May 6, 2011

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Artwork by Paul-Baptiste Baca
When I first joined Twitter, I joined with the name CupcakeMafia. It was funny but more important it exemplified who I am, a girl who is both sweet and tough. After awhile it seemed most of my contacts on twitter were outdoorsy, particularly climbers. I began to think that I should change my name to reflect that part of me. Something inside me told me to stay with what I had. Then again when I began to immerse myself in yoga and yoga folk, I thought....Cupcake Mafia doesn't scream "Yogini" but I stayed the course. In the last few months I have figured out why.

There has been a lot of talk about "identity" lately, particularly amongst my outdoorsy friends. They notice that they've expanded their interest and evolved. People once known as "Climbing" people are now skiing people, cycling people, paddling people. No one thing defines them. For those who let one thing, like climbing, define them, then face an injury, a loss of partner, a relocation, they're lost for awhile. They were a "Climber", now what?

I have thought about how I have identified myself both in the past and present. Words like Climber, Cyclist, Bookwork, Seamstress, Knitter, Yogini, Daughter, Girlfriend, Aunt, Athlete, Caretaker of Animals....these all came out of my mouth. When asked about myself it was always, "I work at blah blah blah, I live with blah blah blah, My hobbies include....". My identity was driven by external factors.

I stepped back and thought about those words and how they were not what defined me, but rather the core values they share. Rather than describe myself with brief words I am so much more.

I am someone:

  • With a great capacity for love
  • Who feels more connected to the earth and people of the world when I am outdoors
  • Able to recognize the unity of my mind, soul, and body more when I participate in physical activities
  • Who is willing to protect people she loves 
  • Who feels at peace after bringing a project from start to finish
  • Who remains open to new paths and new challenges

You get the picture. It's not an exhaustive list but it's a glimpse at how my process works. It has made a huge difference. I no longer dwell on the fact that I may not climb as much as I would like, that maybe I am no longer a climber. Rather I say, I may not climb as much but the part of my soul that is fueled from climbing is fueled with yoga, riding my bike, and so many other areas.

My identity is not dependent upon how often or how well I do something. Rather it's fluid, it evolves, and comes from what brings me joy, what makes me cringe, but on a really big level. My identity is also not dependent on how much I let others see. I can give as much or as little of each of these elements in my relationships and interaction and still maintain my authenticity.

So for my friends who are struggling with identity or even if you haven't given it much thought considering going through this process. Get rid of the words that are so static and describe yourself with core messages and phrases. Present yourself in a greater way. On that note... I better go change my biography ;-)


Elizabeth said...

I love this, Tali! This whole identity conversation has been so interesting, and this sums it all very nicely. Thanks for writing this. :)

Tali said...

Thanks Elizabeth!

Meredith LeBlanc said...

I love this too. When I signed up for Twitter I was wondering if I should come up with a clever name to identify myself but I've evolved so much over the past 10 years that I couldn't even nail one down.

Who we are at any given moment really is always an interesting conversation.


Tali said...

Thanks Meredith! I think this a prime example of where the concept of non-attachment has been important for me. Or rather, only attach the elements of ourselves that most likely won't change.

Keen said...

Great post, Tali! I climb, hike, bike, crochet, camp, volunteer, and am addicted to cheap clothes. I'm so glad you wrote this article because I'm always wondering about who or what I should identify myself with, but this post made me realize I'm not the only one and I don't have to be just ONE thing. :D thanks!

Tali said...

Awe, so great to hear! Thank you!

Nina said...

I really like this! After I had my daughter I have been struggling with my identity...Who am I? What do I like to do? To keep this short (lol) I can say that I have transformed from a girl who dressed up to impress everyone who enjoyed the the dark indoors to a more natural woman who is trying a new healthier way of living by trying and enjoying new things!

Brendan said...

Great post, Tali! I sat down once and tried to write all the words I would use to describe myself -- climber, brother, writer, urban cyclist, bad cook, former altar boy, etc. -- and it was tiring, but really fun. We're always evolving.

Tali said...

Nina - I had a hard time evolving from where I was at 10 years ago because of other's expectations. I understand.

Brendan - thank you! and yes!

Laurel the Squirrel said...

I think for me practicing non-attachment is somewhat different. I accept that everything (everything!) can/will change so I feel free to embrace (attach, maybe) what is true in the moment.

So I'm a climber now, and I feel comfortable saying that, without worrying that this hasn't always been true in the past and won't always be true in the future. Does that make any sense?

Tali said...

Definitely Laurel! I think that is just another healthy perspective.

nora said...

Never ceasing to amaze me....we are definitely on a similar journey, my friend! Life is meant to be experienced on all levels. If I link myself to tightly with any single part of my identity and do not allow it room to breathe and expand/contract, I limit myself to the endless possibilities that may exist! Who knew I would end up meeting you in a yoga teacher training. Yoga teacher was definitely NOT a possible part of my identity 5 years ago! - Today, who knows!

Tali said...

The same for me Nora. 5 Years ago I was such a different woman.

florin_bejerea said...

Who we are is a common question that comes mostly when we try to tell others something about ourselves. A good friend of mine(that used to do rockclimb) used 'outdoor' as his blog name. He loves the outdoors. So my first thought was: I'll be 'indoor'. So I've been using that for a while. But I started to hate the indoors because I missed the outdoors. So I was like : wait, why am I 'indoor' if I hate it? And there goes the question 'who am I?' or who should I be if not my name? And the questions kept flowing. Until I got to this one: what other meaning can 'indoor' have other than suggesting I love the indoors? And I split the word in two: in-door. The door in. In as inside myself. And yes I am the door that gets inside my own self :)

Tali said...

That is beautiful Florin. Thank you!

rockgrrl said...

I think this is why a lot of folks just use their real name for their social identity these days.

Me, I started when it seemed more appropriate to use anything but your real name.

I took a path similar to Laurel's though. I embraced labels. I had a gamer identity, I had a climbing identity, etc.

In a funny way though, I never really let go of the labels, instead I've just added them on. I'm a gamer/climber/photographer/... I guess I'm a bit of Katamari ball (or a strange onion or a Giant Sequoia with ever growing rings).

Also... no can seem to remember my real name, I think I just don't look like an "Eileen" ;)

Tali said...

Yes! It's funny how just a few years ago we were avoiding people knowing anything real about us on the internet for fear of being stalked or worse, now it's almost the opposite, put it all out there.

You're the only Eileen I know, so I think you look just like an Eileen ;-)