Who am I? This is a question I have asked over and over throughout the years. When I look through my journals I can clearly see how I have struggled with my identity time and again. My writing is littered with the phrase “Who am I?”
The first time I was really hit hard with this feeling was on a family trip to the museum. On the way home in the car, Mark started asking the kids what their favorite thing at the museum had been. As I listened to his answer, I could list in my mind what everyone else on the trip had liked. However, I had no answer for myself. I hoped that Mark wouldn’t ask, because I couldn’t think of a thing. Somehow, I managed to finish the car ride without being asked. I don’t remember exactly the distraction but the silence on this topic though relieving for the moment, played right into my feelings of being forgotten.
As days and weeks went by, I began to see that all of my efforts were being poured into trying so hard to be something for someone else (teacher, cook, chauffeur, playmate) that I had lost myself. My main responsibility during that time of life was my role as a wife and mother, and as I based my identity on this role, my own desires became hidden behind what I desired for others. My true identity felt hidden in my responsibilities, lost in the daily repetitiveness of my what I needed to accomplish. The days had become a cycle for me: make food, watch kids throw food (while eating a little), clean up. Dress kids, watch kids mess clothes (while playing), clean, fold, and put away clothes, make food again. Sure, there were play dates and fun. There were trips to the zoo and Wednesdays at Bible study. There were moments with my family that I would never have traded. But I was stuck in a cycle of doing the same thing over and over just to finish and start again. Nothing felt lasting.
I had become so entrenched in my kids’ lives that I had forgotten who I was or why I mattered. I found myself wishing for someone to take an interest in me in the same way I had for those around me. I felt forgotten. Who was I? The more I pondered this question, the more I felt sorry for myself.
The search for identity was constantly in my mind. I began to try to figure out who I am based on relationships, based on how good I am at something, based on roles I fill, based on appearance, and position. I worked hard to be in control and try to define who I am. I tried to be a better wife and mom. I tried to find value in cleaning and laundry though it was constantly undone. I delved my time into workout programs and joining a leadership team with my mom’s group. The search included a new haircut and a new wardrobe. I thought if I could make myself feel important or make others think I was important than the feeling that nothing was lasting would fade away. Even with all these actions, my search to find myself couldn’t seem to get deeper than the surface of my life.
Repeatedly, I have found my attention turned to the positions I hold and the actions I take. I know that I am a wife, mother, sister, daughter, photographer, and friend. My likes include photography, swimming, and writing. I love to smile and enjoy relaxing and spending time with family and friends. Some of the things I don’t really want on the list but that are also still true of me include: I am a cook, a cleaning lady, and a chauffeur. I wipe faces, bottoms, and countertops. I smile even when it is hard. I cry all the time. Yet, even though I am all these things, I still struggle to understand who I am on a deeper level. What’s behind the outward picture that others see when they look at me? What do I like? How do I desire to spend my time? What makes me laugh and smile? My search of identity started here on the surface but these questions were flowing out of a deeper longing of value and importance. I wanted to know that what I did mattered and had lasting purpose.
- How would you describe yourself? Who are you?
- Do you think those qualities define you or give you value?
- Do you feel that your roles or position are what makes you important?
- Are those roles or positions lasting or secure?
- Do you find fulfillment in your answers? Are you satisfied with being defined by your roles and positions?
I hope that you will continue on this journey with me to explore identity. To receive updates please subscribe to Steps to Trusting. As a welcome for subscribing you will receive the a printable file that includes much of the encouragement that I found in God’s word. When I was searching to see who I was, I found healing and an identity of value and purpose in God’s promises. I hope that they will be a blessing to you too.