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Beware the Biggest Identity Theft – Giving Up Who You Could Be

By Linda S. Pucci, Ph.D.


The biggest identity theft isn’t when someone steals your information to get credit in your name or when someone runs up financial debt in your name. While that is definitely a major challenge, I think that the biggest identity theft is the one that we let events in our lives do to us.

Our identity is formed in a developmental process by experiences we have in our lives, the feedback we get from others about ourselves, the roles we play, and the things we believe about ourselves. From these experiences, we decide who we are.

Once we decide our identity, we let it guide us. We may select particular careers, relationships, and experiences based upon what we believe about ourselves and our identity. We try some things and don’t try others based upon this identity.

We believe that our identity, whatever it is, captures who we really are. We claim it as ours. Sometimes that is very helpful. Other times it keeps us trapped in a life that isn’t very satisfying. This is the “identity theft” which can totally mess up your life.

Here’s how it happens. Sometimes people who have had bad experiences in their life, or struggled with challenges like depression, substance abuse, anxiety or trauma, begin to define themselves as “depressed” or “anxious” or “bipolar” or “alcoholic” or “an abuse survivor” or “angry.” They move beyond the experience itself and adopt a label as their identity.

That label, whether it was their own or was given to them by someone else, may be helpful to them very temporarily to help them realize they are not the only one ever facing this problem.

Unfortunately, it often also locks them into a series of beliefs about themselves.  Those beliefs may be “I’ll never recover,” “I’ll always be affected by this,” “This is part of my life from now on.”  The person begins to adopt an identity related to this issue.  When confronted with the possibility of resolving it and moving on with their lives, they sometimes tell me “I can’t imagine my life without this anger,” or “I’m scared to let it go. Who will I be without it?”

Even though they experience a great deal of pain related to feeling anxious, depressed or angry, they are also comfortable with these conditions. They know how to be depressed or anxious or angry. Their identity is wrapped up in being this way.

I think that is the biggest identity theft. It is the theft of the identity they could have. It limits their possibilities and their joy.

While past experiences may have contributed to how you are feeling today, and the identity you have, the means to change this identity exists.

In order to change from being depressed or traumatized or anxious, you have to be willing to give up that identity as “a depressed person” or “a traumatized person” or “an anxious person.” You must be willing to define yourself in some other way. You have to willing to let go of this limiting definition of yourself and explore a new definition.

Sometimes if you’ve had the identity for a long time, it seems impossible to change it. But it isn’t. You can change your identity at any time to an identity that gives you greater range of choice about how to live your life.

There are all sorts of effective ways to overcome whatever challenge you’ve experienced. But the first step is being willing to change that identity that is keeping you stuck. You may not know yet what the new one will be, but if you give yourself the chance, you might discover that this “life makeover” could even be fun!

© 2012 Linda S. Pucci, Ph.D.

Linda Pucci, Ph.D. is a life coach, trainer and owner of Inner Resource Center, LLC. She has more than 34 years of experience helping people overcome obstacles, change their lives, and reach goals they had not thought possible using her solution focused approach. She specializes in helping people get unstuck from negative emotions and limiting beliefs that sabotage their happiness. Get additional free tips and challenges for getting unstuck from her Inner Resources report or contact her for a free 20 minute consultation.