Why is everyone trying so hard to be ordinary? To be like everyone else? To have the right appearance, the right relationship status, the right friends? There is a very real biological function to belonging. It helps assure the survival of an individual and their gene pool. To that end, humans have been over-achievers.
But constantly comparing ourselves and trying to measure up are a time-consuming waste of energy. We end up forming a life full of people who share our anxieties, with everyone trying to console each other into feeling like we really are okay.
What is identity, anyway? Identity is a function of the ego. It’s is the me-first part of our personality that craves attention and reassurance. Cultural identity is based in childhood experiences. Most of us are well past our childhood years, yet we still hang on to these ideas about ourselves––about our appearance, our social circles, what we are allowed to believe.
Identity, however, is not a fixed state. It shifts over time as we accumulate more experiences. Spiritual identity is no different. We limit what we are willing to believe when we cling to what we were taught to believe or what others think. We sacrifice spiritual creativity and freedom on the altar of safety and stability.
Last week’s discussion of the dementia process described a loss of identity––a person with dementia eventually loses the awareness of who they are. Interacting with them works best when we are able to drop our expectations of who they are supposed to be and what our relationship with them entails. In other words, we have to let go of both their identity and ours. This is good spiritual practice in general––seeing each person as a spirit traveling the earth and interacting with their energy in the present.
When we are able to let go of the safety of identity, we will open to new ideas and ways of being. It doesn’t mean that we have to throw out who we think we are or where we came from, it means that we are willing to open the next door of awareness. We will have room to become.