Stepping into a room full of strangers at a weekend BBQ, you do the welcoming handshakes, grab yourself a spot and settle into the conversation. It’s only moments before the inevitable question comes out. It’s a question we’ve asked of others plenty of times and one to which we may respond differently, depending on who’s asking. It’s a question that defines our very being.
The question is: “Soooo, what do you do?”
Our role, our job, is so closely tied to our identity that it becomes part of our definition of who we are. It’s what helps others categorise us. And yet if we only ever define our identity by the job we’re doing right now, we make it hard for ourselves and for others to shift that identity.
Every hero’s journey has a call to action, a series of trials and challenges before the fall into the abyss, followed by revelation, transformation, atonement and homecoming. Your journey into Stand Out is not dissimilar. You’ll go through this hero’s journey in a thousand ways on a thousand days. My call to action for you is to be present in the journey. Don’t dismiss the abyss, because we only get to the revelation and transformation by going through the darkness.
Your identity is a construct that started to form the moment you were born, and it continues to shift and reshape itself until your final day. It is part protection mechanism and part bonding tool, and has a major role to play in the upkeep of your self-esteem and wellbeing. In fact, actively working on shaping your identity is a wellbeing process known to just about every culture on the planet. So how often do you actively work on your identity?
Expanding the way you see yourself and the behaviours you step into can help prepare you for the next challenge. If there’s a new role on the horizon, one that you’d love to be doing, then don’t wait until your title changes to expand your identity. Step into the behaviours that will be required now. Consider how you will need to act and what skills are required in that new role, then act as if these opportunities were already on your plate. This is how you test the waters of who you’ll become. Others will start seeing you in the new light of your behaviours too. It may be that having you step into that new role is an obvious transition.
(Well, you’re already doing what’s required anyway.)
Reshaping your identity shifts the sands on which your belonging and connection are built. If you’ve been the person who has always said “yes”, and now you are setting up strong boundaries and saying “no”, your identity will change. And one thing that is guaranteed with this change is that there will be push-back, sometimes from the very people who you were expecting to support you. This is not a sign that changing your behaviours is wrong; it’s simply a sign that others are noticing.
Now, at the beginning of the new year, you have the chance to be strategic about your identity evolution. You’re the artist at the crafting table, sculpting and moulding the features that work for you. Start to wear the outfit of where you want to be now, and share that story. Think about how you might craft a different story, one that describes where you’re headed to, the next time you’re asked the question: “Soooo, what do you do?”