Identity crisis: tools to help you re-evaluate your direction
Having a baby was a more transformative experience than I had ever expected. Sure, I knew my life would be different (doesn’t everyone tell you that a zillion times) but I guess I didn’t realise how much it would make me look at myself and challenge who I am and what I do. Strangely enough this probably happened even more just before my second baby was born. I think it was the fact I knew what was coming (total immersion in looking after someone else) and I felt like I was losing sight of myself. This can have an impact on self-worth which is so incredibly important to hold onto for yourself and as to set a good example for your kids.
After speaking to many new mothers I think it is quite normal to have some sort of identity crisis. As mums we have a massive new role the we have to fit into an identity that already involves being a partner, business owner, daughter, friend, pet owner, project manager, the list goes on. So as your new mum identity tries to squeeze its way into the packed elevator it often feels like she squeezes out some of your other identities. You might no longer be the party-goer, outdoor camper, triathlon competitor or blogger for a short time. But this all depends on you. Learning how to reconcile your old and new selves is one of the hardest tasks we face. I want to be an excellent mum and be myself at the same time, without feeling that something is being neglected or sacrificed.
So I took a bit of time to think about who I am, what I want to be doing and how I could use this time to not only care for my tiny baby but nourish myself and my entrepreneurial ideas at the same time. I wanted to make sure I had a clear path as I came out of those intense first few months: start building a business and have something outside the family and the home that truly represented who I am. This new phase in my life is the perfect time to embrace all sorts of change and prioritise what is in fact important to me.
Tools to help guide the way
Seeking the overlap in your identities and passions is always a great place to start when thinking about what you want to be doing in life. But I found I needed a bit of help remembering my strengths and weaknesses, and the different facets of my personality. It can also be hard to identify your passions and what excites you (not always the same thing). So I sought out some tools to help me do this, which I will share with you today.
1. Personality test
There are lots of personality tests out there and they are nearly all based on the work of Carl Jung, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. The latter two extensively studied the work of Jung, turning the theory of psychological types to practical use. These two women began creating the indicator during World War II, believing that a knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time to identify the sort of war-time jobs that would be “most comfortable and effective”. This initial questionnaire grew into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, that so many people still use today.
The Myers-Briggs test identifies you as 1 personality type out of a set of 16. Each aspect of your personality type is neither positive or negative, so there is no “best” type, it is merely a way of understanding and appreciating the differences between people.
Personally, I found it really interesting to honestly complete several of the free tests and read about the characteristics of my type. It reminded me what I like doing and what I don’t like doing, as well as highlighting aspects of my personality I might know but ignore.
If you want you can take an official Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test but I found that most of the free ones are based on the same principles and reliably gave me the same personality type. An easy free test to take is this online 16 personalities test, which has a short and long version. My type was an ENFJ. Let me know how you go!
2. Strengths finder
I wanted to go beyond my personality test and really identify my personal strengths — what makes me stand out? When I was younger, especially at work, I was always working on improving my weaknesses. However, in recent years I have started to understand that not only will I perform better if I build on my strengths, but I will most likely enjoy what I am doing more.
The Strengths Finder test by Gallup is not a free test but if you are interested in this sort of self-discovery then the $15 or so is worth the investment (I am not affiliated with this tool in any way). Once you have finished the online test you will receive a report with your top 5 themes and ways to apply them. I found it great to clarify my strengths with an independent source even though I recognised all of them. It is also great to hold up any business ideas you have against these strengths, as it will highlight how suited you might be for the type of activities you will need to perform.
3. What you read and seek out
Another great source of information about what your passions are and what excites you is what you seek out each day in terms of books, magazines, photos, courses, websites, blogs, Pinterest boards and more. Have a think about what topics or products attract you time and time again. I read non-fiction books like they are going out of style and my bedside table is piled high with 15 different ways of running a small business. Once I realised how much this topic excites me and how much I like learning and talking about it, the idea for this blog was formed. I think the quote “we teach best what we most need to learn” really hits it on the head — if there is a topic you can’t stop investigating then most likely it is something you could wholeheartedly teach to someone else.
One of my friends loves interiors. She styles corners of her house, reads interior magazines and attends auctions to grab bargain pieces that others cannot see the potential in. While she has many passions, interiors excite her more than anything else. So when we have discussed a new direction in her career these types of indicators definitely helped her narrow her focus.
Folding your strengths, personality traits and passions together to form an identity is not always easy but there is nearly always some overlap. So it is always good to untangle all your threads before you weave them together again, this time with your all important thread of ‘Mother’ as well.
Personally, working through these things over the past few months has enabled me to develop confidence in my strengths and be more decisive in which paths I wish to follow in business and life. One of the main outcomes of doing the work was pushing myself to create this blog from which I hope to build a new business.
Let me know how you go identifying your identities and passions, and if it helps you brainstorm a new business idea or build on a business you already have.