STRONGER TOGETHER: Letting go of outdated ideas of your identity for chance to grow

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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on the power of letting go of outdated notions of your identity for new opportunities.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

When introducing ourselves, we may highlight our profession, our hobbies, or perhaps our family. My go to was: I work for IMPACT Community Services, am a wife and mum, love anything related to health and wellbeing and am a committed runner. 

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

These elements of my life form part of my identity and shape who I am today. They’re also subject to change because of choices I make, and things outside of my control.

When change occurs, sometimes we cling to parts of our identity that are no longer real. The inability to let go of outdated versions of ourselves can lead to a feeling of ‘stuckness’.

I always referred to myself as a runner – it’s something I did daily for 20+ years. Then I injured my knee and my GP said I’d never run again.

You’d swear I was given a terminal diagnosis. I went pale, felt faint and had to excuse myself, to pull myself together.

All I had to do was change my exercise routine. Simple. However, running was such a big part of my identity, that I grieved like I’d lost a significant person in my life.

While my loss was minimal compared to others, it took me six months to come to grips with it. The effect of losing part of ourselves shouldn’t be underestimated.

My loss was outside of my control, but I had control over what I did next. After almost two years of rehab, I’m now stronger than I’ve ever been – all because I let go of my former runner identity.

Sometimes change can seem jarring or out-of-reach. We hold onto notions about ourselves that no longer serve us, but in doing so, limit ourselves to new opportunities which may be more valuable.

Give yourself permission to grieve if you need to, time to adjust and the space to embrace new possibilities.

One way to start is releasing the idea you cannot do something because you haven’t done it before.

If you have any unhelpful or outdated expectation of your identity, ask yourself ‘what can I let go of today?’

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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