Surrendering your identity
Whyte writes in his inspiring book on personal transformation that taking a new step always leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, very large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, parts of us still rehearsing the old complicated story, are suddenly out of the job.
That’s why we prefer to stay where we are. Changing is a form of death. It requires mourning and letting go of a portion of our identity. It forces us to ask the question, who am I without my precious story?
Like the overweight comedian who loses fifty pounds and fears she won’t be funny anymore. Or the drug addicted painter who gets sober and fears he won’t be able to create anymore. Because so much of their art was built around their physicality and personality, they banked too heavily upon it. Because they identified too much with their own history, they allowed the past to define them. And the minute that story was taken out of the equation, suddenly, they didn’t know who they were anymore.
Anastasio used copious amounts of drugs and alcohol for decades. Phish, after all, represented the jam band lifestyle. Of course their frontman loved to party. Nobody builds a multimillion dollar music empire out of club soda.
But when the songwriter ultimately failed a field sobriety test, was arrested for possession of illegal drugs and spent fourteen months in a rehab facility, he publicly swore off substances for good. And in the process, upset many lifelong fans. Because they didn’t think his concerts would rock anymore.
But he didn’t care. Being alive was more important. Trey realized that he didn’t have to do all of that for people to love him. He got honest about coming to terms with the cost of change. And his career has never been stronger.
Ultimately, there’s a fine line between being known for something, and allowing that thing to become all that you stand for. It may be hard to change what we feel so safe with. But man’s noblest endowment is his capacity to change.
Especially when life is on the line.
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What part of your identity do you need to let go of?
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