In a world where there is literally a constant bombardment of messages aimed at telling us who to be and how to act, holding one to who you really are can be hard! And yet, having a clear sense of identity is really important to your mental health and your connection with others. Let’s talk about how to figure out who you are so that you can really thrive and make your mark on this world.
This is Me
When the movie The Greatest Showman hit theaters several years ago, it was a smashing success. Audiences loved the music, the dancing, and the inspiring storyline.
But what really seemed to touch viewers and linger in their hearts long after the film ended was the image of the bearded lady singing “This Is Me.” (Watch it here if you need a refresher.) She admitted to being bruised and broken and of feeling different from others, but she took ownership and pride in who she was…and this message resonated with many.
We all feel bruised and broken at times. Or like we need to hide ourselves from others because we don’t want them to see our flaws.
But the bearded lady decided to stop hiding.
She embraced herself as she was and allowed others to see the real her. This can’t have been an easy step forward. In fact, the people around her reacted with shock at first…but as she continued to move forward through the room of gawkers, still maintaining her confidence, she gained a freedom and happiness that she would not have found any other way.
Many of us long to declare “this is me!” to the world and to feel that powerful sense of freedom that comes when we fully accept ourselves and allow others to really see us for who we are. (And maybe makes us break out in singing and dancing with a crowd of our fellow circus performers.)
But how do we do this?
We’ve already addressed the first step—it’s recognizing the obstacles to authenticity that come by having your worth and identity defined by other people or by the messages you receive through media or society.
The next step is to figure out who you are or who you really want to be—and then to live that way.
But That’s Hard!
The problem is that many of us have lost sight of who we are or who we want to be because we are so used to letting others dictate that for us. As you work to shed the definitions others are giving you, you’ll find that it’s easier to figure out who you want to be.
It can also be scary to figure out who you are.
When you let others decide who you are, what you’re worth, or how you should be living, you don’t have to work as hard—the decisions are made for you. And when you give control of who you are to someone else, you can blame your shortcomings on them too.
But to take ownership of who you are means addressing the places you fall short. It means being ok with imperfections, and it means letting others see your weaknesses or flaws.
But don’t forget all of the benefits that come from being authentic. As you move into this more authentic way of living, you’re going to find that your relationships with others are deeper and more fulfilling and that you’re happier with who you are.
You’re also going to grow in ways that you likely didn’t even realize were possible.
So How Do You Do This?
After you’ve begun to recognize and challenge ways that others are defining you (can you tell how important I believe this first step is? Make sure you don’t skip over that one…), take some time to think about who you are at your core. What makes you tick if no one else is determining that for you?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start this process of becoming more authentically you:
I challenge you to take some time to actually sit down and write out some answers to these questions in a journal. (You can also grab a printable worksheet with these questions below.)
- What are the things I do in my life that I enjoy the very most? Are there things I do that make me feel whole and fulfilled? Things that make me lose track of time because I enjoy doing them so much?
- What are my hobbies and talents? Do I have special gifts that I love to share with others? Are there talents I’d like to develop but might have been embarrassed to admit that I want to?
- If no one else was watching or needing my attention, what would I find myself doing, thinking about, dreaming of?
- What are some things that I resent? (Often these can be a sign that there’s something you wish for hidden in there and the resentment comes from not having access to it.)
Those questions can help you start the process of figuring out who you are if you’re not totally sure. (And don’t worry if it feels weird to not totally know who you are—we’ve all been there!)
Be Patient—It’s a Process!
This is a process of slowly recognizing and shedding those things you’ve used to define yourself that came from other people’s expectations. As you do that, for a little bit you might feel lost and unsure of who you are at your core. Don’t worry. Give it some time and some thoughts and prayer or mediation and you’ll find that the authentic you will start to emerge. You’ll find her.
That’s a lot to work on, so please, be patient with yourself. It’s a process and a journey—a way of life, not a quick fix. But it’s so worth it.
Also, remember that talking to someone else, a friend, a sister, a spouse, about your journey can really help you internalize what you’re trying to do and what you’re hoping to change. And maybe they will join you on the journey as well.
Ready to learn more and keep working to become more authentic? Here are some helpful ways you can do that:
Keep exploring this website—there are more articles, printables, and resources available to you to help you in this process.
Sign up for the Authentically You online course. Each of these will provide a deeper dive into this process.
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 Lopez, F. G., & Rice, K. G. (2006). Preliminary development and validation of a measure of relationship authenticity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 362–371.
 Neff, K. D., & Harter, S. (2002). The authenticity of conflict resolutions among adult couples: Does women’s other-oriented behavior reflect their true selves? Sex Roles, 47, 403–417.
 Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?. Psychological science in the public interest, 4(1), 1-44.
 Flury, J. M., & Ickes, W. (2007). Having a weak versus strong sense of self: The Sense of Self Scale (SOSS). Self and Identity, 6(4), 281-303.
 Schnarch, D. M. (2009). Intimacy and desire: Awaken the passion in your relationship. Beaufort Books.
 Price, A.A., Leavitt, C.E., Larsen Gibby A., Holmes, E. K. (manuscript in progress) External Referencing and Sense of Self in Sexual and Relational Well-Being