Conceptualizing this project as ‘identity work’ is just one way of sharing a narrative, an interpretation, my experience, of knowing and participating in this process of growth and personal evolution.
To me, the notion of ‘identity work’ shares two important understandings at once:
- This is about who you are and how you show up; and
- It takes energy and effort.
This is from my personal point of view (POV) as the person undertaking the process of growth and development. This is the first person perspective.
From a methodological perspective, the auto-ethnographic nature of the project is the reflective, interpretive, critical voice that observes and witnesses and tries to understand in hindsight, with reference to the social and political context I exist within. This perspective, some would argue, is a blurring of first and second person perspectives, however, relative to the processes of identity work, an auto-ethnography is in the voice of the second person, the self witnessing and commenting on the ego as well as noticing its self.
I notice both of these perspectives most when my personal experience of life runs up against norms and expectations, rules and regulations. When how I am is not who I’m expected to be. And who I am no longer has any intention of conforming, or believing simply because I am told.
This is most of the time… lol.
To scrutinise yourself in this way, to develop the self, to be intentional with the ego, to observe and witness your own emotions, thoughts and actions on such a constant basis can be exhausting. And without self love, without compassionate understanding, generosity of spirit and the courage to forgive yourself on a daily basis, it would likely consume you and lead to further neurosis.
This is because the tension between self and expectations is a relational thing. This is me face to face with the third perspective; what you think of me. And if I can’t back myself, if I can’t look at my self in the mirror and like what I see, I won’t be able to hold my head high as I walk away when you laugh or sneer, or criticize or deny. I choose not to lose any sleep over your opinion of me.
This work is not for the faint hearted. For those not ready to be vulnerable and exposed.
To do it publicly as I am….
To be honest, the more public this looks, the more private it becomes. Let me explain the paradox. One that people who identify as neuro-divergent, gender non-conforming or who have other non-conforming ways of identifying, might be able to relate to.
When your identity constantly brings you attention on a regular basis, not because you are trying to gain attention but because you arrived on this planet in a space suit that operates a bit differently to others, you get to a point in your life when you realize that attention is yours whether you want it or not. And this realization offers you a choice. Use your differences as a strength, a super power, or hide them and let them eat away at you as you live an inauthentic life, conforming and holding yourself back and in as best you can….
The point is, your identity as a weirdo is public anyway. Anyone who knows you, already knows you’re a bit of a nut or unusual or a bit out there….when you fully own that it takes away the sting of others noticing your differences and replaces it with a courage and confidence.
And now, take look around at all the other weirdos who are working out how to brand their uniqueness, craft a resume or a business around their personal value proposition, and you might see an opportunity for your self. A way to transcend the bullying, the manipulation, the feelings of being held back, restricted or simply ignored, brushed off as irrelevant. No more.
It is those of us who think different, who dare to be different, that make change happen.
Maybe not today, who knows? (*Simone, you’re getting off track…*)
Anyway, the point is, as you become aware of the parts of your identity that are on show by default, you also become more aware of your inner world, and the more of your relational identity (the parts of you other people can interact with) you share, the more experience you have to reflect on, the richer your inner world becomes.
With more inner content, more reflections, thoughts and feelings, there is more of yourself that you come to know, more of ‘you’ that is private and un-shared, even though to the rest of the world it seems as though you have put literally everything on display!
With regard to self awareness, there are four ‘awareness windows’ to notice and reflect on (a sense making framework based on Johari Window):
- What I know about my self and share with you (known, knowns)
- What I know about my self and don’t share with you (the known, unknowns – this is what I’ve been talking about)
- What I don’t know about myself but you know about me (e.g. your experience of me) (unknown, knowns)
- What I don’t know about myself and you have not observed either (unknown, unknowns).
I show you what I show you, to learn about me.
To see who I am when I show up in this sovereign state. On my own terms.
A mantra, my reminder, it is not your microscope I am under, but my own.
May you be happy,
may you be healthy,
may you be free from suffering.