As important as knowing and giving it a positive evaluation is, the tricky thing is finding your true identity. How do I know for sure that the identity I have or think I have is the one I must have? How do I find my true self; my true identity such that I will be able to live my life from this position of being truthfully informed and aware of my identity? That, my friend, is a very tricky undertaking but first, let’s look at possible culprits shaping our identities.
Family Background and Upbringing
This is the most obvious one. They have even invented all sorts of expressions to explain this one. ‘An apple does not fall far from the tree’ and ‘You are just a chip off the old block’, are a few examples. Whether we like it or not, our family upbringing shapes our perception of self. We have the genes of our parents; we grow up eating the food they cook and we are nurtured in a certain philosophy which will probably ring in our ears for life. Later on in life, when we have our own kids we are shocked to find that we have turned into mom and dad! That is not necessarily a bad thing as long as we don’t use our family background, particularly the really negative aspects, to our detriment. Let me explain.
Have you heard of self-fulfilling prophecies? This is a prophecy you make about yourself and find that it actually comes to pass just as you envisaged it. Generally they are associated with the negative aspects of our lives; I don’t know why. There are positive self-fulfilling prophecies but the question is why self-fulfilling prophecies self fulfil?
If you were raised in a family that struggles in the area of wealth creation for as long as anyone in your family can remember, it’s likely that you grew up being told that you would not amount to much in life. At some point because of both constant and consistent reminders that you will die a pauper and the empirical evidence all around you within the family, you begin to believe it. And once you believe it you begin to say it. Before you know it, you actually begin to act in such a way that you squander opportunities that could have lifted you out of that rut. It becomes a classic case of digging yourself deeper into your hole because you are so focused on your surroundings that you forget to look up and see the sky. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One of my friends was going through a particularly difficult period in his life. We met for coffee and he spent a full hour telling me his problems, how he had traced the same problems through the generations and now could see the same things happening in his life. It was depressing. After I had taken it to my ears I stopped him and told him that was why he was exactly where he was. He believed that what he had was coming from his identity, he could not escape it and he was therefore actively encouraging the same problem in his life. This man had his identity totally messed up. So we had to start from there and try to pry him out of this mental stranglehold.
Unfortunately old habits die hard and one counselling session does not begin to suffice.
The same patterns are repeated in abuse victims, failed marriages, family sicknesses and so forth. If you believe that marriages in your families are not meant to last because of some sort of curse, even when you find a really good partner, you find that you will find something wrong with the relationship, so that at the end of the day you can shout, ‘I knew it would never work! Marriages never work in our family.’ You have assumed the identity of your family.
So it’s very tricky to know for sure that the identity you have is truly yours and not one given to you by your family. But this issue is too important to leave to family.
Depending on what you read, listen to and get attached to, you are likely to start assuming that originator’s identity. A lot of young people have turned into thugs due to excessive influence of music glorifying this thug life. This also goes together with peer pressure and the desire to fit in. In my opinion, we should be well balanced people who are able to listen to anything and critic it before internalising it because we are aware of what it can turn us into especially if it colours our perception of self or makes us feel like we need to assume a new identity.
The influence of literature can be seen in trends, life styles and even religion, depending on the degree of exposure and our ability to filter what we allow to influence us or lack thereof.
This is a seriously big one. There is nothing more powerful than belief. Belief is at the centre of self-fulfilling prophecies, superstitions and even suicide bombings. Of all the things I can think of that shape our identities, religion is high up there. It does not need proof, it just needs you to accept a certain belief and before long, you have totally opened yourself to all that that particular belief system espouses. You then strive continuously to become what that belief system says you must become. You begin to see life and everything associated with it through the lenses of your beliefs. It does not matter that evidence is all around you to the contrary; you still believe.
At the place I stay, there is a really friendly black cat that likes to pay me visits every now and then. Sometimes it gets in through the window and lies on my bed. I will never forget an episode when one of my friends was visiting and this cat strolled in casually and lounged on my couch. There was pandemonium in the house. A black cat in your house, Raymond, and you are so relaxed? No, we need to do something quick! This is a bad omen of impending trouble. About the same time, an owl started to hoot and that was it for my friend. I was living with witches!
Beliefs are powerful.
I could go on and on but I believe I have made my point. It really isn’t that important dwelling on things that possibly shape our identity, if we are not going to get to the crux of the matter; where do you get your true identity that liberates you to be who you really are? This is where it really gets interesting.
And my answer is inside. Not outside. Inside. Not your family. Inside. Not what the preacher said. Inside. Not what your favourite song says. Inside. Not what your friends are saying. Inside. Not what the self help book says. Inside. Not what the popular trends say. Inside. Look inside.
No one can tell you who you are. That is your job. You need to solve this riddle. You need to process this issue. You need to bring this matter to finality. The moment someone steps in with their perceptions, you have just been given an identity. Don’t look to the west or to the east. Look inside you and you will find your true identity waiting for you.
Why do I say that? Let me explain.
The essence of who you are is contained in your spirit and your spirit proceeds from your Creator, God. I don’t have the time to argue with atheists here because I want to make a point. If God created you, surely he knows exactly what He put on the inside of you. He has hidden you in you. Your homework is to dig inside you and find you in you as your Creator intended. He is the one who created you and He is the ONLY one who can give you your true identity.
Are you tired of searching in all the places for your true identity? It’s time to focus on the inside of you and let God reveal to you who you are. So connect with Him. Spend time with your Creator and take time to know yourself.
You will see that things will become clearer. For the first time, you will see that your family’s story is not your story. Your past is not your future. And once you have established your true identity in Him, you have started on the journey of life in earnest. Who you become, going forth, is who you really are and therefore what your recreate on the outside will change to reflect your new-found self.
What I have simply done is to point you in the right direction. The rest, my friend is your job.