The Need for Identity
As the new year has started, with quite a big year having finished, I’ve been thinking about me; what I want to do, where I want to go, who I am.
For me, 2016 was a big year of self-exploration because a lot of who I thought I was was challenged. Whilst 2015 is one of my biggest years to date in terms of life experience (quitting my job to live and practice yoga in Mysore, India followed by some travelling; a very sad and emotional break up; and starting a new job), 2016 saw some other tests. For the past 4-5 years, I (and I guess others) have seen me as the yogi, quite health conscious, but loves wine, cooking and eating. That was my identity; a foodie yogi.
People would ask me about restaurant recommendations, new openings as well as yoga and the different elements of it. I loved this, I got a buzz of feeling like a person “in the know” when it came to these things. But the truth is, I just loved certain restaurants and I had only been practicing yoga (without a consistent daily practice) for a few years. In a way, it was all a bit of facade.
Last year, I was single, I dated, went out A LOT, made new friends and tried out some things I hadn’t before. At times, I felt myself stepping away from my usual self wanting to explore new territory, to be the reckless, fun-loving person who didn’t have a care in the world except to simply always have a good time. It worked for the most part, other times, it just left me feeling exhausted, bloated and sad. So as a result of all the fun and early morning starts at my job at the time, my practice suffered and I was no longer an asana-practising yogi. One identity gone.
The interesting thing, which I can say now with hindsight, is that I felt more popular and interesting to others. London life and I guess being in your twenties gives you the excuse to be out with your friends most of the time, drinking and eating out having late nights; an extension of uni life but with more cash. People want to hear about your crazy nights out, where you went, what you did. It makes for good story telling. No one really wants to hear about your early bed times, waking up pre-5am to travel to the shala and how hard or uplifting your yoga practice was that day - this changes of course, if you put up a few Instagram posts of you in a contortionist pose with a sunset behind you (guilty!)
This identity of being a foodie yogi is also quite conflicting, which is something else I’ve struggled with. I love food and wine and have a real passion for them both in all of their different worlds. I also love yoga, for it’s profound spiritual and psychological effect it’s had on me, and for keeping me strong and flexible both physically and mentally. And yet, a serious yoga practice or yogi means that you don’t really drink often, stay up late or eat meat. So where does that leave me?
I think that we all want to have a relatable, single identity so that we can simultaneously stand out from the crowd whilst also not being judged for being so. Understandably, we all want to feel proud about who we are but the need to 1) have an identity at all, and 2) to enforce this on to others is an interesting one. A balance of any sort is hard to find and keep, especially when recognising the different versions of you and trying to settle on which is your true self. I want to be forthright and speak up but also understanding and thoughtful; I want to practice yoga every day, but I also want to stay out late for a mid-week dinner and drinks; I want to be a career person and a free spirit too; I want to be the best friend/sister/daughter/girlfriend of all but I also want to be selfish.
So I’m saying to myself, and trying to listen to my own advice, be honest and true to yourself. Some rules for commitments are needed but things will and do change daily, weekly, monthly. Stay dedicated with some flexibility and try not to stress when you or the things around you change. Conflicts will always be there; find the compromise.