Why identity matters

This week I was really very fortunate, in that my career, and life after Army, was the focus of an article in the SA Weekend lift out of the Adelaide Advertiser. It got me to thinking about identity and how important that is to our mental health and general well-being.

Bottom Line Up Front

Special forces in woods
  • Fake it until you make it
  • You can change who you are
  • Cut away anyone or anything that won’t let you be who you want to be

Let me explain

You’ve heard the old saying “fake it until you make it?” this is linked to identity, in that if you want to be something, sometimes you just have to visualise it, live and breathe it, perhaps even fake it until you make it. If you want it bad enough then you will morph into what it is that you want to become.

My childhood Identity

When we are kids our identities start to take shape. For the most part we are of course students and many of us are involved in sporting clubs, cadets, scouts, church groups and all manner of other pursuits that help to shape our identities. I was an 800m runner, I went to a local youth group and I knew I was going to join the Army, it was all part of my identity. I thought about the army, talked about the army, watched shows about the army and played armies. I was a soldier.

My identity in the Army

I had three careers within the Army. The first as a soldier in the Infantry, the second as a Commando and the third as an Officer. All three of these roles required me to be a slightly different person. If I had of tried to hang on to who I was before, in each of these roles, I wouldn’t have been successful. The hardest transition was changing over to be an officer. The reason it was hard was because my soldier peer group saw me as an officer and the officers saw me as a soldier, it was a matter of fake it until you make it for me in that instance. One of the main things I came to realise across these very different careers was that everyone is trying to work out who they are and how to do their job. I realised very early on that just being in the position is sometimes all that’s needed, we can grow into the person we need to be over time.

As an author

If you ask me today who I identify as, it is very much as an author. I was in Special Forces for a long time, and the Army for more than half of my life, but I don’t let any of those experiences or particular events define me as the person I am now. When I left the military, I knew that I had to let go of the past in order to redefine who I am. I started to tell people I was an author, I would introduce myself as such. Obviously, all of these past experiences are useful in helping to shape me, they are a necessity for the type of author I want to be, but I don’t identify as a Major in Special Forces anymore.

My advice to you

Most of you reading this have certain goals; if you’ve read this far, it’s likely you are taking steps in a certain direction to achieve these goals.

  1. Research who/what it is you want to become
  2. Embrace this identity and reflect it in your dealing with others
  3. Build habits that help to reinforce this new identity
  4. Design your life around becoming the person you want to be
  5. Believe in yourself – BELIEVE in your identity

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