Let me repeat that. “The Inner Work of Identity is hard.”
Inner – the stuff that’s happening inside of you; in your heart and head; thoughts and emotions
Work – effort to achieve something or fulfill some purpose
Identity – who or what you are
Sometimes I write about the outer identity – the stuff people can see. It’s easier to write about those things because it’s outside of a person so we can see their clothes and their demeanor. We can touch their hair or their shoes. There is a very real experience of the outer identity because we can observe it.
But the inner work of identity – that’s personal. It’s inside. They can share it with us with their words. We might be able to see the effects of it. We might even be able to walk along side of them as they work through it – but the inner work of identity is their own. You cannot experience it. You can experience the effects of it or the byproduct of the inner identity – but you cannot live that experience for someone else.
The inner work of identity shapes us – our values, our ideas, our egos. Whether we have thought through it or not – the inner work shapes what we post and what we say and what we don’t ever communicate. We create narratives that help us to understand the world, God, and our experiences of it. The inner work is constantly evaluating whatever it is that we take in and consume – media, food, or words.
Some of us don’t ever think about what’s happening on the inside. Some of us don’t know how to think about what’s happening on the inside. Some of us think about it, and it arrests us. Some of us are constantly evaluating and changing and growing so that we can become better and ultimately help others. Some of us just avoid it all together. Each person is different, and each person has their reason for how they engage with the inner work of identity.
But I don’t know of anyone that would say that it wasn’t hard. If it was easy – we would all do it. We would all know ourselves perfectly and choose to help other’s experience the same – because it’s so amazing.
But it’s hard. It’s hard because identity formation happens in suffering. Identity formation happens in pain. Identity formation means that you could be stuck or you could change – and either and both can be painful.
All of that to write this – when you tell someone to stop being who they are – it’s never that easy – because the inner work of identity is hard.