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Identity Crisis Solved: Learning to Define Yourself

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Recently, I had the privilege of kicking-off the New Year with Christine Hassler’s Goal Setting and Guided Meditation Workshop at the beautiful Levo League loft in Manhattan. My post-workshop reaction: Bring it on, 2013!

Among the many personal insights I gained from Christine’s workshop, I stumbled upon one that applies directly to former college athletes turned career women. If you are not a former athlete, I hope you do not stop reading here, because as I got to thinking, I realized this little lesson applies way beyond my student-athlete life. This is your fair warning to brace yourselves, Levo Leaguers, because I am feeling enlightened and this blog is about to get deep. Let’s do this!

During one exercise, Christine asked us to do a “review” of the past year. We looked back at where we were, mentally and emotionally, on January 1, 2012 and fast-forwarded our lives to this past New Year’s Eve. We then wrote down our blessings, lessons learned, and loose ends that still needed to be resolved from 2012.

To bring you up to speed, my 2012 could be called The Year of My Identity Crisis. I no longer played college softball, but watched helplessly as the next season rolled around, unfazed, without me. I accepted a scholarship for additional study at my university and found myself hovering awkwardly under the category of “undergraduate student who had already graduated.” Eventually, I stuffed my entire life into two suitcases and lugged them all the way from Colorado to New York City to start my career climb from the bottom of the totem pole. All the while, I felt confused in who I was without the things that had defined me for so long.

Clearly the old “identity crisis” story isn’t just my own, judging by the countless movies, books and quotes on Pinterest about the journey to find ourselves. If I could pin the biggest lesson I learned from 2012, it is this: You cannot define yourself by things that can be stripped away from you. As athletes, we grow alongside our sports and learn to see ourselves by the game-winning hits, the missed free-throws, or the title as captain of our teams. But now, as we’ve replaced our jerseys with stylish pencil skirts and head out into the real world, we must remember that the title of “captain” is not what defines us; it is the qualities we have that make us who we are. It just so happens that at one time, you were applying those qualities to leading a team.

So here is my challenge to you, whether you are an athlete, sorority member, intern or CEO: As you take on the year ahead, do not allow your image of yourself to be defined by job titles or labels, because there is a pretty good chance that at some point in your life, that label will be removed or no longer apply. Instead, define yourself by the things that you can control and that have helped you reach those achievements: your character, your passions, your kindness, intelligence or humor. Be committed and engaged in your responsibilities, but be able to see yourself outside of them.

Here’s hoping that our 2013 Review includes lots of great successes and memories, because that “Identity Crisis” is so last year.

Have you gone through an identity crisis? What did you learn from it? Tell us in the comments!


#Advice Lifestyle
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Thank you Carly!! I'm definitely where you were at the start of 2012, and I needed to read this! Great advice.

Hi Carly,
I'm now where you were at the start of 2012...Just ended a 12+ year relationship with my former employer as senior environmental /energy analyst...MUST regroup…Perfect timing! Thanks for sharing your personal experience/extremely helpful. Have a fabulous 2013!

"it is the qualities we have that make us who we are" Remembering this at times when it feels like everyone has everything you want is so hard, but this is so true that we need to "not allow your image of yourself to be defined by job titles or lab"

I love your honesty in dealing with your identity crisis, Carly. Whether it's fresh out of college or during a career change, it reaffirms why it is SO important to have a strong sense of self.

Carly Heitlinger
Carly Heitlinger

This is an amazing takeaway from @christinhassler's event!

I 100% can relate to this as a former student athlete. I think I had identified myself as a "student" (and as an "athlete") for so long that I PANICKED when I was about to graduate!!!

And then I realized that it was the core qualities I possessed that really was who I was... not the fact that I went to an amazing university or was a D1 athlete.

"You cannot define yourself by things that can be stripped away from you."

I LOVE this reminder! I am completely going through this right now but I'm not a former athlete and Carly DID write this in a way that applies to "the rest of us". It's SO easy to get caught up in "what" we are or what to be as defined by roles, income levels, designer labels worn, career paths or where we live. But those things DON'T define us! To get geeky, those are like the adverbs of our lives where our true nature and character are the verbs.

We have to get down to the essence of ourselves, and realize the strong, passionate, intelligent and agile women that are underneath!

BRING IT ON 2013!~~~

Such good insights! I joked about having an "identity crisis" earlier this month as I handed off an extracurricular leadership position to new student leaders. Now I know to focus on my qualities rather than the title I had!

By far one of my all-time favorite articles on Levo. As a former athlete myself, I can really relate with this. Thank you for the incredible and empowering insight!!

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