I’ve asked myself these exasperating questions:
- Who am I really?
- Am I the person others think I am–in my family, at work, among my friends?
- Is my identity a product of my own design or have I just followed what others want/need/expect me to be?
- If there’s a gap between how others perceive me and who I know myself to be, what next?
This is heavy stuff and I’m here to tell you that, for me, the answers are moving targets and the questions persistent. And, it’s all good.
Becoming the whole of who we are takes a lifetime. We evolve through knowledge, experiences, and relationships. If we already knew the answers to the big questions, the up-and- down, good-times-bad-times adventure of living would be lost. No full life can have that, I’d say.
The identity quest
In our careers, we get focused on our personal brand identities. In an effort to be successful, we strive to achieve labels that work in our favor and avoid those that don’t.
Take us out of the workplace and our personal brand identities are framed by the community of friends we align with, the family we were born into or have created, the volunteer affiliations we make, and the recreational activities we engage in.
Add up all these identity pieces and, for that moment, they’re a reflection of who we are or have become. If we don’t like what we’ve created, we can change things, usually slowly, by re-framing our mind set, our alliances and/or our behaviors.
In the final analysis, most of us just want to belong. For some that comes easier than to others. But it is a quest we tend to share.
Finding ourselves in “we”
Belonging is about real connection. For some that means with one other person and for others, it means within a group.
“The Band” is a Canadian-American folk rock group from 1960s to late 1970s, inducted into both the Canadian Music and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. Bob Dylan collaborated with them through the course of their respective careers, famously recording The Basement Tapes CD together .
The Band was unique, compared to other bands at the time. They were, first and foremost, individuals deeply committed to each other as a unit and their shared identity as The Band.
Levon Helm, (well known on drums, mandolin, guitar, and in vocals), revealed in his autobiography, This Wheel’s On Fire, the commitment the band members made to each other for their sixteen unbroken years together. Although the individual band members may have done some independent work along the way, they were always The Band first. (You might want to check out The Last Waltz video about them directed by Martin Scorsese.)
Being a member of The Band meant growing musically and personally together, developing one’s identity, and securing a deep-rooted place of belonging, always knowing someone had your back while you had theirs.
The lesson for us
Being part of the right pairing or group, where we feel at home in “we,” gives us a safe place to hone our identities and recapture what we want or need to be if we go off course.
When we commit ourselves to positive relationships with common goals, we will likely (re)discover that our identities are rooted in important values like:
- Fair play
- Love and care
In our lives and in our careers, the pressures and temptations to fit in where and when we aren’t comfortable can be hard to resist.
Finding your authentic “I” among the right “we” can make a big difference. Finding your “band” will make the going easier. Play on!