In Search of Self: What We Can Learn From an Identity Crisis
By Sarah Shuttle
In my experience, both personal and professional, having a strong, real identity, and owning it is the key to fulfilment. I don’t mean being the woman or having the business others expect, I mean true discovery and acceptance of who you are.
When you have that sense of identity, it opens the door to direction, gives you clarity on your goals and therefore how to achieve them.
Identity underpins my entire design process, and coupled with my life experiences, I have learnt a great deal about the need to define ourselves.
What happens, though, when you lose yourself? When everything that you felt defined you disappears?
It leaves a gaping chasm inside and you are wandering without direction or hope. Your immediate reaction is to try and fill the gap. As human beings, as women, as entrepreneurs, we have a need to belong and align with something. You can’t be comfortable in your skin if you don’t know what that looks or feels like.
I spent years defining myself by the wrong things.
I was a straight A-student and I hid behind that. I was the good girl, and hid behind that also. But as my alcoholism took hold, that slipped away.
Floundering, I defined myself by popularity with men and how attracted they were to me. In trying to find myself that way, I got even more lost. I hated the person I was becoming, the girl with no self-worth.
I gave away my power.
I kept trying to find my identity on the surface. When I managed to put the bottle down, I stopped eating. ‘When I reach X weight, I’ll be fine. Just one more stone and I’ll be whole’.
All that did was land me in hospital.
And when I started binge-eating? I even lost my false sense of identity of the pretty, thin girl who men desired (and if they didn’t, I felt worthless).
This has all taught me to be careful in defining myself by superficial things.
In life and in business, losing identity is a normal, but painful, process.
When you’ve moved forward and you’re no longer aligned with yourself or your audience or anything else that has become commonplace, the notion of failure and overwhelming sense of doubt creeps in.
The truth is, we often forget that identity is fluid; it ebbs and flows and changes and grows. We must let it evolve, not cling to who we have been. And part of that evolution is letting nature takes its time.
I have learnt that I am not just one thing. I am a woman, a partner, a daughter, sister, aunt and friend. I am an entrepreneur, a designer, a storyteller. I’m also a recovering alcoholic, anorexic and self-harmer. I’m a reader, a thinker, creative, dreamer and doer, and I can often be a contradiction.
We are everything we’ve experienced and more, and our actions are what define us from moment to moment.
It is all a matter of perspective.
I choose to see that losing your identity opens you to a new chapter.
If you are lost, don’t worry; the path is there waiting for you. Perhaps you were always meant to wander off track, so you can discover who you are – in the right way and at the right time.
Sarah Shuttle is a brand stylist and website designer for ambitious creative professionals. She is also a recovering alcoholic who beat her personal demons and inspires other entrepreneurs to success through sharing her story of courage and triumph. Sarah has been featured in Her Lovely Heart, The Mindful Mag, She Owns It, and on The Ladyboss Breakthrough Summit. When she isn’t transforming brands and websites from boring to beautiful, Sarah resides in England, with her ever-patient partner and three cat-babies, and spends her spare time obsessing over tudor history.