Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Discovering your true self
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
“Who am I?”
This is a question that is pondered by most people during their life span. In fact, some folks ponder this question at different stages of the life span, indicating that one answer might not suffice from adolescence through adulthood through the later stages of life.
Have you ever felt that you are faking your way through life? That you’re possibly living someone else’s expectation of who you should be, or that your actions, behaviors, and/or personality tend to define who you are in the eyes of others?
If so, fulfilling these expectations will be difficult to maintain over time! For example:
- Sometimes we are known because of our accomplishments. He is an award-winning poet; she is an academy award-winning actress; he is an honors student; she is a fitness guru.
- Sometimes we are known because of the roles we have. She is a good mother; he is a faithful husband; she is a loving and devoted daughter; he is a productive employee.
- Sometimes we are known by our actions. She prepares gourmet dinners; he attends all of his son’s baseball games; he actively participates in the parent/teacher organization; she consistently, faithfully votes.
- Sometimes we are known by our personality qualities. He is quick-witted; she is moody; he is quiet and reserved; she is outgoing; he is bitter; she is quarrelsome.
While many of these qualities may describe us, they don’t define us! Truly, we must realize that our value is NOT in what we do, or in what “hat” we wear, or in our personalities.
Wrestling with the notion of “Who am I (really)?” is a necessary part of our lifelong quest for understanding ourselves. And, to add confusion to the mix, we can wrestle with the answer to this question at different major milestones in our lives OR at different times when there are significant changes in our lives – during new relationships, during career-building or career-changes; during times of crisis or times of illness/loss.
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist of yesteryear, wrote extensively about “individuation,” which is the process of finding your authentic self, apart from the influences of family of origin, of life events or of your circle of acquaintances.
Usually, individuation is considered during adolescence, when it is age-appropriate for youngsters to begin to wonder, “Who am I apart from my parents? What do I believe in? What do I enjoy? What excites me, scares me and concerns me?” But we now know that the journey to finding out “Who am I?” actually occurs throughout the life span.
Here’s the really GREAT news! Getting away from all the psycho-babble, as believers we already know where our value comes from and where our eternal destination is. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful. I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
So, while we may spend time and mental energy trying to answer the question, “Who am I?”… let’s not forget that our most precious and meaningful identity is that of being a child of God, which gives us the very best authentic value. What a relief that is!
None of us has to live up to someone else’s idea of who we should be, of what we should do or what we should act like. We are sealed with value … and our inheritance is guaranteed!
Ahh … we can rest in that assurance and know full well that we can say boldly “I know Whose I am!” Case closed!