What is your “X”? What is the thing you are most known for, the thing you’re good at, the role or job you identify the most with? It might be as a parent, a job title, a special skill, an artist/musician – regardless of what it is, you are so much more than that. In today’s blog, I will show you this by doing a deep dive into identity vs. self.
For most of my life, my “X” was as a basketball player. I’m tall… like, really tall, so it might have seemed like a no-brainer that I played basketball, but I was also fortunate to love the sport and be pretty good at it. Since I was about 12 years old, I have been fielding questions from strangers; “do you play basketball?”, or “wow! How tall are you? You must play sports”, and the occasional “where do you find your jeans?”. I had my go-to responses to be polite and keep it moving, but I always answered with pride when asked basketball-related questions, because that was who I was – a basketball player.
Fast forward a whole bunch of years, many countries traveled, and a bunch of knee surgeries later, my professional basketball career came to an end due to circumstances that were out of my control. I remember being told that I would no longer be able to play the sport I had dedicated my life to and feeling a wave of emotions; lost, confused, angry, hurt, and most of all, scared.
I returned home from overseas and essentially went into hiding while I tried to heal, not just physically but emotionally as well. Looking back, I was definitely struggling more than I was willing to admit to myself or others. I remember putting on a brave face to family and friends, but I would often wake up in the middle of the night crying.
I tried to avoid places where I might get asked the usual height-related questions, but that was fairly impossible if I decided to leave the house. My anxiety would increase if I needed to go to the store or had agreed to meet a friend for lunch because I didn’t know what my response would be to the now daunting question, “do you play basketball?”.
Soon after that, I had an epiphany – I could just lie and no one would know any better! I would answer yes and speed up the conversation to avoid getting into the details of where I played or for who, etc. Looking back, this is where I felt the most lost – I had no idea who I was when I wasn’t a basketball player.
That is when I needed to do a deep (and very uncomfortable) dive into figuring out who I was outside of the thing I was good at/best known for. I leaned on loved ones for support and advice, allowing myself to absorb the positive reinforcements they were giving me, including hearing about the qualities I held that weren’t related to my jump shot.
Throughout this process, I heard from others that I was kind and caring, inquisitive, compassionate, bright, and had a sense of humour; none of which are typical ways to describe someone’s athletic ability. I took those remarks and created a narrative for myself in the moments when I felt most lost, slowly starting to uncover my true self.
Paired with traits that I gained from playing basketball, such as, motivated, a good teammate, hard worker, I realized that I had so much more to offer than just being good at sports. This allowed me to gain confidence in myself while pursuing new goals and dreams, which have led me to where I am today!
I share my story to allow you to reflect on your own life. I challenge you to dig deep inside yourselves to give attention to all those other qualities you possess, not just the identity you and others may have labeled you with.
You are so much more than “X”.
Thanks for reading!