Identity Work

Who do you think you are?

Hello Lovelies,

How are we all doing?

After a run of good days this month, I had a severe chronic fatigue and pain crash mid last week. This resulted in a day in bed and the inevitable questioning of what I’m doing and self-doubt that a chronically ill body provokes.

Rather than feeling helpless (well, after a while), I decided to try to turn this to something of value; beyond my experience of being ill. To think about our identity and how much it is linked to our work; our productivity.

Of course, this is not news. We know how much we buy into the ableist dynamic of (over)working in contemporary society; and in academia this is ramped up. It can feel that any pause is ‘lazy’ and that time off, should not be ‘wasted’, but rather, spent on research or writing.

It is also not as simple as having a work/life divide (it never is in any context); our research and writing also fills us with satisfaction, excitement, energy, creativity, passion - our politics. It is part of us. And yet, it is not us.

We are so much more than our work

My chronic illness - and finally admitting that I was ill and accepting (at times still begrudgingly) that I need rest - and A LOT of it - has challenged my identity in many ways. Similarly, motherhood and maternity leave shook my idea of myself. As did leaving academia.

However, not in the ways you might expect. I would not wish chronic illness on anyone, but it really has viscerally made me rethink how unhealthy our working practices have become - for everyone.

While my illness accelerated my exit from academia, I do not regret leaving. I have not felt a loss of value - a refrain in much of the ‘quit lit’ - it seems I could see my value/s apart from academia. I was perhaps never really accepted in the ‘cult’ (my tongue is firmly in cheek here - using some of the language of quit lit) - perhaps being a first generation academic has it’s advantages?!

On the outside, I can see my value/s more clearly.

But what about on the inside, how can any of this be any use to anyone else?

Know yourself and how you need to grow

My prompt for this newsletter is to invite - implore - you to take a little time (even 10 minutes) to sit and think about who you think you are now. Here are a few prompts that I have found really useful for digging through what I need to prioritise for and in myself now:

  • Is your identity firmly wedded in your work/productivity?

  • Who else are you - do these parts of yourself get enough time?

  • How have you changed? What has this done to your priorities?

  • Does what made you tick 5 years ago, still work now? What might need some nourishment?

How much clearer do you feel now?

You may also have noticed, I’ve given my branding a little refresh - I spoke about why over on Instagram. It is absolutely fine - and necessary - to pivot. I think this can be applied to our research too. What do you think?

And here are some resources that have been helping me get through the tougher parts of the week.

Things I’m listening to

Three Sixty Conversations podcast - aimed at women in business, but discussions really resonate with working in academia.

Dream and Do: A podcast for Creatives - again aimed at women in business, but some lovely reflections on how to make those changes that will bring your values and desires front and centre.

Things I’ve read (CW mental health and abuse)

Terri White (2020) Coming Undone: A memoir.

Jenn Ashworth (2019) Notes Made While Falling.

Writing support and workshops I’m loving

Arvon at Home Masterclasses - on all aspects of writing fiction/non-fiction/practice. Great value and I hope they continue offering this format!

Reclaim your writing process

I have been working on some new lower priced services to be able to offer support on clarity and confidence in writing and research planning where an investment in 1-1 coaching is not a current option.

I’m delighted to announce that this Thursday 16th July between 11-13.00 I am running a 90 minute interactive webinar - ‘Restorative writing for academics: reclaim your craft’.

In this interactive workshop, we will dig through your process; your blocks; and work on a restorative plan to get you prioritising your writing in a way that works for you now. Introductory offer is £39 (and participants also get a £15 discount offer for a 1-1 call over August).

Book your Webinar Place now!

Remember you can also sign up for the closed Facebook group too where I run free mini sessions on a Wednesday at 4pm. This week I’m running a little sneak-peer from the webinar…