Who am I? This question is one for the ages. We start discovering our identity the moment we are born. Throughout our lifetime, this question will be answered in a number of ways.
Who am I?
I am the baby who is cared for by that mother and those people.
I'm abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
I'm a student who gets good or bad grades.
Employee. Daughter of ... mother of ... wife of ... ex-wife… discarded partner.
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Identity at times can feel like many hats over the period of a lifetime. Our identity can be changed with our circumstances when we base our definition of self on the external. The question "who am I" can quickly become a weapon in the hands of the enemy. Promiscuous. Unlovable. Abused. Ugly. Fat. Skinny. Stupid. Unwanted.
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The idea of self pervades every aspect of our being. Our identity will affect the way we speak, enjoy, walk, and think. It will impact our choices and the friends we keep. It will be part of our decision-making process. For example, a person who thinks they are stupid will not aspire to certain things like going to a particular college or applying for certain jobs.
Our identity can even impact the way we walk. If you were to stand in a busy place and watch people walk by, you’d have a pretty good idea of how they think about themselves – at least, in that moment. A woman who is feeling beautiful and powerful walks with her head up and her shoulders back. She may even have a slight smile on her face.
A woman who feels unattractive and frumpy will walk less boldly. She may slump her shoulders or hang her head. Her main focus is to get to where she wants to go without anyone seeing her.
If I were to ask you if you were beautiful, your answer would be based on a number of things. Things like your level of self-esteem, your nationality, ethnicity and maybe even your socioeconomic situation. If we were to go back in time in fifty-year increments, the answer would keep changing. That's because the world's standard of beauty changes as quickly as those who make the standards do. Beauty also varies by culture and society.
How you think about yourself is also determined by how your family treated you and what they taught you about yourself. What you learned is even greater than what they taught. As a parent, I have come to realize that I do not hear my son, and what I teach is not always what he learns.
There is the danger of basing our identity on what the world says. Do you really want to base your self-identity on something so transient?
The search for identity may cause you to wonder if you truly know yourself. You may find yourself asking questions like:
You may also find yourself experimenting with different things (some of which can be dangerous) all in a great effort to figure out who you are.
If you were to know Google questions, you would be overwhelmed by the number of responses you received. As you culled through the results, you would notice that in order to figure out who you are most people suggest introspection. In other words, you have to look inside yourself to figure out who you are. You'd be asked to answer questions like:
To find your identity, you are encouraged to spend more time with yourself trying to figure out why you do the things you do.
The problem with this approach is, what happens when I find something about myself that I don't like? The typical answer is there are two options:
But then this brings us back to the original problem. Our identity would be a constant state of flux as we try to work out who we are based on external stimuli. Every time we find something we don't like about ourselves, we would have to start the process of trying to change it. And on and on we go. The cycle would quickly become exhausting. Not to mention confusing.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think we should always evaluate ourselves to see how we're doing. We're doing this for a purpose and as part of accomplishing our purpose, we will go through periods of change and growth .
Related: 5 Reasons for Self-Reflection
We should evaluate the things in our past to see how we can grow from them. But self-evaluation is not the way to figure out who we are. I know, I've confused you - the tagline for this website is "Know God. Know yourself. Run your race." So how can I say that self-examination is not the key to discovering our identity?
That's because knowing ourselves starts with knowing God.
Comparing ourselves to changeable leads to error and a constant state of flux, but comparing ourselves to God? When we do, we measure ourselves against someone who will never change.
1. We are created beings. Whether we admit it or not, God created us to be recipients of the overflow or His love . We are made in His image and so if we want to know who we are, we need to understand who we were created to be and for what purpose.
When we understand why God made us, we are better able to answer the "who am I" question.
2. God knows us. The problem with searching for our identity in the world is that we are going to be offered generic responses. Because of these theories of self-identity are developed by fallible human beings, you'll find that they have a child of one size fits all feel. These theories about self-identity also seem to go through a makeover every few years leaving us with a number of stories that point us in different directions.
Wouldn't you rather go to someone who knows everything there is to know about you?
Suppose you had lost your memory and wanted to know about your childhood… would you ask Google or a random person on the street? Or would you ask your parents and family members - people who actually knew you when you were younger? When we go to God with our "who i" questions, the answers are tailor-made - unique answers for unique people. Not going to God in our search for identity is not the owner's manual for a new device. We are basically winging it.
3. Good never changes and neither does His standards . Remember how it would be difficult to base our identity on something that is always changing? Well, that doesn't happen with God. He never changes. The standards God had created are the same standards He had before the world started and they are the same standards He has now. Would you rather base your identity on someone who never changes? I would.
4. God is perfect. He's perfect. We might be nice to emulate this person or other, we are all fallible beings and that means we make mistakes. We do not have things that align with our core values. We disappoint each other. Only when we are able to compare ourselves to Perfect Being we truly have a standard.
I have lived long enough (says the woman with less than four decades under her belt) to see a number of persons whom I have admired try to be human. And, I was disappointed.
When I was older, I'm more forgiving, but I remember as a teenager I was shattered when people looked. But with God, that never happens. Not only does God keep in a consistent manner, but He also gave us a book that details how He will keep in every situation - if we only wanted to take the time to read it.
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About the next couple of weeks, we are going on a journey of self-discovery. We are going to make a serious attempt to learn more about our identities. We start by looking at Christ.
No true quest for identity can be completed without first looking at God. I hope you will join me along this journey. My prayer is that at the end of this mini-series we will have a concrete sense of self and will be able to answer the question "Who am I?"
In the meantime, spend some time pondering these questions, and then come back next week prepared to delve into the quest to find your identity.
If you want more self-discovery questions, check out these articles:
So, what do you think is the best way to answer the question “Who am I?” Share them with me in the comments below. Click this link for a free downloadable workbook with questions to start your journey towards self-discovery.
Linking up at Purposeful Faith