Your sense of self.
What is it? Who is it? How do you know? What is it based on? Is it simply a list of all the roles and attributes that you have?
If that is the case then I am a husband, driver, father, sighted-person, son, homed person, brother, right-handed person, friend, smeller of delicious scents, veteran, and therapist.
Some of these may seem silly, but consider the loss of one or more of these roles or attributes. Anosmia is the loss of the sense of smell, the only reason I remember this is because of a Scrubs episode where a fella loses his sense of smell and makes a harsh comment to a doctor about being able to smell his grandson’s head. While this is certainly a pop-culture example and reference, imagine how serious it would be to lose even one of these roles or attributes.
I remember when I got out of the Navy. I was someone with responsibility (maintaining six, $30 million hovercrafts) and some authority (foreman for maintenance crew of about 10) and respect (my leaders recognized my expertise and my crew did an outstanding job for me). This was quite a role. I enjoyed it. Then I got out and the role was no longer there. The thing that I had wrapped a lot of my identity in for six years was now gone. I overcame, but not before a bit of time just kinda floating and not really knowing what I wanted to do.
I know of others who have experienced losses like this before and now I get to help some of them through it. Our sense of self and identity does not need to be wrapped up solely in the roles and attributes that we maintain. Our sense of self is not something that is discovered and therefore concrete. Rather, it is developed over time and ebbs and flows.
People come and go in our lives, even loved ones. Roles come and go in our life, even important ones. If our sense of self is too tightly wrapped up in the people around us and the roles which we fulfill, then we are in for an identity crisis when things begin to shift.
I think it is valuable to spend some time with yourself and identify some core things that may be true for you. It helps if you do this in a time of peace and calm so that when the storm starts you have something inside yourself that is strong and resilient. For me, this means meditating on the fact that I am a wonderfully made person who is worthy of love and connection. All the above roles could fall apart, and I would still be that. If the roles in your life began to fall apart, what would you have to hold to? I would like to encourage you to take some time for yourself and develop a sense of who you are outside of your roles and responsibilities.