What Parts of Your Identity Are Holding You Back?

by Josh Billings on August 10, 2014

I read an interesting article today by a girl who vowed to remain a virgin until marriage when she was 10 years old. She wore her virginity like a badge of honor, so much so that when she finally got married and lost her virginity to her husband, she didn’t know who she was anymore.

I lost my virginity on my wedding night, with my husband, just as I had promised that day when I was 10 years old. I stood in the hotel bathroom beforehand, wearing my white lingerie, thinking, “I made it. I’m a good Christian.” There was no chorus of angels, no shining light from Heaven. It was just me and my husband in a dark room, fumbling with a condom and a bottle of lube for the first time.

Sex hurt. I knew it would. Everyone told me it would be uncomfortable the first time. What they didn’t tell me is that I would be back in the bathroom afterward, crying quietly for reasons I didn’t yet comprehend. They didn’t tell me that I’d be on my honeymoon, crying again, because sex felt dirty and wrong and sinful even though I was married and it was supposed to be okay now.

When we got home, I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Everyone knew my virginity was gone. My parents, my church, my friends, my co-workers. They all knew I was soiled and tarnished. I wasn’t special anymore. My virginity had become such an essential part of my personality that I didn’t know who I was without it.

I think we all do this in certain ways. We become attached to things being a certain way because a large part of our self-esteem is drawn from us being that way.

I saw this once in someone who started a restaurant with early inheritance money and then got frightened by the prospect of making $100k+ a year. She’d been a waitress with the company for years and was excited about the possibility of owning her own franchise, but prided herself on her bohemian lifestyle. The restaurant ultimately failed and she returned to being a person who made the most out of limited means. But as an outside observer I found it interesting that she successfully found a way to maintain her identity, even though the inheritance money should have pushed her into a different tax bracket.

Your personal identity creates a natural equilibrium, so that even when circumstances change the effects will balance out back to normal unless your identity changes with them. This is why many foreign language classes have you create a new name for yourself that everyone in class will call you. If you’ve gone your entire life identifying yourself as someone who doesn’t speak Spanish, then your own personal knowledge of self gets in the way of embracing a version of you who can speak Spanish fluently and naturally. The new name helps create a new identity. And the more you buy into this new identity, the easier it is for you to think and act differently than the you you’ve always known.

Sometimes our identity will cause us to turn down things because we couldn’t possibly accept them. Or to say no to something that might be fun because we believe it’s beneath our idea of who we are. Or say yes to things we don’t want to do because we’re proud of the idea that we’re always there for others.

For now I just want you to contemplate how your current identity shapes your reality. What things would you change if you had a different identity? If you weren’t held to the same expectations by your family, friends and co-workers, how would you do things differently?

Tomorrow’s post will dive into some identity expanding exercises designed to take you beyond the you you’ve thus far known. You have a ton of potential within you just waiting to be tapped. Let’s see who you can become when you start consciously crafting a new set-point that matches who you really want to be. :)

Jenny August 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Excellent, Excellent, Excellent, Josh. I love the depth of your soul…

Josh Billings August 13, 2014 at 11:40 am

Love the enthusiasm, Jenny!

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