In one of my older blog posts, you may have read several self-affirmation statements, or what I like to call “I Am” statements. If you’ve read through my list, you’ve probably noticed that in some of those statements, I list down some of the things I do, or how I see myself. For example, “I Am a mom,” “I Am a writer,” “I Am an advocate,” and the list goes on. These are all still true and they are valuable ways of reminding myself that I have self-worth that is not based on others’ views of me. However, these are things I “do,” or more accurately WHAT I see myself to be. These statements do not tell WHO I am as I see myself. The other statements I have made tell the story of who I am and they say that I am more than just what I do. A few examples of this are “I Am loving,” “I Am humble,” “I Am caring,” or “I Am sensitive.” Get the idea?
I bring up this point of what we are versus who we are for a reason. The main reason is that on this Memorial Day weekend, we want to remember and honor those who we are grateful for and who may or may not have gone before us in this life. I’ve listened to many a eulogy at funerals and memorial services, and more often than not, the person paying homage begins their tribute with WHAT the person has done in their lifetime. This is then followed by how the person felt about them. It is in this heartfelt dedication to the deceased that we get a glimpse of WHO he or she was because of how they showed themselves to us. Who we are as individuals is so much more than what we have done in this life, although what we do points to who we are on the inside. This is the second reason I bring up this point. Our identity as a person is not defined by WHAT we are, but rather WHO we are.
There is a danger in relying on the WHAT of our existence to define who we are as an individual. When we define who we are based on what others or what society tells us, for example, we place our personal identity in the hands of external factors. In Melissa Crutchfield’s article “Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity,” she shows the potential disconnect (see article at https://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/life-and-relationships/who-am-i-a-new-way-to-define-identity.html). Placing our identity, and how we define who we are, in the hands of circumstances is dangerous because situations change… LIFE happens.
If we define who we are based on our careers, or our marital status, or what we have done in life, we allow for those circumstances to dictate our view of self, our self-worth. So if we lose our job, or our marriage fails us, we then find ourselves in a sticky situation of losing the foundation of our self-identity. Our foundation is shaken and must be altered when we place our identity in the hands of the external or on others. Crutchfield tells us that a stable sense of self cannot fully exist when we place our identity in the hands of the external. Having a strong sense of self-identity, on the other hand, can lead to a greater value on our self-worth.
In my The Last Prophet book series, we see several of our main characters go through transformation of finding self-worth and self-identity in the hands of others into finding their identity and worth in who they see themselves to be. It is empowering for the therapist with rejection issues. It is empowering for the over-extended and over-achieving graduate student in media studies to learn how to place her self-worth on who she is as a person rather than what she does as a woman. It is empowering to the former addict who felt that being the attention grabber was the only way the world could see him to finally see that his value was based on whether he liked himself. It is liberating for the internet media star to see that her ability to be a mother and social media diva are based on her tenacity and love for life, and not on the number of “likes” or “hits” on social media sites and YouTube.
When we confuse who we are with what we do, we also run the risk of believing the perpetual lie that we must continually be better than someone else. Better house, better job, better-looking spouse, more possessions, more money… and the list goes on! Believing the lie that we must have better or more is a constant battle that we will never win. We never win because it is a lie. When we buy into the lie that what we do (or what we possess) defines who we are, we will never choose happiness because we are too busy choosing to let the external give us our identity. Stop the madness, I say! Believe instead that no one else was created to be YOU. Who YOU are is something YOU define, and that is a choice of will. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
To give you an idea of what all this means to me, this is how I define WHO I Am…
I Am serene.
I Am sensitive.
I Am humorous.
I Am understanding
I Am empathetic and empathic.
I Am honest.
I Am lovely.
I Am faithful.
I Am loved.
How do you define who you are? What are your I Am statements? Comment in the space provided.
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