That you’re always growing and developing and learning and reflecting and recovering from something? The world is ready and waiting to tell you who you are, pop you into a box with a label you never asked for, so you can spend a lifetime creating yourself around it.
It feels a little unfair, doesn’t it? When you invest time in becoming who you are, only for circumstances out of your control to swoop in and cause chaos, so that you have to get to know yourself again.
I think I’m having a slight identity crisis, although maybe it isn’t that severe.
I’ve spent the last few years writing and publishing blog posts and books, creating and delivering workshops and events, and formed a brand that I felt represented me best. Right? It’s been curated with the influence of the different posts I’ve read, webinars I’ve watched and mailing lists I’ve signed up to. I’ve followed incredible women doing incredible things online, made notes of the steps they take and used it to guide my own. If a friend has given me advice on entrepreneurship, I’ve listened intently to all of it and did all the things I was supposed to, to become a success.
Alongside all of this, I’ve spent three years studying a Creative and Professional Writing undergraduate degree, and it’s taught me some valuable lessons. I thought I was a writer when I began, but I finished knowing I had become a great writer, and that has given me the biggest confidence boost.
But what happens next? Everybody is asking me, what are your plans for the future? What are you going to be doing? When’s your next book out? When are you doing events again?
My only real answer is this: I don’t know.
I’ve realised that much of my portfolio career has been created around my studies and now that has gone, I’m left with a huge gap waiting to be filled and defined with something. Who am I without the degree? Who am I now? Where do I see myself in five years? The only solid answer I have is that I want to write and I want to impact people in a positive way.
As much as I would like to have a major goal right now, and a plan of action to achieve it, I’m beginning to see there is purpose even in being still. This period of nothingness, is actually something special. Even though feeling lost is a bit uncomfortable, it is actually providing me with the space to evaluate everything.
I’ve kept myself busy practising self-care, socialising with loved ones and thoroughly enjoying solitude, in a way I wouldn’t have had the mental capacity to do before. Isn’t it interesting how much mind space your studies actually take up? And in the absence of it, it makes sense you feel an emptiness that wasn’t there before. At least, that’s what makes sense to me.
If this is something you can relate to, please know you’re not alone. I’m sharing a few things you can do when you’re feeling lost, to help you regain a sense of who you are and what you might like to do next.
1. Update your CV.
While looking for a job might seem daunting, and maybe not even on your agenda, updating your CV to represent your achievements can really make you feel GREAT. Consider it a re-application for the role of YOU. Don’t be afraid to even list your studies, even if you are waiting for your results. Seeing yourself on paper will remind you that you have already accomplished a lot, and have a lot to bring to the table. I revamped mine and impressed myself! Felt wonderful for days after, so I trust it will have the same effect on you.
2. Social Media Detox.
I went offline for around 6 weeks, and the first two were just so I could finish my assignments. I think it is much easier to figure out your true thoughts, opinions and ideas when you aren’t influenced by social media posts. I think we subconsciously compare ourselves to others and begin posting in response to what we see, evaluating our lives against the edited show-reels of the people we follow. I didn’t even realise how much I was doing it until I came offline. I felt like I needed that time with myself, before I gave myself away to my followers. In doing that, I’ve returned feeling a little more focused and a lot more clear about what I will no longer be posting.
3. Inspirational talks on YouTube.
I had the Stitcher app and faithfully listened to podcasts every day. There are some brilliant episodes to tune into, from any topic at all, and it’s all fabulous until it begins to feel a little overwhelming. When I noticed I was feeling like this, I deleted the app and ventured over to YouTube instead. There are countless videos with inspirational talks and I like anything with Brené Brown in. She makes so much sense to me, especially when she talks about shame. And then I realise, there is no shame in not having a plan, in not knowing what you are meant to do, in not being who others want you to be. There is no shame in just taking your time to figure it out and explaining yourself to nobody. There is no shame in taking time for you, to exploring your thoughts, honouring how you feel and creating room for new ideas to be born. Once I realised that, the stillness began to feel bearable.
4. Get social.
I don’t mean you should attend business networking events. I tried that and felt a huge surge of Imposter Syndrome. I just wasn’t ready, not one week after submitting my dissertation. But find events to go to, anything with inspirational speakers who are sharing their story without trying to sell you anything. Or music events and music concerts. Or book launches and book tours. Whatever appeals to you, book your tickets now!
In the last month, I have attended a Woman Who event, attended a book club in London where I met my favourite author Dorothy Koomson, been to Blackpool for the weekend with family, attended a BBQ with friends, had poetry therapy (it’s an amazing thing!), attended Benjamin Zephaniah‘s book tour in Birmingham and had him sign my book, went to see Beyoncé and Jay-Z perform in London, plus had catch-ups with friends and spoken to people who want to work with me to write their books. Where I thought I’d been taking it easy, clearly I’ve been quite the social butterfly!
Make an effort to socialise, catch-up with friends you haven’t seen for a while, go on a day trip and stay out late. Sometimes the purpose can just be about enjoying yourself and that is enough, and if you go home tired but with a smile, you’re still winning.
I don’t mean indulge in social media, I mean read books, buy magazines, watch films and documentaries. Feed your curiosity, or at least create an opportunity to develop some.
I’ve ordered a few great books in the last few weeks, a range of fiction to personal development to non-fiction books about writing. I don’t have a great big plan for what I’ll do with them, other than read them and use that to occupy the space left by my now-completed studies.
The beauty of being at this point is that I can read whatever I like. I am not bound by the compulsory reading list attached to modules I’m studying, and honestly that feels great. I’m a subscriber to the Writing Magazine, although I’m about two months behind. I’m also a member of The Society of Authors, so I receive their quarterly journal (which I’m about to dive into.) I like to keep my head in the writing game, I do have a genuine interest in it so my reading will reflect that.
Think about what you’d like to indulge in, whether it is reading, writing or music. What have you been craving to get absorbed into? It could even be playing The Sims 4, I know that is something I’ve cut while I’ve been studying and eagerly jumped back into last week. It. Was. Great.
I know these are small things and none of them promise an overnight solution to help you find yourself again. All I know is that I can slowly feel myself coming back to myself after doing these things. I feel less guilty about being in a period of nothingness, and more at peace with being stagnant. I’m beginning to think and feel like a writer again, a writer not swamped with university pressure at least. I’m beginning to truly consider what I do and don’t want to do, and allowing new thoughts to flow in so that I can start creating a plan. All this is possible, if you allow yourself the opportunity to be inspired again.
But there’s no pressure in knowing everything right now. Is there?
Link to Writing Group & graphic