“…who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others…”

Cambridge Dictionary

Your identity is what makes you ‘you’. If you are having ‘an identity crisis’, then I guess you can’t figure out who you are… the individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognised or known…”


Whoever you are, the image you present represents your identity and this is the reason you fight so hard to maintain that image. For example, you are daughter, wife, mother, boss and more. Sometimes different people see a different side of us: our family may see a different person from our colleagues or subordinates – or maybe they don’t. It doesn’t really matter, because inside ourselves, however we present ourselves to different groups, their responses to us are what validates our identity. When they love us, want us, need us, we own that identity and subsequently define ourselves by it and through it. Inevitably, when change occurs a chunk of our identity is also torn away.

When a life-changing event happens – a bereavement, a break-up, a redundancy, a rejection or departure – it is almost impossible not to take it personally. We apportion blame to ourselves and think if we had done something differently the outcome would be different, and we would not be where we are now. The problem is with any kind of loss or rejection where we have invested some of ourselves, we have hooked our identity to that person or situation.

It is very hard to suddenly have to deal with, for example, not being a wife or an employee or not being needed as mum when the kids have left home. As we get older it would seem that these changes can often tumble into each other creating a domino effect. Before we know it all the dominos are fallen. Then I hear: What now? Who am I? Is this all there is?

The heartbreaking reality is that so many (usually) women experience one or more huge events in their lives after which they are left reeling in shock and often numb for a while because suddenly everything they thought they knew has become destabilised. The identity (or identities) they have intrinsically woven through their life is no longer necessary and may well have been taken away suddenly, without permission. I said it myself and have heard it said by so many others since, “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

When your reference point is gone and with it a huge part of your identity, it’s hard to remember who you were before and even harder to know how to be now.

If you are asking yourself who you are, not recognising the person you see in the mirror every morning, it can be extremely stressful to get through the day. When it feels that all your hopes and dreams have been dashed and there is nothing to look forward to, what can you do to make things better? The first question I ask is: “Who do you want to be?” then, “What do you want to do?” From there we go on a journey to discover what makes you YOU! This usually throws up a few surprises. Once you start exploring things below the surface a whole new world opens up and the colour comes back. A birthday trip to the theatre unexpectedly drove this message home.

“Sometimes standing out is the best way to fit in”

Totally Real is published by Panoma Press and is available from Amazon.