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INSIDE, ISOLATED, AND THINKING ABOUT IDENTITY? HOW TO LOOK IN, WHEN YOU CAN'T GO OUT.

Post By: Emily Cohn  | Tuesday, May 12, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS IDENTITY

When you were younger, hopefully you heard the phrase, “you can be anything you want to be”. Then, as you age, self-comparison takes over and tells you to achieve more than others to feel a sense of success. However, I am here to tell you that who you are, is not simply the sum of your achievements. Take a second, read that again, and notice your initial reaction to that statement. Are you confused, inspired, or think I'm completely off the mark? Any reaction is reasonable, as I am trying to talk to you as an individual rather than speak to your ego. Separating your identity from your job or sport is crucial to your long-term well-being. Now that you have so much time to stay inside and be physically separated from that part of yourself, it is a great time to figure out “who you are” and “who you want to be”.


Let me be very clear, aspirations to be a professional athlete, CEO, or gain a promotion are all admirable and necessary goals that you should continue to have. What people tend to forget to do, is figure out the type of person they are going to be in those roles. Additionally, if you are no longer the team captain, VP of Sales or starter, what identity remains? Prior to quarantine, I spent a lot of time with my athletes coming up with their athletic identity so that they can separate life on the field and off the field. This practice seems even more relevant now that such a huge part of who you are has been removed as a result of shutdowns and social distancing.


So how do you figure out who you want to be? It seems like such a daunting question. However, once you break it down you have likely already figured it out and just never put it into words. Picture yourself with your friends, family and teammates and see if there are common characteristics that stand out to you. Are you always talking or listening, observing or impacting, helping or looking out for yourself? Make sure that during this reflection you get a third-party perspective. These observations are not positive or negative, they are what they are for right now. Then, if you are comfortable with this, ask your friends, family and teammates what role you play in their lives. This may line up with your assessment of yourself or may be a stepping-stone to finding who you actually want to be. After reflecting on your self-assessment and conversations with others, compile some characteristics you consider fundamental to who you are. When picking these characteristics make sure they will positively impact your life and the lives of those around you. Once you have picked these traits it will help you make daily decisions by asking yourself: does what I'm about to do align with who I want to be?


Figuring out your athletic identity is another important step in long-term success. Your athletic identity comes from a combination of who you are currently as a player and how you want to improve. Think of forming your athletic identity like writing a script for your ideal movie character. Give them motives, routines, catchphrases and a new name. It is important for performers to have this separation from their performance setting so that accomplishments or setbacks do not define their lives. For many elite performers their aspirations come from a desire to provide for their family financially. While this is impressive and motivating, it is likely that those individuals were providers in other ways before they could do so financially.


During the quarantine I read “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday and always look to “The Brave Athlete Calm the F**k Down” by Simon Marshall and Lesley Peterson which have both further shaped how I think about identity. With the rest of your time in quarantine and limited access to your physical performance settings, use this time to think about who you want to be. I say “think about” rather than “determine” because this is a question that should be used as continuous reflection and be open to adaptation. The one thing you can control is who you are. This will ultimately affect what you do and how you perform.

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