It really would be easier if by a certain age we had a comprehensive understanding of our identity. As much as we wish it were that easy to understand the intricacies of who we are, it’s just not.
Finding yourself isn’t about simply reaching a destination. The growth, change, and movement that happens on your way to the finish line—that is what’s important. As you travel, if you find yourself doubting who you really are, take time to reflect. When you need a little help celebrating your uniqueness the following suggestions will help.
Highlight your strengths.
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the acknowledgment of our strengths. We are taught to be modest and humble—good traits—but when overused they can lead us to feeling unappreciated, insecure, or even ashamed.
The next time someone pays you a compliment, instead of deflecting it, say “thank you.” Your strengths are valid and worthy of praise, even if you think they are not. Make it a part of your daily mission to remind yourself of those strengths—how you developed them, and how your ability to share them enriches the world.
Can’t think of any strengths? I can: resilience. Part of humanity is being able to roll with the punches. Each of us has faced hardships and trying times. You’ve gotten through them. You’re here. You’re strong. You’re resilient.
Accept your challenges.
We all have things about ourselves that we wish were different. We want to be healthier, drink less, or have better relationships. Maybe you wish you didn’t struggle so much with anger, depression, or anxiety. Hopelessly, listing your weaknesses or things that you wish were different will do little more than make you feel sad. Instead, accept these things as challenges to overcome.
Think hard enough and you will remember challenges that you’ve made it through. The saying “April showers bring May flowers,” applies to more than just springtime weather. Past storms have likely caused a beautiful strength and resilience to blossom within you.
How have your past challenges shaped your identity? The bigger question is how will the challenges you face today help you become the person you want to be tomorrow?
Let go of judgments (of yourself and others).
Stop comparing the current version of you to the person you think you should be. There’s nothing wrong with desiring growth or wishing for betterment, but you must seek those things without shame and self-criticism. Resist the urge to compare yourself to other people. Their story is their own, and you, as an outsider, have a limited perspective of what they have truly experienced anyway.
Remember, we all have our challenges. Be conscious of the times when you tend to pass judgment on yourself, and remind yourself, in that moment, you are enough.
When you let go of your propensity to judge yourself and others, you let go of the fear of being judged. Once you relinquish some of that fear, you’re free to simply enjoy being you—without shame and guilt.
Find out what matters to you.
Take time to identify your values. Your values are not the entirety of your identity, but they speak volumes about your motivation and goals in life. Goals can be concrete things like a home and steady income or abstract concepts like love, self-esteem, and happiness.
An easy way to identify what matters most is by asking yourself “what do I want more of?” Is it quality time with family? Honesty? Financial security? Once you’ve established a clear idea of the things that matter to you, you can understand the forces that drive you from day-to-day.
Discover what energizes you.
We devote so much time to activities that feel like work. We have jobs, care for our families, take classes, and engage in a myriad of activities that are required of us. These things deplete our energy, so it is essential that we engage in things that replenish us.
What do you enthusiastically look forward to doing on any given day? What makes you buzz with energy and excitement? When you feel the freest what exactly are you doing?
Identity is too complex a thing to be measured only by what we do, but what we do is a reflection of who we are. What about the things you enjoy speak to your sense of self?
Write your story.
Everyone has a story. Even when you think your story is not unlike the story of many others, remember that only you can share your unique perspective. Write about good times when you were celebrated, bad times that changed you, major transitions that redirected you, and influential people who inspired you. These are the factors in your life that were essential in creating the person you are today.
Share your story with others to form bonds and lasting connections. Reflect upon your journey to remind yourself of who you are, especially in moments when you feel lost.
Keep in mind that your story is not finished. Your identity and uniqueness will always continue to grow and transform with the events that make up your story. Be mindful of where you have been and let that move you forward as you continue life’s most beautiful journey: finding and celebrating you.
The Stone Foundation is a community of counseling professionals who are committed to helping you live your best life. If we can assist you as you take the beautiful journey of self-discovery, please contact us at 410.296.2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. Please know that this article is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.