Updated: Jun 22
Where does your identity come from? Is it assigned to you by your parents? Is it formed by experiences? Is it built upon your relationships with other people? Your identity is vitally important, as it is what gives your purpose and drive. It is what tells you who you are and why you are on this earth. Without your identity, you feel lost, without direction, and without worth.
Identity starts with your upbringing. We naturally ingrain things we learn from our families into our own identity, whether it is positive or negative. Every family has unwritten rules for conduct, priorities, and even ways to hide dysfunction. As we slide into adulthood, should we hold on to these aspects of our identity? Or do we evaluate our belief system to see if it is a good fit for us?
Your relationships with other people also influence your identity. The more time you spend with someone the more value they bring into your world. Significant relationships will enhance your life in many ways. There are a couple of risk factors in building your identity through relationships with others. One is that person may not always be around. Losing a family member whether it is death, divorce, or simply breaking off a relationship can be extremely devastating. However, when your identity depends on that person, you may feel you have nothing left to live for. Another issue with this is that everyone knows it when you only identify with someone else. Every conversation revolves around talking about your precious child, your handsome boyfriend, or whoever it may be. Hearing about that person gets old fast and can lead to a loss of depth in other relationships.
Living in the land of Oklahoma, football is huge around here. You can’t go anywhere without someone wanting to talk about football stats or expectations of the next game. We fly our OU flags high and wear our hoodies with pride. This season our great state had high expectations of winning the championship but experienced a huge loss in the semifinal game. You would have thought a funeral was in order to help the mourners process their loss. People talk about OU as though they were personally on the team. I am not knocking being a fan of a sport and supporting a team, but identity is misplaced when it is emotionally devastating when the team experiences a loss.
Like football, many people build their identities upon certain hobbies and activities. You may be a biker, a baker, or a photographer. These things are great, but is it who you really are? Perhaps you are fighting for a cause such as saving the environment or feeding the hungry. You may call yourself a VSCO girl wearing your scrunchies and baggy shirts. Again, there is nothing wrong with these as long as your identity runs deeper.
So how do you find your identity? Where does it come from and what makes it stick? I personally believe that God has hidden gems within each person. Some are obvious for all to see and some must be carefully excavated. People often miss these gems because they have an expectation that their gem will look like someone else’s gem. These are the beautiful things about you that set you apart from everyone else. They are the makeup of your personality, your passions, and your natural talents. They might not look like anyone else’s talents, but that is what makes them valuable and unique! The world needs what you have and who you are.
To help understand who you are, ask yourself questions. What excites you? What are you naturally good at? What sets you apart from others? What are qualities about yourself that can benefit others? What makes you a good friend? For instance, someone might have a gentle, quiet spirit. They enjoy being with others and serving. They find deep satisfaction in bringing comfort to others. One aspect of their identity is that they are compassionate and faithful. Their purpose may be nursing those who are sick. Or maybe someone is extremely introverted and enjoys tinkering with computers and writing code. His identity may be that he is introspective and intelligent. His gifting may be to create new computer programs devices. A person’s identity is their character qualities, their inherent personality traits, and their gifts and talents. It includes belief system, opinions, and habits. It is colored by their relationships, hobbies, and activities, but is not solely based on these things. A healthy identity embraces the individual qualities of self and is well rounded. It is not formed on one aspect of self, but the many different aspects their life. Your story is full of hills and valleys with life lessons learned along the way. Scars from the past do not take away from your value but add character and strength.
What if I have flaws? You do. We all do. It’s OK. Maybe you are terrible at math. It really stinks while you are in school and may require a tutor to get you through, but as an adult just hire a bookkeeper and be done with it. No big deal. Or maybe you are terrible in social situations. That’s ok. There are probably certain situations that are comfortable for you and social mingling does not need to be a high priority in your life. To have a healthy identity you do not have to be good at everything. The beauty is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Receive the great wisdom from Rocky: “She's got gaps, I've got gaps, together we fill gaps.” Surround yourself with people who can fill in your gaps. You will be able to offer support in areas you are strong in.
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Your identity is unique to you. Who you are is not about those you surround yourself with. It is not about how productive you were last year at work. As amazing as your children are, your identity is separate from them. Your identity is not based on a football team, a hobby, or a cause. However, those things can help point you towards understanding your identity. They give you insight into what really matters for you. Why do these things matter? What excites you about them? There is no one size fits all identity. Every person is completely different and unique in their makeup.
Even if you were born into a family that has a bad reputation in town, it does not have to hold you back from being all you can be. You can redefine the assumptions made. Or maybe during your formative years people spoke negatively over you and said you would never make it in the world. They don’t get to decide that. Here is the kicker…no one gets to assign you an identity. It is yours alone. It is also your responsibility alone to seek after developing a healthy identity. You cannot wait around for someone else to do it for you.
A while back I saw a boy for counseling who had a huge personality. He was hilarious and was always able to engage with others. He was high energy and extremely creative. He would pick up random things in the counseling room and create characters or would build things out of Legos. He was incredibly gifted mechanically. The sad thing was that he believed he was stupid because he struggled with reading and math. He also had a poor self-concept because he was always getting in trouble for disrupting the class. In my mind, this kid was brilliant and I believe he will be very successful as an adult with his ability to build and create. I hope he learns to not define himself by the standards of others.
You may have had experiences like my little friend, feeling less than because you have been compared to others. Maybe your gifts and talents have been downgraded because you don’t fit the mold. The good news is that you get to create your own mold. As you embrace your uniqueness, your intricacies that you have always thought made you weird, you will find a confident, valuable person with a specific skill set that this world needs. You don’t need to be like everyone else. You were made to stand out!