Over the past year I've witnessed many people struggle with who they are because their identity has been defined by their possessions, relationships, level of success, or their work. It is not uncommon for us to find our identity in one of the above, and in my experience our identity is often tied to our work. This is especially true when we experience a high level of success and reap the rewards of our labor. Every sale, new client, or promotion makes us feel good about who we are and what we are accomplishing. As we all know, things can change, sometimes quickly. When we experience a challenging market, loss of income, or perhaps get fired from a job or by a client it can affect us at our core. This is where an identity crisis can begin to take root in our head and heart. Our once unbreakable self-image and self-worth start to show signs of cracking. Seeds of doubt are planted and begin to lay roots into the way we think, talk, and feel about who we are.
When we find our identify in our work and in our accomplishments we are more susceptible to a reoccurring identity crisis. It does not matter what job we have, what company we work for, or what our home life is like. The crisis will find you again and again, resulting in a fear of failure, fear of abandonment, and fear of never finding your true identity.
As depressing as this sounds, I believe there is hope. We do not have to find our identity in our job or in our accomplishments. We do not have to find our identity in things that cannot stand the test of time or weather life's storms. There is a place where our identity can experience peace, consistent growth, and development; safe from the ever changing world around us. I have identified three pillars that I believe are the foundation for my identity and help me avoid the cycle of identity crisis.
- My Personal Convictions – these are the values and convictions that I hold dear to my heart and are able to withstand the test of time. They cannot be shaken by market changes, personal accomplishments, or failures. They are not the same for everyone, so I cannot tell you what they should be for you. However, I know that I am willing to lose my job for them, end a business or personal relationship because of them, and even die for them.
- My Purpose – this is my reason for being. It is the motivation behind everything I do. If my heart had a voice it would speak in the language of purpose and passion. My purpose is rooted in my convictions and expressed through my natural gifts, talents and strengths. It too stands the test of time and is not subject to a level of success, a position within a company, or status I’ve attained in my personal life.
- God – as a Christian my personal identify is found in the person of Jesus Christ. My faith may waiver and I may have difficult questions that are not answered in this life, but who I am and my identity is never in doubt. It rests solely in Christ. My purpose and convictions flow from my faith in Him.
In your experience you may have identified similar or completely different pillars on which to rest your identity. I encourage you to evaluate these pillars to make sure they stand the test of time and are truly a safe and meaningful resting place for your identity. As we close out the year, take some time to reflect on where your identity calls home.
What are your pillars and are they helping you avoid an identity crisis every time you experience change, a failure, or you are faced with the unexpected?
Make it a great day!