How to be happy: 'I feel as if I have no fixed identity'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

'On the outside I am a sporty, macho bloke, but at home I enjoy photography and modern art etc – things I wouldn't dream of talking about in my 'other' environment. Most people seem so defined and sure of who they are, while I feel as if I have no fixed identity.' Chris.

Step 1: It's a myth that somewhere inside us there is a fixed personality defining the essence of "who we really are". We are, more realistically, a "series of acts" to paraphrase Hegel, rather than an immutable persona. This should come as something of a relief. How limiting and frustrating it would be not to be able to express ourselves with the fluidity of a continuously evolving way of being. So relax, and enjoy being the diverse, changeable person you really are.

Step 2: Having accepted that you are not one-dimensional, the next step is to explore your internal and external worlds, to discover what inspires and motivates you. Your interest in art would be a good starting point. Take yourself on what Julia Cameron, in 'The Artist's Way', calls an "artist's date". Every week, explore something new and challenging. Broaden your horizons and in so doing, broaden your self-knowledge, realising that you are in a continuous state of change.

Step 3: Think about how you relate to others. Do you try to seek out a fixed sense of their identity or do you notice that they do this to you? I doubt that either of these things occur, because people are never exactly the same from one moment to the next. When you suppress your alternative interests, you are also limiting your exploration of those you share time with. Being curious allows us to avoid making assumptions that lock us into limited ways of relating to others.

Step 4: Searching for a sense of identity rather misses the point of our existence because if being alive is to have any meaning, it surely is to love and learn. In loving and learning we change and in changing we grow. Our sense of self therefore changes and grows the more we love, and the more we learn. Learning to love yourself the way you are in all your complexity will create a foundation from which your personality can truly flourish.

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