• photo credit: 20th Century Fox
    • “Who are you?”

      “No one of consequence.”

      “I must know.”

      “Get used to disappointment.”

       The Princess Bride

I may be stretching the relevancy of this quote, but who can resist “The Princess Bride”?  Have you ever had an identity crisis?

I’ve been in the midst of a pretty big one.  No, not a midlife crisis.  But really questioning who I am. I thought I had that one figured out a decade or two ago.  (Damn.  Maybe it is a midlife crisis?)

You see, over the past couple of years, health issues have have forced me to change my lifestyle.  I’ve had to change my yoga practice and teaching, give up some hobbies I enjoyed, and re-prioritize how I spend my time.  Yes, I have even had to let the housework go a little.   Shocking, right?

But the biggest blow to my perceived identity came last month.  After much research, thought, and soul searching, I decided to eat meat.  I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and a vegan for the last two and a half years.   This was a big decision, not one I took lightly, and certainly not one I was happy to be taking.

I did it to try to help my health conditions, which were getting worse, despite my best efforts.  A lot of the research I did seemed to indicate that animal protein might be what I needed.  (Nuts and seeds were just not cutting it, and I am sensitive to eggs and dairy.  I know I sound like I am trying to justify this decision.  I am.  To myself.)  So I have been eating meat, mostly chicken, although lately I have been slacking.  I know, bad omnivore.

I strongly identified myself as a vegetarian.  I felt it was part of who I am.  I still feel like a vegetarian, even though I have a chicken roasting in the crockpot, which I will soon be forcing myself to eat.  I think of vegetarianism as something positive, so of course I identified with it, but sometimes we identify with “negative” ideas. We subscribe to ideas that are actually just an excuse to keep playing small.  You know what I mean:  You want to lose weight, but you tell yourself, “I have no will power.”  You want to write a book, but you don’t because you aren’t “creative” or “good enough” or “don’t have anything to say.”  Or you think about going to a yoga class, but tell yourself you aren’t flexible. I love when people say that.  Then why the hell aren’t you doing yoga?

Why do we get so attached to these views of ourselves?  They certainly aren’t serving us.  I guess they are comfortable and “safe.”  Well, let me tell you, safe sucks.*  Take a risk.  Try something new (except wingsuiting. That’s just crazy.)  Try on a new, improved idea about yourself.  (*Note:  If I gave birth to you, always remember:  Safety First!)  But I digress…back to identity.

Indulge me with some yoga-talk for a second.  Classical yoga says that attachment causes suffering.  Those yogis were right!   I was suffering because I was attached to my own perceived identity as a vegetarian. So I decided to go deeper.  Instead of looking at the label I put on myself,  (“Vegetarian!”) I looked at my core values as they relate to being a vegetarian.

Here they are:

Taking care of my health – this wasn’t working, hence the change in diet;

Kindness and respect for all creatures and for the Earth– I worked through this one by getting the most humane, sustainably-raised meat I could find – and never before I have prayed so hard before meals!
So, my point is, if you find yourself in a situation where your identity is being tested or if you are holding on to an outmoded idea of who you are, dig deeper.  How does that idea resonate with or conflict with your core beliefs and values?   If you can’t get comfortable in your own skin, you will have to –like Westley says in “The Princess Bride”– “Get used to disappointment.”  And that would be “Inconceivable!”  (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Please tell me in the comments section if you are struggling with letting go of an identity.  I’d love to hear about it.  And if you are so inclined, share this post with your friends!  Thanks.

(*This post was previously published at meredithhutterchamorro.com, 3/27/13)