Why is it that we place so much emphasis and value on what you are or what you do? We don’t ask our children who they want to be when they grow up, we ask them what they want to be.
My mom has this flip book that I created in kindergarten where my photo was pasted on the inside of the back cover, and every page before it had a hole cut out so you could see my face as you flipped through. On each page I drew a picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up with that cute little kinder picture smiling through. My career selections included:
-Teacher (classic) -Dallas Cowboys cheerleader (who didn’t pick this?) -Telephone woman (my dad was a lineman at the time)
I also had big ambitions to be a snow cone lady!
My choices for what I wanted to be when I grew up changed as I got older. By the time I entered Texas A&M University, I had chosen a biology major and wanted to be a wildlife biologist – the next Jane Goodall to be exact. But alas, working 25-30 hours a week as a bank teller didn’t allow me the time I needed to study for such challenging classes. I switched to journalism just a year later and then went on to study political science in graduate school.
But nowhere during my adolescence or adulthood was I thinking about who I wanted to be when I grew up. The world didn’t tell me that was important. It told me at every turn that what I chose to do as my vocation was the most important decision to make. So like everyone else, this quest took up the majority of my energy in life. However, as I would discover in my mid-30s, in chasing your what, you can easily lose your who.
The results can be devastating. Because when you don’t know who you are, the world will decide for you. As the world piles heaps of definitions on you, your True Self can end up so completely buried that she’s unreachable. I know because I’ve been there. I spent years being desperate for approval from others, and so at times I let my self-worth be dictated by everything from my boss’ opinion to how many get-togethers I was (or wasn’t) invited to. I tied my value to my job title and how much money I made. I measured my worthiness in countless other ways so much so that I surrendered any semblance of “who” I had.
Until one day, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. I remember the shock I felt when my therapist asked me whether I loved myself. I couldn’t answer her because I didn’t know who I was, much less whether I loved her. I was stunned at the realization. It brings tears to my eyes to remember how completely lost to myself I was.
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you’ve lost sight of who you truly are.
I have good news: you are not alone, and it’s not too late to rediscover and reclaim who you are and start owning your story. Know, though, that the journey requires your active participation. (Coaching plug: a personal development coach can guide you through the process of connecting with who you are and help you build confidence in your worth!). For now, let’s focus on a great place to start on your own – identifying your core personal values.
Know Your Values. Your values are the basis for who you are. They are characteristics and beliefs you hold about yourself and how it's important to live your life. We long to live a life that aligns with our values, and whether you are aware of it or not, the extent to which you live out your values has a big impact on your level of satisfaction. Skeptical? Grab a pen and got down a few values you consider central to life – e.g. achievement, fairness, adventure, etc. – and then think about the extent to which you are living those values out. What do you discover? How well are you living into those values?
Getting to know who you are also requires knowing whose you are.
Know Whose You Are. You are the beloved daughter or son of God. He created you with specific gifts, talents and values and put you in this place at this time in history to serve Him and those around you. He says that you are accepted (Rom. 15:7), deeply loved (Col. 3:12) and chosen (Eph. 1:4).
Rejecting the world’s lies takes knowing God’s truth, and the biggest truth of them all is that Jesus died for your sins because God wants to be reconciled to you. He wants to be in relationship with you because He thinks you are WORTHY. Spending time reading God’s word while doing your deep, personal work will uncover the lies you’ve been carrying around for years, decades even.
It’s an ongoing journey, and I am still working to discover who I truly am. I’m learning first to identify who I’m not and where I’ve adopted false selves in my life (and whoa are there a bunch!). Peeling back those layers takes intention and determination. I’ve spent the last four years studying God’s word on a daily basis, and I am finding that the closer I live into His truth and the values He has created in me, the more joy I feel. Makes sense because authenticity is one of my core values!
Brittany Seabury is a personal development coach. If you are interested in a values assessment or diving deeper into your who, you can schedule a complimentary discovery call here. Be sure to also follow her on Instagram @_flourish_coaching_ for more nourishment to flourish.