes people I can’t stand give me a wider berth. No problems with owning, wearing and showing this one off for a long, long time to come.

    “Overachiever” (the one with mixed feelings attached)- it makes me feel faulty, freaky and a little hurt. On the other hand, it proves that I did something better than expected, so it’s supposed to be a good thing?

    “Teacher’s Pet” (the one I’m retiring)- I was. There’s no other way to graduate with top honors, I thought. I was and still am on good standing with quite a few of my professors- but I’m trying to get them to respect me the way I respect them, now.

    “Homemaker” (the one I secretly really don’t like)- I’ll let you in on one of my best-kept secrets: I don’t like cleaning. I don’t like cooking. I don’t like decorating. I really don’t like needing to care for a home. If I could I would happily live in a hotel for the rest of my life- with an oven, so I can bake because I need to de-stress. I haven’t really told this to anyone- ever. It’s just so… not feminine. And not what is expected of me. It’s like that yucky feathered monstrosity your grandmother has given you to wear which you can’t just yet let drift to the back of the closet.

    “Single” (the one I’m struggling with a little though I try not to)- It’s that time of the year when my brother brings home his girlfriend and I’m inevitably falling short AGAIN because I failed to ‘catch a guy’. I don’t know yet why I should catch one, or how to go about that (see hat no.1: Usually comes with poor social skills). I don’t think I can go fishing at a pond and catch some mer-guy who then has to deal with me, right? I feel as though I should be able to bond to another person, but on the other hand I’m incredibly scared because my experiences with people my age in general can be categorized as Not Good and Plain Catastrophic. This hat has been chosen, is necessary and has been put on my head by my environment. I guess it fits, but it’s not my favorite.

    “Girl” (yet another one I want to retire for good)- I feel like a woman. I’ve been told I act like a woman. It’s just age that’s keeping people from seeing me as one. It’ll come with time, I guess.

    “Musician” (one I chose). It’s a little artsy, somewhat worn and tired around the edges but it still lives at the forefront of my closet. I don it whenever I have the time and just sink away into a different world for a while. I guess my dream hotel would need to have a piano in my suite in addition to the oven.

    There’s just too many things changing, too many things in flux to keep track of myself. I just try to take one step at a time and accept most of the hats I’m handed as being there with good cause. If I think I should really change something I will try to look at it from a logical standpoint and if necessary, try to take steps towards changing it. There are several old hats that are happily retired- and several I’m hoping to pick up again when the weather or fashion trend changes. I’m a bit of an opportunist, a pessimist and a cautious optimist all wrapped in one package. I’m still developing myself and my personality, and if I want to wear hats in all colors of the rainbow, I will (only I probably won’t because my inner perfectionist says no).

    The hats I wear are like the weather- different every day. Some are blown from my head by a storm, some gently migrate to the back of the closet and some are discarded with a frown. Some fit, some don’t. I just try not to stress too much about them until I find the one collection I’d really like to own- and then I’ll probably go crazy and do anything to have them in my possession. ‘Til then- see me experiment, both on my own and in companionship with others.

    (and I really wanted to keep this short- guess that didn’t happen. I’ll go put on my “unstoppable rambler” hat now!)

    • lissa10279 says:

      Wow Nell, you sure do wear many hats–thanks so much for sharing your insight. You really did a great job describing them and explaining how you accept some and how some have been thrust upon you. “Ramble” away–you write beautifully!!! 🙂

      I guess in the end, we’re our own architects and have the opportunity to change directions when we wish!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Great post. I was just thinking about this today. Ideally, we create our lives in the way that best suits us. And at some point, we can outgrow what we created. Like a hermit crab outgrows its shell, if you will. 😉
    BODA weight loss

  8. Cynthia says:

    Last year, I lost many of the “hats” that meant something to me. My husband died, my only child graduated from high school and started college, I lost my job, and I developed some health issues that meant doing daily activities in new, more challenging ways. I didn’t feel just hatless, I felt bald and skinless! It’s taken going deep into myself to handle all the transitions and know that the core of who I am is stable, despite how my life changes. I found that many of the hats I wore were just the ways that other people perceived me. What ultimately had to matter was knowing myself and being brave enough to love myself. Now, I am more than just widow, empty nester, underemployed or however I am perceived. I’m also more than the positive ways I perceive myself. My hats may have changed, but I still have my bones.

    • lissa10279 says:

      Cynthia, I am so sorry for your losses … I love what you said here –>”What ultimately had to matter was knowing myself and being brave enough to love myself. Now, I am more than just widow, empty nester, underemployed or however I am perceived. I’m also more than the positive ways I perceive myself. My hats may have changed, but I still have my bones.”Sending you a virtual hug!

  9. Marsha says:

    My hats have changed over the years as I chased my dreams, but when I had children, that one glued itself to my head for 20 years. Not that I didn’t treasure the time I had with my kids, but I did struggle with finding a place for my other hats. Since I became an empty nester in September, I’m again finding plenty of room for them. Trouble is, there are so many of them, I’m again having trouble giving them all adequate wearing time. I guess that tells you a little what I’m like — someone who gets really into what I’m doing. What it tells me is that I’ve been fortunate over the years to choose my hats myself and then figure out if I really want to wear them. I know we don’t all always have that choice.

    So if you have the choice, Lissa, I’d say follow your dreams wherever they take you, even if they seem more like wandering in the dark than a dream sometimes. Just keep your eyes open. (It’s a daydream, ok? LOL)

    • lissa10279 says:

      Marsha, thanks for sharing your insight–this is something to really keep in mind when I enter motherhood someday … striking a balance with those hats. Thank you — I plan to do that. I tend to go through life wide-eyed and I’m happy that way. I think, with respect to blogging at least, that I will find my place/path without diverting too far from where I’m at now.

  10. love2eatinpa says:

    i lost myself in the hat-wearing department as well. i remember watching oprah one day about a year or so ago and it provoked the question – who am i? well, at that moment, i defined myself as a wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, etc., but those were all in relation to other people, not a way that defined myself that belonged to me and only me. so i really thougtht about it and came up with – i’m a runner, i’m a writer and now i’m a blogger too. : )

  11. cggirl says:

    Wow. The big “who am I” question… For me, I feel like this is so amorphous. And confusing. Sometimes I want concrete answers to this, to feel secure. Other times I feel like any answer is a trap, beacuse if I feel certain activities, values, behaviors or choices define me, then does that mean I can never be different? What happens if my beliefs change, or if different ways of life suit me at different times? Am I not me anymore? So I don’t like to pin my identity on anything specific, yet I am completely aware that all sorts of activities and relationships – to other people, to society, whatever – do give me a sense of security, of who I am, of my place in the world.

    My head starts to spin when I try to define it, seriously.
    And then I remember that this is NOT something that can be specifically defined anyway. It’s just a sense… the sense of me. I don’t know what it is. My soul? Whatever it is, I think it’s in there under the noise. When I am still, and everything settles, like debri in still water – just falls to the bottom, then it’s clear. And I’m just me.

    Does that make any sense? Ok it sounds weird but I’m standing by it… And it is sort of freeing. It frees you not only to follow your own heart. but also on the slip side – to make certain choices as part of a tradeoff and be ok with that, it doesn’t mean you’re not being yourself. It’s ok to NOT change your job because you want financial security, or to move somewhere because a loved one really really wants to, or to make all sorts of compromises without it meaning that you’re not you anymore.

    And Lissa as to your dilemmas – I never specifically had the ED you had, but I do think it can be nice to NOT talk about it anymore, because it might make it hard for you to move on sometimes. So you are completely entitled to extricate yourself from an ED recovery blog should you choose to. I like that on this blog here we talk about lots of other stuff. If it was all body image I wouldn’t read as much because I don’t want to think about that all the friggin time!

    Even the blog I do have is destined to end or switch direction – I will either have a baby or I won’t, and that will be that. I will finish with the webisodes and hopefully put out a good movie in the end, and will move on to something else. Everyone is entitled to move on.

    I don’t mean to put words in your mouth tho. Maybe you don’t WANT to stop blogging about recovery, I just wanted to put it out there that it might conceivably actually help you…. but only you can know if it will or not, duh.

    • lissa10279 says:

      Thanks, cggirl–I love blogging over here because I am able to step outside the ED/DE/recovery world and blog about relevant topics, but also on a broader scale — so it’s been a healthy transition for me, and a natural one. I don’t think I’ll abandon my blog–I just think I might change focus. Because I agree with you; it’s hard to move on when you’re in the trenches. I don’t think I’m a foot soldier anymore; I rather feel like the commanding officer who has control of the situation and doesn’t want to play anymore — yet all the same, I know through my recovery experiences, I can bring insight to those who are struggling … so as you can see, it’s a delicate balance to strike. I think the focus might just evolve quite naturally — more of the types of posts I do here, perhaps? Still women’s issues (which I’m passionate about) but less focus on ED/DE/food/exercise/issues. Thanks for the support! 🙂 Oh and similar to you–the next step for me is having a baby, but I just don’t know when that’ll be given our situation with hubby working FT plus getting his MBA. 🙁

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