When Your Identity Doesn’t Fit Anymore

Recently an online event that featured me as a contributor selected this photo of me for their promotion. It’s from years ago and it took me aback seeing it again. I look at it and I marvel at the power and confidence I am embodying. I haven’t felt that as much recently.

This photo was taken at the peak of my liberation odyssey as I fought my way out of the constriction of a version of myself that was created by conditioning. I reached for my freedom of self-expression with every tool I could find.

I built an identity in the world that was about unleashing myself as an artist and a teacher and coaching other women to do the same.

Life in the years that followed was about living my self-expression in multiple domains. Then I became a Mom in the time of COVID.

This year I have been forced to drop out of the public eye quite a bit as my child and life without much support forced me to be very present with what was in front of me rather than cultivating my audience or anything else of my own. I worried about losing my relevance.

But something has matured in me as I’ve discovered who I am in my devotion to another being. Like so many other times in my life I’m being remade into another expression of me. I’ve been in the goopy caterpillar phase being melted down to be reborn into the butterfly with new colors and fresh wings.

That goopy stage is always awkward. And sometimes downright painful. I have been tested. The part of me that seeks stability searches for an identity to cling to, but, like my pre-pregnancy clothes, the identity doesn’t quite fit anymore.

I think the key to life is allowing ourselves to go through this metamorphosis without resistance, letting the force of life move through us and remake us into who we are meant to be next.

As I gradually re-emerge, I have been putting attention on my public work again — my courses and writing for women— and finding that what is coming out of me is more clear than ever as I shape my teachings on self-expression.

And yet here I am sitting on the bed with my babe asleep in my arms at 11am. I have been here at least a half an hour already. I had other plans for this time. Normally she has gone down pretty easily for her morning nap but today she screamed and fought me as I tried to bounce her down after her nurse.

So I sit back down with her head against my chest, her little body wrapped around me, and I hold her back and head breathing deeply with her, helping her nervous system calm, watching her rapid breathing slow, her eyes gently close, feeling the little twitches of her body as she falls into sleep.

As tears well in my eyes I realize there is nothing else of true importance that my ego urges convince me are urgent. This is it — life breathing through us as I help another being feel safe in this scary world. Safety is all we want and so many of us don’t get it. What more important job is there?

The refinement this experience of motherhood is causing in me is palpable and uncomfortable and yet it’s making me better — my self-expression has never been more true and real because there’s no time anymore to be anything but truthful.

My “work” right now may not be so flashy but this challenge is bringing me to the core of my strength and inner stability and a most helpful discovery that I am not who anyone else says I am — I am who I say I am, whether you see it or not. And this is at the core of my teachings.

I may not be showing you who I am on Facebook every day anymore, but I am here, encompassed in my becoming. This self-actualization was so needed for my attention-obsessed ego. Perhaps what I am creating next will be an even more pure expression of what I am here to give as a result.

: Alexsandra Dubov