Does anybody know what an identity crisis feels like? (asking for a friend)
This morning’s brief conversation with a friend confirmed what I was already thinking. I answered her call and told her I couldn’t talk because it was blog day. She asked what I was writing about and I said, “Identity.” Without skipping a beat, she asked, “Which one of your identities are you writing about?”
Ha, ha, ha; verrry funny, Karen. And So. Spot. On.
Seriously, though, I have spent a lot of time thinking about identity lately. Sometimes it feels like I’m still that overweight teenager, struggling to fit in. Identity comes from a root word that means “sameness.” I guess that makes sense, because I’ve always wanted to fit in, but then again, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to stand out. Or to avoid standing out. It’s complicated.
As an adolescent I did stand out, but not in the way I wanted to.
First, there was my weight.
I wasn’t skinny like the rest of my family. Not only was I not skinny, our next-door neighbor (a grandfather figure) nicknamed me (WARNING: bad word alert) “Lard Ass.” No amount of Weight Watchers will erase that label or dispel that shame.
Second, I wasn’t as smart or talented as my brother.
So, since I didn’t fit in, I looked for ways to stand out.
It didn’t take long to figure out I couldn’t fake being a cheerleader, prom queen or class president, so I just pretended I didn’t care; I’d be someone way more original and interesting: I’d be a HIPPIE! (Yea, like nobody else was doing that in the 60’s.)
I tossed the bra, wore lots of black and read all the books my brother was reading in college: Nietzsche. Fountainhead. Waiting for Godot. You know, real upbeat stuff. My playlist back then was Dylan, Laura Nyro, Neil Young. In other words, people… I was cool.
Or was I?
Did I finally fit in? Not really.
Did I stand out? Barely.
Did I know what I wanted to do with my life? Nope.
Did I care about others? Not much.
Did I believe in God? Meh. I never gave it much thought.
Until I did.
My husband and I became Christians in 1975 (dang, I’m old) and I thought to myself, “Finally! Now, I’ll fit in.”
Except I didn’t.
I went from thinking I wasn’t thin enough, or smart enough, to believing I wasn’t spiritual enough, not a good enough mom, wife, church member, etc. You know what happens when you convince yourself you don’t fit in?
You look down on everybody else.
Arrogance doesn’t come from thinking you’re all that.
It comes from wishing you were.
Arrogance doesn't come from thinking you're all that. It comes from wishing you were. Click To Tweet
Can you identify?
Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? Like you’re cut from a different cloth than the rest of the world? It’s not just a teenager syndrome.
The other day I had coffee with a couple of writer friends; we drank our lattes, talked shop and shared back and forth about where we were in our writing journeys.
Both of my friends are good writers—gifted writers. Neither of them said it out loud but I could sense they were both battling self-doubt (we refer to it as imposter syndrome) because I battle it, too. I identify with it. Me. Too.
If identity means sameness then I actually DO fit in, because we’re all the same—struggling to fit in, struggling to stand out. Confused about our identity.
We all want to be seen. Heard. Accepted.
There’s this recurring dream I have and the gist of every dream is the same: There’s something REALLY IMPORTANT I have to say but no one will pay any attention to me. It’s like I’m invisible. It’s so real that I wake up angry every time I have that dream/nightmare. Now, I’m not a behavior psychologist; I just like to observe people and the more I do, the more I’m convinced I’m not the only one dealing with this stuff. The identity struggle is real.
I observed it up close at a women’s retreat recently. From the podium and around the table, woman after woman shared their hard stories. The theme of the retreat was “Testimonies” but I left thinking that it could just as easily been called, “Identity,” because in essence, that’s what it was all about.
There were stories about betrayal, divorce, career upheaval, widowhood, a life-threatening health crisis, alcoholism. Each situation raised the question:
Who am I, really?
When the husband dies or ditches, the child leaves, the career fizzles, the booze is unavailable and health takes a dive? What’s left?
We are God’s children and He is re-teaching us the basics.
I am Accepted in the beloved Eph 1:6
I am Blessed with all blessings Eph 1:3
I am Chosen in Him Eph 1:4
I am Delivered from dark powers Col 1:13
I am Elevated to heavenly places Eph 2:6
I am Forgiven from all sin Eph 1:7
I am God’s workmanship Eph 2:10
I am Healed by His stripes 1 Pet 2:24
I am Innocent before Him in love Eph1:4
I am Justified by faith Rom 5:1
I am Kept by the power of God 1 Pet 1:5
I am Loved unconditionally John 3:16
I am More than a conqueror Rom 8:37
I am Not condemned Rom 8:1
I am Overcoming the world 1 John 5:5
I am Predestined to Sonship John1:12
I am Quickened together with Christ Eph 2:5
I am Redeemed from the curse of the law Gal 3:13
I am Sealed with the Holy Spirit Eph 1:13
I am To His praise Eph 1:12
I am Unto His glory Eph 1:14
I am Victorious through Jesus 1 Cor 15:57
I am Washed in His blood Rev 1:5
I am Xcrucified with Christ Gal 2:20
I am Yoked together with believers 2 Cor 6:14
I am Zealous of good works Tit 2:14
You know these things, and so do I, but it’s good to review once in a while, isn’t it? Sometimes we need to be reminded who we are.
The only thing I might add to that list is another “E” word… ENOUGH.
All the “not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough,” LIES we believe about ourselves draw us inward. They shut down our hearts and force us to live in our heads.
God wants us to be whole
Here’s what led me to write this post:
Jesus is messing with my identity. (Not for the first time, mind you, and I’m quite sure it won’t be the last.) I’ve tended to live my life in my head. I’ve been introspective, a voracious reader, thinker, writer, contemplative, quasi-intellectual, and oftentimes, criticized those who weren’t like me.
But lately, I have a hard time concentrating. I’m not all that
interested in capable of pondering those beloved deep thoughts, (mine, or anyone else’s) writing is difficult, and I could literally sit on the porch in my rocking chair for hours, doing absolutely NOTHING. Not reading. Not thinking. Just rocking.
It freaked me out at first. This is just a season, right, Lord? Please say it’s just a season.
The strange thing is, I’m beginning to be OK with this. Peaceful, even. Dare I say, content? (Seriously, who am I right now?!) Maybe I’m finally starting to live from my heart, rather than my head? Maybe, as my friend, Summer, suggested, my body is trying to teach me how to rest. Hopefully, I’ll eventually find a balance!
I’ll probably always want to fit in. And I know my flesh won’t give up easily in the desire to stand out. Here’s what I’m learning, though:
My identity is His to sort out.
He is making me the same as Him and my guess is it’s going to take a while.
In the meantime, you know where to find me.