If 2020 and 2021 validated anything about my life choices, it’s the benefits I’ve reaped from diversifying my identity over the past few decades. I’ve become intentional about not pigeonholing myself into one hobby, source of income, friend group, or professional network. There are honestly so many different facets of my life, it’s dizzying for anyone to keep track.
What does it mean to diversify your identity?
At the time, I thought it was insulting that none of my grade school friends could say what I was known for. Some people in my circle knew everything about anime, while others were good at soccer. I was all over the place–a little bit of everything.
Granted, this evolved from a place of survival. Being shy and having a hard time making friends, I became a chameleon to fit into as many groups as possible. I said YES to every opportunity to join student organizations, take part-time jobs, and try multiple sports.
In high school and college, I was teased for having a busy calendar and rarely making time for spontaneous fun. I was always attending a volunteer function or running a meeting. But this turned out to be a huge reason I believe I became successful and confident later in life.
I love the fact that I can keynote a professional conference with poise, then curse up a storm over beers afterwards. I can authentically connect with people from every population, from C-suite executives to prison inmates. I strive to embody the quote: A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
How well can you authentically pivot as a human being?
I believe we’re more than just our job or hobby. When the pandemic hit, I was grateful for the investment I’d already been making into side gigs. As someone in the events industry, I could also leverage my diverse skillset to pursue other sources of income.
When someone wraps their identity in a sport, for instance, what happens when they suffer a crippling injury? They often watch this singular label being ripped from their personality and spiral into an identity crisis. This is such a huge turn-off for me.
I had this realization and gratitude at a party I hosted recently. All my friends varied by industry and hobby but somehow meshed well with each other. What I strive to prioritize is authenticity and communciation, not commonalities between lifestyles and activities.
On the other hand, the shadow side of diversifying my identity manifests in getting easily bored or not wanting to exert effort to hone a new craft. It’s a strange (and sometimes exhausting) balance of time, energy, and interest, but I’ve been fortunate to experience more good than harm.
This is a concept I think about often, especially when it comes to placing value on friendships and romantic partnerships. It’s a life hack that’s served me well over the years and continues to pay dividends as time goes on. If only little Stefanie knew what would become of her survival instincts, she’d be so proud of herself. ◡̈