Free-spirit or Achiever: How I Discovered and Learned to Balance ALL My Best Identities
We were on the road...again.
My partner and I just LOVE to pick up our lives and start again new. Most of the time, thousands of miles from where we were. And though it is always invigorating and exciting...it can be downright stressful as well.
So we were on the road again. We had packed up everything we owned in our white Toyota Prius and were driving from our two year home in Portland, Oregon to a new adventure awaiting us in Minnesota. Somewhere around Missoula, Montana, I learned a lot about myself. I found a new level of clarity that has helped me see and understand so much more. Here's how it went down:
The Story Goes
We had a plan. A plan to drive about 5-6 hours a day and make it to Minnesota in 5 days. A plan to sleep in Spokane, in Butte, in Glendive, and in Fargo. But somewhere along the interstate on our second day of driving, after stopping in Spokane, Kasey decided he didn't want to drive all the way to Butte and thought it would be nice to stop in one of our favorite cities, Missoula, Montana, for the night instead.
I kinda lost my shit. I didn't want to stop there. But I didn't have a reason why. All logic went out the window and I found myself furious at changing our plan. A plan that was completely capable of changing, but that I had in my head and didn't want to alter.
So yeah...I kinda freaked out and made life hard on the both of us for a good 20 minutes...until I realized how silly I was being. I felt embarrassed. Confused. Still slightly frustrated. But this time, frustrated at myself, not at Kasey.
Why couldn't I just be okay with changing the damn plan? This plan was made to be flexible. To make the trip fun and easygoing for us...so we could enjoy life on the road. But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't let the plan go without feeling like I was letting myself and everyone else down. And this isn't the first time I've experienced this.
More times that I can count, I've gone off the rails because of a change in plans. And then after I come to my senses and realize how silly I was, I felt shameful because of it. Many...many...many times. I thought it was just some issue I had with changing things. But the more I thought about it, the more I learned and understood myself. Here's what I figured out:
Internal Identity Crisis
Freud called it the ego and the id. The author of The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt, called it the elephant and the rider. I named my conflicting internal identities Alana and Bridgette.
No matter what you call it, the concept is the same. People have been struggling with and trying to understand this phenomenon for a long while. Different personalities? Identities? Different areas of the brain? How we are nurtured? Our nature? It all plays a role in how Alana and Bridgette manifest themselves in our lives.
Manifestation in My Life
For me, Bridgett is the ring-leader. I'm an upholder (if you haven't already, check out Gretchen Rubin's 4 Tendencies to understand the details...take a quiz to find your tendency here), so no matter if someone else tells me to do something or if I decide myself, I'm going to get that thing done. It's part of who I am and how I move about in this world.
This has been a huge blessing for me in life. I did great in school, I've started my own business, I am working on finishing my first book...and I am so grateful for the power, compassion, and resiliency of my Bridgette but...
As I get older, I've noticed more instances when Bridgette is maybe a bit too much. Too extra.
I freak the F out if something changes in a plan that doesn't need to be upheld at all and feel confused, frustrated, and terribly embarrassed post-meltdown.
I plan many things down to a science and fail to leave room for the fun and creativity I crave in my work and life.
I let responsibilities come before moments of simply letting go and living life and I am missing out on that beauty and openness.
I see badass ladies working as stellar baristas and rocking a whole body of gorgeous tattoo art and piercings and I long to be more free-spirited like them.
I meet and watch and read about nomads who drop everything, never plan, go with the flow of the universe and enjoy a free-spirited life and I'm extremely envious.
My Alana (my free-spirited nature) is less prominent. She is a bit timid. Waits for the ideal situation to show herself...which almost never comes. She is shy but when she does show herself, she has a hell of a lot of fun. Even in those cases, she is easily overcome by Bridgette as soon as the fun gets to be too much.
What I Have Learned
The biggest lesson here is to find balance. Balance is key. No matter what you name your conflicting identities, you need both Bridgette and Alana to thrive. Too much Bridgette and you live a sheltered, rigid life. Too much of Alana and you lack responsibility and consideration. There is a balance in each of us between the two (or more!) identities.
Naming your internal identities can be a great place to start. I've found that by having a simple way to "name" what I am feeling and experiencing I can better understand what is going on and evaluate what needs to be done.
Bridgette is the achiever: the conscience, the consideration, the doer, the planner, the rule follower, the "adulting," and the general responsibility.
Alana is the free-spirit: the child, the wonder, the dreamer, the lover, the fun, the truth-talker, the feel good-seeker, the spiritual being, the open, and the flexible nature.
There are some instances when either Alana or Bridgette are the best fit. And some instance where the wrong fit is detrimental. Knowing how to navigate, understand, and utilize your own inner identities is key. We use emotional intelligence to identify this and allow each identity to manifest itself in the best situations.
It takes practice! It takes a great deal of trial and error...of uncomfortable situations and glowing experiences. Learning more about yourself is a process. It's all about finding your own unique balance. Listen to yourself...know when each side of your self can benefit you most so that you can lead BOTH a successful, and extraordinarily fun life.
I am working on this every day.
With BOTH achievement and a free-spirit,