ze identity crisis

song: worlds on fire by zerbin

read time: 8 minutes

if you know me, you know this — i’ve never had a problem with calling it like it is. i like truth. i don’t always give pragmatic answers for things, but i want something i can hold on to. i don’t hide behind things and  i’m not afraid to own anything that i do or say. that’s just how i was taught.

there was an exception though.

and the biggest issue of all, i didn’t entirely know there was an exception.

okay, okay, so here is the back story.

i graduated from college in 2009. i forgoed the traditional route to get a corporate job or continue onto grad school to get my masters in psychology. instead, i found myself interning at a non-profit and nannying. for the next three years — i defined myself by those two positions. it was easy. i could live up to the expectation that comes with being a non-profit girl and a cool nanny!

the timeline continues, and in 2012, i moved back to san diego — the motherland. originally, i had planned on working in commercial real estate. yes, real estate. it’s a clark thing. all three clark girls were required to get their real estate licence at 18. we were told it was a prerequisite to be in the family. as it happened, i didn’t end up working in real estate. i learned it was not for this particular clark girl. i had searched for jobs working in human resources, because aside from creating pirate games as a nanny and throwing events to raise funds for non-profits, that’s the only “real world” experience i had: giving people jobs. the search was long, uneventful, and non-productive. in the meantime, i was working on a branding project. it was my very first one and somewhat painful since i had no idea what made a logo good. somehow after that first project, i kept on getting graphic jobs. so while, i wasn’t making a million bucks from a comfortable corporate job —  i was making enough to survive.

now that i was back in san diego, and figuring out how i was going to make money, i knew that if i was going to survive in a new city and not hang out with my parents every night — i was going to have to find community. i hadn’t lived in san diego since i graduated high school in 2005, so finding community was going to be essential. the search didn’t take long, i quickly found a community i loved and i found and nestled myself in it.

when you are in that transitional season of life and constantly meeting new people — even the easy questions are hard ones. for instance, when making new friends, everyone wants to know what you do. the question, “what do you do for a living?” became one i loathed. i didn’t have a direct answer, because heck! i didn’t know. was i even living? my income was lower than the poverty line. the question should have been, “what do you do for survival?”

it was like a magic 8 ball every time someone asked. you never knew what i was going to say. i started calling myself a “jill of all trades”, because i thought it would do a lot of the explaining for me and would stop people from digging into actually figuring out what i do, which was still “to be determined”. around that time, coast to coast started — i began telling people “i own a business that challenges, inspires, empowers women and rescues women out of sex trafficking.” where we doing all of that at the time? no, but i could envision it. i was calling it like i see it.

occasionally, i would say — “and i do graphic design on the side.” like that was the bonus.

eventually, i mastered my elevator pitch — the one where you tell people what you do in 15 seconds or less. every time, i included the “bonus” — “and i do graphic design on the side.” not once, did i ever call myself a graphic designer.

at this point, i had a good roster of clients. i had launched third story apartment and was being paid good money for branding projects and other design elements— but i never owned my title. there was something about calling myself a graphic designer that was intimidating. i had been taught graphic design by some of the most brilliant minds, and my friends were [and still are] some of the most talented designers i know. i was nowhere near their level — so i felt i was unworthy to take the title of “graphic designer”.

how i got work? don’t ask. because like i said, i never told anybody i was a graphic designer. it wasn’t even on my business cards. but, literally, the work kept on coming.

this past march, i was in london on holiday — and for the first time, i realized what i was doing. i remember everything about that moment. i was in brighton, walking out of nordic coffee, and i turned to my best friend and said, “i have been doing graphic design for the past 6 years, and have never once called myself a designer. what’s wrong with me? it’s like i’m scared to own it.” i wish you knew my best friend — she’s nigerian — everything she does and says just ought to be documented. her response killed me. “yeah, i know. it’s silly.” then she kept on talking about Lord knows what.

just like that. i made up my mind. i wasn’t going to be intimidated by the title, i wasn’t going to just tell people “i do design”. i was going to call myself “a designer”, because, i was one. i was going to own it.

something crazy happened after that, it was like magic, i got better. each time i designed — i was quicker, the design concepts were stronger, and my clients were happier.

there is power in a name. there is power in the words we speak over ourselves.

i know i’m not the only one who has done this — why? because we’re all human. we all have the same tendencies.

we shy away from calling ourselves the very thing that we want to become, because we are afraid. we think to ourselves:

“what if i am not good enough?”

“…but i taught myself, i didn’t learn this in school.”

“what if i fail in this?”

“…but i’m not as good as they are!”

“what will people say about me?”

the answers — well, you may not be good enough. that’s okay. practise makes better. so what if you didn’t learn in school — the greatest artists taught themselves. will you fail? maybe. but you can get back up and try again. and, yes, there may be someone that is better than you — but that’s okay, because they are not you and they do not have your ideas. and people — well, they may talk. let them. they will have their opinions. but their opinions don’t change truth.

you see — what we do is who we are, and what we say over ourselves is what we will become.

if you are write — you are a writer.

it doesn’t mean you need to have a new york best seller.

if you draw — you are an artist.

it doesn’t mean you need to make money from it.

if you photograph — you are a photographer.

it doesn’t mean that you need to be the best.

if you started an online business — you are an entrepreneur.

it doesn’t mean you know all the answers.

if you do hair — you are a hairstylist.

it doesn’t mean that you have to have crazy hair.

deep down inside — we all want to be successful. we all want to become. we all want to step into the people that we were created to be —but that requires us taking some risks. the risk is calling ourselves what we hope to become.

there’s an example of this —

you had to know i was going to bring the Bible into this one.

it’s back in romans 4.

“God made something out of abraham when he was nobody. isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do only what God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.”

did you catch it?

abraham was first named father, then became a father.

i told you at the start of this  — i like to call it like it is. so here it is: God has named you, He’s called you something, He’s called you to do something. so whether you think you have it in you or not, God thinks you do. He sees it. He’s been dreaming of all the things you could do, all the things you could be, all the people you can impact. He’s named you. you will become it — but you must first dare to trust God to do only what God can do.

on your own — you may not be able to get to your final destination. in the same way, that abraham would not be able to become a father of many people’s without God intervening and paving the way for a miracle. [if you are not familiar with this story, read romans 4 or genesis 15-18.] but together, with you merely accepting the name you have been given and trusting God, you will become a greater success than you ever dreamed of.

so, what is it? what is that thing that you’ve been resisting to call yourself? resisting to step into?

you know my story — for me, it was “designer”.

the moment that i accepted my name “graphic designer”, was the moment there was a shift in my career. all the fear, all the self-doubt, all the questions — they didn’t disappear, but they faded into the background. i started to move, talk, and design with confidence. i gave the name “designer” precedence to speak over me, rather than all the insecurities.

maybe you are just starting out or maybe, you’re like me — you’ve been in your line of work for awhile. either way, own what you do. call yourself what you are. yes, they may seem like big shoes to fill and it may seem intimidating — but you will become.

you are on your way to becoming great.

this is just the start of your story.