Our Feelings Are Not Our Identity.
A few summers ago, I took a tour of the British countryside with my mom and sister.
To our utter amusement and delight, we were spoiled with neverending vistas of rolling green hills and ancient castles. As enchanting as these hills and castles were though, it was the little sheep and lambs grazing freely across the landscape that charmed us the most.
As we continued to ramble along the narrow roads, we soon noticed that color dye was used on the sheep’s wool as a means of distinguishing ownership. What a clever idea! And soon enough we began to count colors rather than sheep — until, that is, we came across a field of sheep whose owner had been a wee bit too generous with the dye. In fact, the sheep looked like they’d been practically bathed in the dye.
But at that moment, I suddenly saw a parallel between the branding of the sheep with dye and the branding of our human identities with labels.
In looking at the sheep, I could easily distinguish between what was dye and what was sheep. There was no confusion in my mind. The dye was separate from the sheep and represented a temporary state of appearance.
Well… the same goes for us. We often brand ourselves and our identity by how we feel rather than seeing our feelings as a temporary dye.
For example, it is natural for all of us, at some point in our life, to feel stress or sadness, or worry. But for too many, there is a misunderstanding between our feelings and our identity. We don’t realize that feelings are temporary experiences in time that move through us and therefore have nothing to do with our identity.
Too many of us, however, innocently brand ourselves as stressed or anxious or depressed, as if that label represents our fixed identity.
Now, I want to be careful not to dismiss or detract from these very real feeling experiences. Because feelings such as anxiety and depression and stress are real and they are experienced. However, their nature, just like anything we feel, is temporary. In fact, feelings are designed to move through us.
So, the challenge arises when we mistakenly believe that feelings such as anxiety or depression or stress form a core part of our identity, of who we really are. In the face of such a belief, we suffer even more and begin to feel helpless to experiencing anything other than such feelings.
The remedy is to realize that…
We… are not our stress. We are simply experiencing a stressful state of mind in the moment.
We… are not our depression. We are simply experiencing a depressed state of mind in the moment.
We… are not our anxiety. We are simply experiencing an anxious state of mind in the moment.
We aren’t the feelings we’re experiencing, even though it may look as if we are, and even though it may seem as if we’ve been experiencing such feelings for the whole of our lives.
Beneath the temporary dye of our stress or depression or anxiety lies a source of wellbeing that is the only true constant and a reminder of our true nature.
Lana Bastianutti is a certified coach, instructor, and author who guides her clients to their own innate wellness, creativity, and peace of mind so that they are freed up to live powerfully juicy and fulfilling lives. You can check out her book, Women and Confidence: The Truth About the Lies We Tell Ourselves, and contact her via her website.