In the Daring Way™ we talk about wanted and unwanted identities. These are the personas we’d prefer the world to see; you know, instead of the imperfect, flawed humans we really are. For example, as a parent of teenagers I wanted to be seen as involved, compassionate, relaxed and all knowing. That was my wanted identity, as opposed to: clueless, over-protective and anxious (my unwanted identity). Of course, the reality of who I am as a parent is neither of those extremes. I fall somewhere in the middle… flawed, loving, concerned and at times, terrified.
Fast forward 15 years, and a more recent adventure took me into the unknown territory of a new wanted identity. Since I began to gray in my early 30’s, I’ve colored my hair for more than 20 years. 2 years ago I decided I was tired of spending the time and money, let alone dowsing chemicals over my scalp, inches from my brain… an organ I consider fairly important. Not only that, but I wanted to be that woman who loved her gray. I wanted to “own it”. I wanted the identity of that modern, beautifully aging woman who rocked her gray hair, free from the chains of dye and chemicals (aka wanted identity).
So, I announced to my hairdresser and my loved-ones that I was going to embrace it. I then spent the following 7 months torturing myself and everyone I loved. The more my gray hair grew-in, the more obsessive I became. It felt like a sentence. I was digging myself into a hole I’d be stuck-in for the rest of my life. But oh the praise and compliments I received… You’re so brave! You look beautiful! Congratulations! I wish I could do that, etc! Ugh, how the hell was I going to get out of this one?
If I stayed gray I’d be miserable, but if I colored it again I might be seen as vain, self-involved, environmentally irresponsible, or worse yet; insecure. Let me say this again… I hated my grey hair. Not only that but I teach workshops on authenticity and owning our stories, I teach women about shame, how to say “no” and creating healthy boundaries. Why on earth would I spend one more minute caring about the opinions others have on my choice of hair color?
Here’s what that epiphany sounded like: “I don’t give a shit what other people think! If I decide to color my hair until I’m 80, SO WHAT? I canNOT waste one more minute thinking about this. Where the hell is my phone so I can call the salon?” I couldn’t wait another day to embrace my beautiful brunette locks from that stinky bottle at the hairdresser. When I walked in the door, my hilarious and irreverent colorist called me over with her pointer finger and said in a tone of all knowing, “We’ve been waiting for you.”
I called my daughter and nonchalantly mentioned that I colored my hair. She stopped in her tracks, “Wait a minute Mom, you colored your hair?” I said, “Yes.” Her reply: “Well that’s 7 months of my life I’ll never get back.” So let me apologize right now to my daughter and my women friends who listened, gave advice and eventually gave up. You know who you are.
Of course I have absolutely sworn that never again will I succumb to those insecurities. How many times in our lives do we learn this lesson? I will not waste another ounce of my brain cells on this kind of thinking (that is if I have any left). What could possibly bring me back to that insecure adolescent-like feeling at this stage of my life?
You’ll be the first to know when it happens.
Here are my words of wisdom for women and men of any age: First of all, offer yourself compassion. Striving to be someone you’re not, doesn’t work. Ever. And whatever you believe others are thinking of you, it’s all made up. We will never know. Most people are busy worrying about their own wanted and unwanted identities and therefore haven’t given you a second thought.
Years of personal growth will never completely free us from our concern about others’ opinions. In fact we should care, just not at the expense of hiding ourselves and striving for perfection and wanted identities.
If you’re willing to be vulnerable, please share about your own experiences with wanted and unwanted identities.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde