Been a while, hey? I’ve been wanting to write on Digital Steak for months now but just not really been feeling it.

This blog has always been very personal to me, an insight into who I am and what I am going through but I hit a roadblock. I’ve not really been able to understand what I’ve been going through and that has left me feeling paralysed; not just writing here but in life too.

Where it all went wrong

The turning point for me came at the end of last year; I had been going through the very complicated and opaque process of registering to officially be a personal trainer here in Chamonix. Everything I had been working towards was going well before the summer but the tone and attitude changed on 23rd June – the Brexit vote.

Prior to that day the government officials were supportive and keen for what I wanted to do but overnight everything changed and following 6 months of applications, re-applications, appeals, and sleepless nights, I finally heard just before Christmas that the French government will not be granting me my Carte Professionnelle. My dream and goal of building The Mountain Foundry evaporated and with it  my identity and reason for being in Chamonix.

I had put so much stock in being Charley, the Personal Trainer, that when it was taken away from me I felt like I lost everything. As often happens, everything else seemed to go wrong at the same time. My relationship broke down and ended, I was not going into the mountain a lot, and, if I’m honest, I was going out drinking too much.

I started 2017 in a pretty low place – I didn’t really want to be in Chamonix; around so many painful memories of broken dreams but, even worse, I didn’t know where else I wanted to be. I knew I didn’t want to return to the UK but then what?

I made a decision, though, and one I am proud of; I wanted to stay until I sorted myself out. If, when I do get life in order, I want to leave, then fine but I am not going to run away.

Who am I?

The biggest problem I have been dealing with over the last 6 months is Who am I?

I have always had a pretty clear sense of identity; a web designer, an entrepreneur, or a personal trainer; a fiancé, a husband, now a divorcé; a climber, a runner, and a skier.

Some parts I might be more proud of than others but these experiences and choices I have made have given me a sense of identity.

In January, it felt like they all disappeared. I no longer had a career; my relationship, that I might have put too much responsibility onto, was over; and due to poor conditions and lack of motivation I wasn’t going into the mountains. I felt like I had lost everything, everything that defined me.

Could I really be defined by these external parts of my life? Shouldn’t I be defined by something less tangible, internally? It sounds a ridiculous thing to say as I have so much and I am so privileged to lead the life I do but.. I guess the grass is always greener.

Who do I want to be?

Many years ago I saw a quote claimed to be by John Lennon but apparently just made up:

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, I told them they didn’t understand life.

For a number of years this quote, and position, has been in my mind. I want to live a life that makes me happy, that doesn’t hurt anyone else, and that I am proud of. In January this year, I know for a fact I wasn’t proud. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had let everything fall to bits so catastrophically and blamed my actions for letting it happen. I didn’t try hard enough, I made silly mistakes, and now I must suffer the consequences.

I have been working on dealing with this but the first stage was trying to work out Who do I want to be?

This is a question that people the world over struggle with and it has not, and still is not, an easy one to answer. I know, though, that I do not want to be defined by my job, my relationship status nor some other aspect of my life that, in the blink of an eye, can be taken away.

As I work on this, I know that I still want to be happy. I want to be content with what I have in life, not always fighting for more. And, I guess most importantly, I want to be proud of myself.

What am I doing to get there?

At the beginning of the year I had had enough of making the same mistakes – another classic internet mis-quote is Einstein apparently saying:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Having realised I have been making the same mistakes over and over again, I finally made the decision to talk to a professional. It felt a huge step to even consider it, let alone actually start talking to someone but I have to say, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

For an hour a week I get to work on me with someone who is trained in facilitating that and the difference has been amazing. It is early days but I can see clear steps I am taking now and I am beginning to try and do things in a different, hopefully better, way. But we will see.

My other main step is to just give it time. Time to build a new business – which I am doing right now with The North Face; time to get over a relationship – which is getting easier, each day; and time to really work out who I am – though this is a lifetime objective, I guess.

I hope this post breaks the paralysis for me as i have really missed writing just for myself. Hopefully we will see a few more regular posts from me over the summer.

Stay tuned!

by Charley Radcliffe

12 Responses to “Who am I? Identity, ego, and self-esteem”

  1. Simon

    Not an easy post to comment on. But I just want to let you know that you are not alone. Life is a struggle and it is probably no coincidence that the low times seem to happen when everything goes wrong at once.

    I sometimes thing about life like climbing – you’re safe as long as you have three points of contact with the wall – they are: a relationship, a place to live, a job (or income) and good health. We all need three anchors out of four. Then the fourth one can search for purchase.

    But as soon as you lose two points of contact things get sketchy. And end up with only one point of contact and it really is a scary time.

    I really admire your approach to this and you know that if I can help, I will always do that. Keep strong and things will turn around. All the best. S.

  2. Martin

    Hi Charley, very thought-provoking post, thanks for sharing.

    I guess some of my thoughts revolve around that self-definition, and not knowing who we are without that label.

    All of us who try something new take risks; professionally, creatively, emotionally – and sometimes we fail, and sometimes it sucks. And when we don’t succeed it affects that vision of self, but it’s worth remembering that we are not defined by that label.

    You can change that label whenever you choose, opening up a new chapter, a new story. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But we learn each time.

    Best wishes as you embark on this renewed chapter, and wherever it takes you!

  3. Kirk Albers

    Plateaus and backslides are a part of just about anything worth doing – keep the pressure on and you’ll find new territory.

  4. Susan Noble

    Very eloquently written and spoken Charley, I think many of us myself included can relate to this post. Chamonix is a beautiful place i refer to it as my happy place. I know that things will get better and you will continue to be and do amazing things. We all suffer roadblocks at time. Lord knows I have felt many times like quitting but thanks to my faith in God and knowing that his purpose and plan for me are on going it makes the challenges a little more pallitable. Great Read thanks for sharing something so very personal.

  5. Holly

    Thanks Charley. Can totally relate to your blog. I too have struggled over the last 18 months with many parts of my life and this has made me question my identity. How do I want to define myself? But of course your right….it’s about being happy…we waste to much time and energy worrying about what others think and how we want to be perceived. Be kind to yourself and look forward


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