Reflections at 40 – Identity – 20/40

To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 20 (yay, halfway!). You can read all the posts here.

My friend Carla posted this quote on Instagram recently:

“Knowing who we are is the solution to all misery. For when we don’t know who we are, we are limited by the things we measure ourselves against. We measure, we compare, and we are miserable in doing so, because we always come up short.”

I saved it because I knew I was writing this series and was struck by how well it described me at my most miserable.

I’ve always had a strong sense of identity – a good understanding of who I am and what I stand for.

Once depression took hold, however, it destroyed my confidence and with it, my sense of self.

That’s when I started grasping; trying to define myself by external means:

  • Being everything to everyone.
  • Ticking boxes.
  • Climbing ladders.

The more these things didn’t work, the more desperate I became.

The more desperate I got, the more I grasped.

I never did manage to find myself in something external. And that was a good thing I think.

I’ve seen so many people define themselves that way via a job, a relationship, or their kids. And then I’ve seen them lose themselves when made redundant, the relationship fell apart, or their kids left home.

It’s so important to be able to answer:

  • Who am I when all the external things that define me are stripped away?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What are my values?

That’s why I’m such a broken record when it comes to recommending therapy to people.

It takes a lot of work and awareness to be able to answer the above. And very few, if any, of us are truly equipped or qualified to do that work alone.


Image credit: Joshua Sortino