RWDevCon Inspiration Talk – Identity by Vicki Wenderlich

Learn why it’s important for your inner and outer identities to match and how you can bring them into alignment and be true to yourself. By Victoria Wenderlich.

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Note from Ray: At our recent RWDevCon tutorial conference, in addition to hands-on tutorials, we also had a number of “inspiration talks” – non-technical talks with the goal of giving you a new idea, some battle-won advice, and leaving you excited and energized.

We recorded these talks so that you can enjoy them, even if you didn’t get to attend the conference. Here’s our next talk – Identity I by Vicki Wenderlich – I hope you enjoy!


Have any of you ever been at a conference or a party and had somebody walk up to you and say, “Hey it’s good to see you again.” And you look at them and you smile, but you’re thinking, “Who are you?”

Unless you’re really drunk, you usually figure out who it is. It’s just somebody you met earlier and forgot.

For me, there’s another option. Sometimes I realize that no, I have never met this person in my life. What I realize is that they’ve met my twin sister, Andrea.

Andrea, would you come up here for a moment?

Can you tell which one is Vicki?

How many of you have confused the two of us at this conference?

Can you tell which one is Vicki?

How many of you just now realized that there were two of us? If this happened to you, don’t worry. It happens to a lot of people, even including our friends.

I’ve been to a lot of parties at my sister’s house where I’m meeting her friends for the first time. Andrea often forgets to mention to her friends that she has an identical twin, so there are a lot of moments where her friends walk in the door and give me a big hug before I can say, “I’m not Andrea.”

Growing Up As A Twin

This kind of thing doesn’t bother me, but it makes me think a lot about my identity.

Can you imagine just for a moment what it’s like to be indistinguishable from another person, even on a superficial level? It kind of messes with your mind.

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When Andrea and I were young little munchkins, identity didn’t matter much to us. However, as we grew up of course, it did begin to matter.

We wanted to be seen as separate people with our own identities. We often get the question from people, “did you ever switch classes in school?”

The answer is no. We never wanted to be mistaken for each other. We wanted to stand out.

Unfortunately, my sister and I were very similar in both looks and personality, so this was often a losing battle.

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We both played soccer together, we had a lot of the same friends.

Sometimes people would helpfully suggest, “Hey, one of you should dye your hair purple.”

Neither one of us wanted to dye our hair, and plus that person would end up looking like this.

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All it would accomplish is that one of us would be known as the weird twin and one of us would be the normal twin.

At any rate, our acquaintances often couldn’t tell us apart. Classmates, teachers, even soccer coaches. There have been a lot of games where I’ve been standing on the sideline next to my coach, and he’s yelling, “Vicki, pass the ball.”

I have to poke him and say, “Coach I’m right here.”

Inside I saw myself as Vicki, but outside I was just one of the twins.

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Luckily we grew up, we went to college, started having different life experiences and finally being mistaken for my twin became a series of funny stories instead of a frustrating attempt to be seen as an individual.

This, by the way, is why Andrea forgot to mention that she had an identical twin to her friends. She wasn’t trying to instigate awkward moments; she just actually forgot, because being a twin isn’t a big part of her identity.

Identity Problems: It’s Not Just a Twin Thing

You don’t have to be a twin in order to struggle with your identity. In fact it’s a much more powerful force in your life than most of you might realize.

We all have our own personal sense of identity and it’s split into two parts:

  1. Inner identity: This is how we see ourselves. You might think of yourself as a good daughter, or a writer, or an iOS developer.
  2. Outer identity: This is how other people see us. You might actually be helping out your parents a lot, or writing every day or have a day job as an iOS developer.

However, sometimes people see us differently than how we see ourselves. Let’s take this kitten. (There’s got to be a kitten right?)

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When he looks in the mirror, he sees a lion. The problem is, everyone else looks at him and sees a kitten.

Does anybody have a cat like that? My sister does.

Now, kittens aside, a serious problem arises when your inner identity and your outer identity don’t match up. It can make you unhappy.

The discord between the two of them can make you feel like there’s something not quite right. That’s going to make you depressed even if you might not understand why.

Vicki’s Struggle with Identity

This leads us to my next major struggle with identity. After college, I became a ceramic artist. I’d always worked with ceramic art, but after college I threw my whole being into this new identity. It was so fulfilling.

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Unfortunately, it didn’t make much money. Somewhere along the line, I started helping out this cute guy I happened to be married to with his iPhone apps.

Eventually, it got to the point where I was spending more time on his apps and our blog than I was on my own art. Finally, I decided to make the decision to stop trying to make my ceramic art into a business and instead focus on the thriving business that Ray and I already owned.

Now I told myself that I was happy about this decision, but the truth was I was miserable. I resented every minute of it even though the work was interesting and challenging and paid the bills.

Why? This was because my inner identity was still stuck as a ceramic artist.

Every minute that I spent working on the business, I was thinking, I should really be making a sculpture. Why am I wasting my time, wasting my life, on all of this other stuff?

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There was this idea in my head, this identity that I clung to, that I was a ceramic artist. Now it might sound like a small problem, but there was a point that I didn’t want to get up in the morning.

Ray would jump out of bed enthusiastic and ready for the day. I would look at his energy and think, what is wrong with me?

We work from home, so I took every opportunity I could to get out of the house. I would invent errands that I had to go run.

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When I did work at my desk, I would work slowly and reluctantly.

Okay. I know some of you out there are thinking, “What is this girl’s problem? Either work with your ceramic art or work with Ray, but stop moping!”

It didn’t make sense to me either. I knew I didn’t want to go backwards and do my ceramic art and try to keep making that a business, but I couldn’t seem to move forward either. I felt empty and lost.