Choosing Your Identity

To me, the idea of “choosing your identity” always felt new-agey and inauthentic

How can you decide who you are? You were given to yourself as a gift by God. You are who you are.

When my coach kept asking me “Who are you committed to be?” and similar questions, I wasn’t really sure how to answer.

And it felt a bit like presumption to even assume I could choose who I am.

I reflected on this a lot, and I think there is an authentically sane and also Catholic way of understanding this question.

What is a “who”?

A who is a person. Persons are defined almost entirely in reference to relationships.

People define themselves in relationship to others (father, son, husband, friend), their work (firefighter, astronaut, Elon Musk), or sometimes even their moods and beliefs. “I’m a coward”. “I’m a fighter”.

Our definitions of ourselves are a statement about the relationships we have.

What you can choose

What can you choose in your relationships?

Your half. You decide who you will be in relation to the other person.

That is your limit.

What you can’t choose

You can’t choose the other side.

In some cases, the other side is other people. Will someone else be subjugated by you? Or accept your subjugation to them? Or accept a partnership, or romantic relationship? Not up to you.

In other cases, the thing you have is relationship to reality.

You can identify as a rock, but you are not going to be a rock.

You yourself have something fixed about you. Whatever that is, it’s good to decide to relate to that fixed part in a sane way.

What is the fixed part of a person?

I don’t know.

That’s the point.

You get to choose a lot about who you are going to be. Almost everything.

People always talk about basketball players and how they won’t dunk or whatever when this comes up.

Okay, maybe you won’t. But you really for sure won’t if you’re committed to being right about it.

How this is actually helpful spiritually

If we can choose our identity, we can choose to embrace parts of it (such as our baptism, which as its own reality) or reject them.

What we believe affects our actions and interpretations.

If you believe “I’m a crappy person who deserves to be unhappy”, you will likely stay in situations that help with that, and reinforce that.

If you believe “I give everything for everyone else and get nothing back” you will likely try to reinforce that belief with your actions and your interpretations.

If your beliefs are at a core level, they can affect even bigger areas of your life.

Which means if you are struggling to stop doing something bad it can be helpful to ask about who you believe you are. Your beliefs about who you are may actually be keeping you trapped in that bad activity.

“I’m an addict” is a very different place to come from than “I used to be an addict, but now I love being healthy more”.

Working on shifting your identity can be a powerful catalyst for change.

What’s dangerous about this

If you’re not grounded in something true, you may get confused and go for a Nietzschean ubermensch take-over-the-world philosophy and really do terrible things.

You must be grounded in what’s good to make good decisions.

Or at least be open for feedback from reality.

But a person with terrible values could very well use this kind of technique to unlock a lot of effective action to do terrible things.

The Other Half, Again, as a Safety

The other half of our identity is how other people choose to see us.

Which means that no matter what identity you choose for yourself, it will have to be negotiated against reality and other people.

So just pay attention to the effects you’re having. Find people you trust, and tell them what you’re up to. Get some allies and advocates who will check you when you’re bordering on world domination.

Or get a coach I guess.






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