How well do you know yourself? Are you proud of who you are? Do you feel you have an identity?
So what does it mean to have a sense of identity? Essentially this is to know who you are, recognise your strengths and have an idea of the positive impact you have on the world around you. It comes hand in hand with having self worth and is, in a nut shell, to know & value who you are.
The concept of who we are is one we don’t often stop to ponder upon. Typically when we do consider ourselves it is when we feel we have come up short or failed in some way and so the evaluation takes the guise of self criticism, i.e. “I am terrible at that”, “Why am I so stupid!” It is common for people to focus primarily on what they don’t like about themselves rather than on all of the great qualities they have. In contrast they find it easy to recognise other people’s strengths whilst overlooking the great assets that they have within themselves.
The relationship we have we ourselves is the most important relationship we have in our lives. Life throws all kinds of challenges and disappointments at us that can test our self worth to breaking point. The more we pro-actively take steps to build our sense of identity so that we feel good about who we are and what we are capable of, the more resilient we become to life’s ups & downs.
Effectively having an identity gives us a real shot at grabbing life by the horns!
Life without Identity
Living without a sense of knowing who you are or what you want from your life can leave you feeling lost and isolated. Perhaps like an imposter in your own life, watching things happen to and around you without feeling in control of your own destiny.
If your relationship with yourself isn’t a healthy one, then you become empty, continually looking outside of yourself for direction and approval. Forever in a state of waiting…waiting for the moment you will at last feel good…waiting for your big break. Whereas energy spent on building your relationship with yourself will allow you to feel happy now as you begin to feel great in your own skin. It also clarifies what the best direction for you is and you no longer have to wait for your big break to happen to you, you can go after it.
Break free from the Box
Considering and defining your identity means that you can break free from the box that either yourself or others have been placing you in.
Think about this for a moment, what box (or boxes) have you been putting yourself into for some time now? The clue is in the statements you say about yourself, “Oh I am rubbish at…..”, “I can’t do……” or “I am just a lazy person”, “People just don’t really warm to me”. Once you put yourself in a certain box and slap a label on the outside, this becomes an inevitable self fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself that you are lazy, how do you think this effects how you act? Will it help you generate more get up & go, or will it make you want to retreat from taking action as it’s hopeless anyway? The action (or non-action) borne by a limited perspective on who you are only convinces you that the label on the box is accurate, and so the cycle continues.
Interestingly our beliefs about ourselves (or the boxes we place ourselves in) can stem from as long ago as childhood. Do you think your opinions about the world and life in general have changed since you were 14 years old? If so, then doesn’t that suggest to you that your opinion about yourself may be out of date too? Could the box be getting mouldy…? Perhaps it’s time to have a good old clear out.
Another reason we can find ourselves in certain boxes is because we have allowed the opinions and throw away comments of others to determine the label we place upon ourselves. When we are unsure of ourselves we let other people’s opinions of us govern what we think we can and can’t do, who we are and who we are not.
Do you feel you are currently in a box that doesn’t feel right? Have others been quick to write you off or judge you and this has impacted how you feel about yourself? Break free from the box and build your identity up so that it reflects who you truly are.
Equally, if we would like others to remain open minded towards us, then we must remain open minded towards others. The next time you catch yourself being quick to place somebody else in a certain box of “They are X or Y….”, remember that there is always so much more to a person than at first meets the eye. By being more receptive and understanding towards other people, we begin to be more receptive and understanding towards ourselves too.
So how is your Identity?
To gauge how well you know yourself, have a go at answering the questions below.
- On a scale of 1 – 10 how much would you say you like yourself?
- What are 3 of your biggest strengths?
- What are 3 of your greatest qualities?
- How do you positively impact others around you?
Another way of evaluating how you feel about you is to monitor what you say to yourself. If you spot that you hurl verbal abuse at yourself frequently such as “You’re not good enough”, “You’re going to screw it up”, then there is certainly room for improvement where your self view is concerned.
It is common for people to feel they have a stronger sense of identity in some areas of their lives than others. For instance a person could feel really confident at work, know how they contribute to their company but feel incredibly insecure within friendships. When your identity is fully intact you have a sense of both being of and contributing value across all areas of your life. Another good sign is when you feel you have no need to be destructive towards yourself or others.
Building Your Identity
Having and maintaining a strong sense of identity is to:
- Know who you are,
- Like & enjoy who you are,
- Recognise your strengths,
- Realise what makes you UNIQUE,
- Understand what you need to thrive,
- See and go after what is important to you to have and/or achieve in your life,
- Be in a good place, without the need to be destructive towards others or yourself.
If you would like to build your sense of identity, then have a go at focusing on the areas below.
1. Your Strengths
Interestingly many of us find identifying our own strengths quite tricky. As mentioned above we can easily reel off a friend’s qualities but when it comes to identifying our own, many people go blank. An effective way of building the picture of your attributes is to approach it from a different angle…
On a piece of paper write a list of the things a) you enjoy, b) find easy and c) are passionate about. Next, looking at the list as though it was written by somebody else about themselves, write your conclusion as to what type of person you think this makes them. What qualities would you say that person has? What strengths would they need to have in order to find these things enjoyable or easy? What do the things they are passionate about say about them? Before you know it, you will have a list of wonderful qualities that anyone would wish to possess and guess what, they’re yours!
Now that you have relaxed into the process, throw into the mix a list of past achievements with a description of how you achieved those things and what strengths you used and voila, you now have a dynamic picture of all that you are. Now you just need to start to believe it…
2. Self Awareness
Once you have a better idea as to your strengths on paper, the next step is to become aware of when you demonstrate these in your day to day. Take a moment to recognise when you utilise your qualities and you should feel a sense of pride building. It is not enough to just write a list of your strengths, you must begin to see them as being a real and empowering part of you. Over time you should feel your self worth increase as you begin to realise the potential you hold.
3. Your Expertise
Without perhaps realising it, you have things that people come to you for. Whether it is encouragement, advice, your IT prowess or your business know how, you will have something that others like to tap into occasionally. Appreciating how you positively impact others is a key part of building your identity, after all your identity is about who you are and the positive impact you have.
What do people come to you for? Are there themes around the type of support people seek from you? What does this reveal about you?
4. Buzz Activities
Something as unique to you as your strengths and expertise is what you get a buzz from. Noting what makes you tick supports you in 2 ways. Firstly, it further strengthens in your mind what kind of person you are and secondly it tells you what you need in order to thrive. This could be a hobby, activity or particular environment that enables you to perform at your best.
What are the things you couldn’t live without? What makes you feel great? When are you at your best? These are your ‘feel good fuel’ so utilise them to help you feel and be at your best.
5. Accepting You
Looking at the parts of us we have come to dislike with a fresh pair of eyes, we can begin to change how we feel and so build a different and healthier view.
If this resonates with you, ask yourself if that part of you (physical or emotional) is as bad as you have built it up to be? What would be a more optimistic view on that part of yourself? If a friend didn’t like the same part of themselves for the same reasons, what would you say to them? How can you learn to love that part of you? Perception is reality, so change your view and you change your reality.
If on the other hand you conclude that making a change would be a positive thing to do then acceptance preludes change. Bravely looking at where things are now vs. where you would like them to be, means you set yourself onto the path of progression working with yourself, for yourself.
6. Trusting You
A strong sense of personal identity also brings with it self trust which is like an internal security blanket which you can rely on as & when you need it. It is the feeling that no matter what life throws at you, you will be ok. Yes life can cause pain, hurt and disappointment, but knowing who you are and what you are worth will support you in bouncing back and you will be better equipped to get yourself in a safer, healthier place more quickly.
Do you have a situation coming up that you feel anxious about? What are the things about you that let you know you will be fine? How will you get you through?
7. Personal Mission Statement
Organisations have mission statements to keep their ship and all who sail aboard on course. This is something we can emulate in our lives too. A simple, inspiring mission statement that sums up who you are and what you would like to achieve in your life time, can help you to stay on course and keep your motivation levels high. A mission statement is the mark you would like to make and is what is important to you. This could be being a great mother to your children, a caring & supportive friend or a successful business woman. It is the one thing that is of most importance for you to do, to be or to achieve in your lifetime.
Without thinking about it for too long, write down the first thing that comes into your mind when you think about the biggest mark you would like to leave in your life? Make this into a statement that really means something to you and then use this to help you to make pivotal decisions about your life.
8. Filling Your Cup
Our sense of identity requires constant nurturing. As we go through life external influences will often challenge the view we have of ourselves and so to guard against this we must continually apply self awareness and self trust in order to keep our heads!
A way to think about this is to imagine your identity being like a cup of your favourite drink. When you begin to feel low think of this as the volume level dropping and an indicator that you need to spend some time nurturing your ‘self’ by applying the techniques above. Focus on what makes you feel great and remind yourself why you love being you until you have filled your cup back to the top.
You are unique and owe it to yourself to claim your identity and utilise it. Strengthening your sense of identity will support you in living a happier & healthier life because it means you will be playing to your strengths which in turn sets you up for success, however you define it, as that is up to your unique self of course.