On Discovering Identity + Deflecting Lies
I was finally feeling somewhat settled. I knew where I was supposed to be each day and each week, what mornings I had to rise before 4AM. I alternated between slingin’ yoga pants at lululemon and coaching my heart out at Orange Theory, teaching a handful of other classes at other studios and attempting to complete a website building project “on the side”.
This is the Hawaiian Hustle, my friends.
On the island it seems the majority of those I connect with work multiple jobs or side hustles to make ends meet while pursuing a life of beach, ocean, community and mountains. But what I love most, even despite the hustle is this —
I am more than a job title. A salary. An upwards trajectory, an employee of the latest and greatest startup. I am Avery, first and foremost, a sister-daughter-lover-and-friend who will cook you dinner and be in bed at 8:30PM one night, kicking your ass in fitness class the next, out on the town Saturdays and diving 40 feet down in the ocean on Sundays before sunrise.
While this is the Hawaiian way of life, I will admit — detaching my identity from my job title is tough. Especially because in the last couple of weeks, a shoot-ton changed. I left the job I was tying myself to. I quit Orange Theory.
You care too much about what the wrong people think of you, a dear friend told me. Here we were, late at night, even later in her time zone. My eyes were cried-out fresh from a conversation gone very, very wrong. I was swimming through guilt, shame and confusion over feedback I couldn’t quite discern as true or false.
I am hardest on myself. We usually are.
So when it is time to receive feedback from others, it can often be the hardest thing we do— receive it.
At this particular moment I was fighting with the reflection of myself in the eyes of another. In one who I didn’t quite trust, who I didn’t see as quite accurate. But it hurt, it stung, nonetheless, to be hung out to dry, all of my flaws laid bare with little to no understanding.
After several weeks of contemplation and prayer, of attempted conversation and gentle encouragement from dear friends, I gave my notice. I left the job I loved because I couldn’t support the people in leadership behind it — their ways, their toxicity, their treatment of others. The negativity and stress seeped into my bones and my days until I felt I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t separate myself from my circumstances. Until I, too, grew bitter in my resentment.
I loved my job, my role, my members. But just as suddenly as I had begun on my fitness coach journey at Orange Theory, I halted only to change courses once again, less than a mere two months later. I was tired of holding up this facade when in reality, behind the scenes was less than livable.
After this experience, I received feedback and constructive criticism, if you will, from two different sources in my life. The difference? One called me out in love and attempted understanding. The other, of authoritarian nature, unlistening, unyielding. In a week-long battle, I had to peel back the layers of both and decide where the truth was, and where the lies sprouted their dangerous hold.
It is far too easy to let ourselves become the glue where identifiers come to stick — non-commital, flakey, doctor, neat freak, life of the party, vegan, fitness guru, helper, alcoholic. Good and bad, we grasp onto words to tell us who we are, to reflect ourselves neatly to the world around us, to make our name. Our elevator pitch of who we are and what we do.
But what happens when that is all challenged, all stripped away? Who are we, without the titles and paychecks and the report cards to prove it?
I am trying to uncover the answer to this question as I rebuild my career with new fitness instructing positions and writing assignments, as I heal myself from a dance with disordered eating once again, as I establish myself on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The one truth I come back to is this: I am a child of God. And so I sit here and chant, attempting to believe and own these six words as my own. I am a child of God.
A prayer for the week: Lord, would you challenge my perspective so the truths spoken of me may stick, may call attention to my areas of growth and strength in You. And Lord, would the lies deflect. Would they bounce away, would they disappear. May they be nothing in my head! Would they be banished from my heart! My I find my identity in You, and You alone. I am Yours.