Identity Crisis

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a marketer.

It was my career for more than 30 years. That career also included the following identities: consultant, coach, author, blogger, podcaster, speaker, and teacher. That’s a lot of titles. And yet, I now find myself not really identifying with any of them.

A writer who doesn’t write?

I still call myself a writer, and a teacher, but truth be told, I’m not doing much of either these days. My online courses are handling the teacher role for me, running on autopilot since I made the decision to shut down TBS Marketing Academy. I’m happy my online courses can live on in the Udemy marketplace and continue to teach others my brand of marketing.

And of course I’m thrilled they continue to provide me with income while I try to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I know that sounds like a joke, but it’s actually the best way to describe the space I find myself in. I know I still have something to offer, I’m just not sure what it is. I’m doing my best to be patient and trust it will become clear when the time is right. In the meantime, I’m trying to let go of the feeling that I need to figure it out sooner.

It’s hard to write when you’re not sure what to say.

I suppose my lack of clarity is a big reason I haven’t been writing much. For as long as I can remember, I’ve not only had a clear identity, I’ve also had a clear voice. While I don’t really like the term expert, I have always felt very secure in sharing advice because I had the education and experience to back it up. It’s easy to write, speak, teach, coach, and consult when you’re confident that what you’re sharing can help others. And, when it’s been proven through trial and error, and the test of time.

When you’re used to people coming to you for advice, it’s not quite so comfortable continuing to show up when you don’t have any advice to share.

When you’re no longer the expert, who are you?

When you no longer have advice to share, the only way to keep showing up is to share the journey. To write about the process. And, while I believe there is value in documenting and sharing the process, the struggles, and the uncertainties, it definitely puts me in an uncomfortable place.

In the book Rising Strong, author Brené Brown talks about how we tend to gloss over the struggle part of our stories and focus instead on the success part. The failures essentially become a footnote.

“We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending. I worry that this lack of honest accounts of overcoming adversity has created a Gilded Age of Failure…. Yet there can be no innovation, learning, or creativity without failure.”  ~Brené Brown in Rising Strong

The space between.

As I continue to navigate what I refer to as the space between where I’ve been and where I’m going, I can no longer share advice. However, what I will do my best to share is the journey, as uncomfortable as that may be. I will say this… every time I’ve had the courage to open up and share openly about my journey, I’ve received nothing but support and encouragement. In fact, I typically receive more feedback and comments on those announcements than on the “expert” advice I’ve been offering for so many years. That is not lost on me. I know there’s a reason for it, and I’m paying attention. And I’m going to do my best to keep stepping into my discomfort zone and sharing this latest process of transition.

I know I’m not the only one to ever go through this. But I also concur with Brené Brown that we never hear those stories. Perhaps it is more inspiring, and even comforting to know that we all struggle. And by sharing those struggles, maybe we can help each other.

When I finally end up wherever this latest call is leading me, maybe we can all look back on the path it took to get there and learn from it. So in a way, I guess I’m still teaching, just from a different perspective.

Thanks for being here. I hope you’ll chime in along the way, if not on this post on a future one. I’d love to be in conversation throughout this journey. My bet is I can learn a lot from you, too!

17 thoughts on “Identity Crisis”

  1. Take heart, Debbie! You are definitely a great teacher and marketer! I have learned so much from you. I especially love your teachings on branding! God has given you your gifts and talents to help others, which is exactly what you have been doing! I encourage you to seek God at this time, and he will reveal the purpose he has for your life. He also uses all our failings and turns them around and brings good out of them, as it says in Rom 8:28. You are a blessing, Debbie!

    1. Thank you Karen, for your kind words. I do believe I was given the gift to teach and perhaps that is why I feel a little out of sorts lately… because I don’t feel like I’m in the space to do that. I do trust I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and that good will come from all of this. My challenge is remaining patient in the middle of it! I do meditate daily and ask for guidance often. 🙂

  2. Hi Debbie,
    First, as one of your students, I want you to know that you are an awesome teacher and I thank you so much for what you have taught me. I appreciate that you have the courage and authenticity to share what you’re going through and feeling right now. Just by doing that, you’re helping others identify with someone else going through the same uncertain period. I, too, recently went through a similar period. What helped me the most was switching from the teacher side to becoming a student again. I’ve been taking course after course so I can continue to learn and meet new “tribes”. Finally, something resonated with me and gave me exactly the idea of what I need to be doing right now. Currently, I’m taking a course by Mel Robbins about clarity, confidence and courage through Success Academy. It’s great and the community she has established through the course includes wonderful people who all give each other so much support. I urge you to check it out. I hope you soon discover your new path. The world without your public presence isn’t the same!

    1. Thank you for your support and kind words Kathy! I truly appreciate it. I too have turned to being a student, reading a lot more and taking some courses as well. Interestingly, the courses have served to show me what I don’t want to do, which is also helpful. I will definitely check out Mel Robbins. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi, Debbie!
    First of all… Thank you, indeed, for your time and effort on our behalf! …during so many years (…since 2011, in my own case).

    Secondly, let me wish you the good luck (🍀) you deserve in your next challenge… and, please, let us remain in touch.
    Confusion usually occurs before implementing big changes… I wouldn’t call it an “identity crisis”, in your case… Debbie will always be Debbie!

    I still remember April 14th, 2014 when TBS Mkg Acad was opened… Congratulations! …you’ve done a great job since then and we’ll be using your Courses for many years… Thx!

    1. Thanks so much Emilio. I also received your email and appreciate your support more than you know. I too find much of my purpose these days through my volunteer work doing pet provided therapy. And who knows, maybe that IS my future. There’s just something inside me that says while that’s a part of it, it’s not the whole story.

      While I used the term identity crisis, honestly I feel far from crisis. It’s more about finding that new beginning, one that will be totally in synch with who I am, as I have changed and grown quite a bit since I began my marketing career. I think that’s why I feel like I’ve outgrown that career and it’s time to step into a new one.

      I’m impressed you remember the date I opened TBS Marketing Academy, I didn’t even know the exact date! Thank you for your well wishes and yes, let’s please stay in touch.

  4. I certainly resonate. I am so tired of hearing all of the rags to riches success stories where if you only follow this yellow brick road you will find happiness, success, love or whatever you are looking for.
    I appreciate you sharing your journey and not knowing. As you call it the space in between is powerful, rich and filled with wisdom.

    1. I hear you Alyse! I posted a video way back in 2009 or 2010 sharing my distaste for all the glossing over in the success industry. It was a precursor to my book, Breaking The Spell. In many ways that’s when this journey to something new first began. I am doing my best to embrace the not knowing and love your perspective that the space between is powerful, rich and filled with wisdom. I resonate with that because in so many ways I have felt the need to clear room for that wisdom to come through. That if I remained in my old business doing the same work, what I need to hear would not be able to get through.

      1. I read your book Breaking the Spell which I thoroughly enjoyed. I so believe in people being real and appreciate your courage. I too am feeling the shifting sands and being in the question and the space between, AND I am slowly beginning to be brave enough to find the words to share.

    2. Hi Debbie
      I think every entrepreneur reaches a crossroad, if not a few, along their journey.
      I don’t have to tell you – because as a successful marketer, you know, that every product has a life cycle which needs tweaking from time to time. In your case, it appears that your passion and enthusiasm for what you’ve been doing and the way you’ve been doing it, is waning BUT happily, your market is still there and wanting more.
      For me, clarity comes from taking a blank sheet of paper and writing down everything I’ve done – right from school days, including hobbies and interests. Then inserting the pro’s and con’s of each item and what I really liked about the pro’s. Finally, I look for a fit by asking “What can I do/teach/sell with what I really like doing?” Somewhere, hiding, is the something that will reignite your passion and enthusiasm again to keep moving forward. And I hope to. once again, be a recipient of whatever it is.
      I have no doubt that although you’ve come adrift in a sea of confusion, you’ll end up pointing your ship in the right direction.
      Looking forward to seeing what’s next – surprise us!

      1. Thank you Fran. I truly appreciate your comments and your support. My ship is finding direction… it’s amazing how when you let go of something, how much more quickly clarity begins to show up. It’s as if you need to create space, or make an opening, for it to enter. I’m also finding that by being willing to be open and vulnerable, it’s making it easier to follow my heart and do whatever speaks to me, rather than what I think people may expect me to do. 🙂

    3. I feel like I am sharing the journey with you Debbie! I take a step then pause, then take another pause, and pause again. Occasionally, I am ready and clear on the next step!

      It is a new pace – and a new space – for me. And I like it.

      Thanks for sharing!

      1. Sheryl, it’s a new pace for me as well… and like you, I like it! It’s exciting. It’s just so different from the way I’ve lived my life and approached my career and business for so many years. Thanks for chiming in 🙂

    4. Debbie…I don’t know you and have never taken a course from you. I found you while surveying course structures.

      Ahhhhh, your message. The space between. It’s a funky place, isn’t it? Right, but not completely comfortable. Peaceful, but a bit unsettling. Seemingly still, but full of energy.

      I am sharing this space with you. After 11 years of raising my kids on my own, my youngest is on her way to college in a couple months. I am experiencing the same pause you reference—personally and professionally.

      Thank you for letting me know that there’s someone else out there doing this introspective dance.

      1. Hi Lisa… nice to meet you and happy to share the space between with you! I can also share with you, and will be sharing more on my blog in the days and weeks to come, that when you let go of what you’ve always been and done, clarity comes racing in. As soon as I let go of my marketing business (and ironically today is the last day it will be online and my morning meditation was all about Exhalation… which is a form of letting go!) things started opening up and happening that began pointing me in the new direction I was waiting for. I think I just needed to officially “move on” and open up the space for something new to show up. Thanks for chiming in and I look forward to sharing and hearing about your journey as well, in the coming months.

    5. Hi Debbie…I can relate to the discovery trip you are on. I’ve made several pivots, too. There is great advice from others you received on this blog (in particular–Fran’s comments). The one suggestion I can offer is this: find a way to talk face-to-face with non-prospects–preferably in a neutral venue. I found I needed to take a break from emails and texting and even phone conversations. One way that worked for me is volunteering at the local history museum. I have conversations with all kinds of people and it’s refreshing and spurs creativity on what “real life” needs are out there that I might find interesting and challenging. (FYI–I signed up for 4 of your courses–all were terrific!).

      1. Thanks for sharing Mike. I actually go out 4-5 times a week doing pet therapy with my dogs. I meet and talk with all kinds of people, and I agree with you, it’s great for perspective. Been doing it for 3 years and I believe it’s a big reason for the shift in my life. It’s definitely pointing me in a new direction. The challenge for me has been letting go of the “professional me” I’ve been for 30+ years. That’s a long time to do something and you end up defining yourself by it. Letting that go has been very freeing for me. Finding what’s next is exciting and unsettling at the same time. But the thought of not pivoting at least a few times in life is even more unsettling to me. It’s a big world with lots of opportunity. I believe in making the most of it, even if it scares you a bit! 😉

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