Is it you on your best or worst day?
When you’ve done something wrong or something good?
When you’re completely, free and uninhibited at the club or when you’re alone in your solitary thoughts?
I never really thought that this question was valid or made any real sense. The ‘real’ me? I don’t have multiple personality disorder, surely everything I do makes me the real me. I’m just me, in every moment, I am.
Simply being, living day in day out was enough for me for a long time. A really long time. But recently, I’ve been asking myself this question:
How can the real me manifest itself in so many ways that contradict each other?
The same person that is introspective, shy and reserved – how can she be the same person that some people would consider feisty, blunt and possibly harsh? How could the person I see who wants to find God more and pursue inner peace, be the same person that made various stupid and selfish mistakes along the way? Which one was I really?
See, it all starts to get a bit confusing.
I’m of the opinion that when we are creating, building up and supporting ourselves and eachother, we are the truest version of ourselves. Doing these things is intrinsic to us all, because, if we throw it back all the way to Genesis, that’s was our initial position. Modelled after our creator. By contrast, socially, the phrase ‘true colours’ (i.e., society’s definition of our real selves) never has positive undertones. For some reason we love the fall. We cling to people's failings while a great wave of amnesia sweeps over everything good that've ever done.
The danger with this is, if you’re anything like me, it’s pretty easy to internalise what people say about who you are, even though I may behave as if I don't care. By virtue of the fact that I happen to be human, I’ve got a nice long trail of mistakes that I’ve made. Just being honest. So I took every negative comment or thought, and built up a picture in my mind of who I was. (Again, suffering from that amnesia I mentioned above, I never seemed to recall anything positive I had achieved or that anyone has said about me). When you do this, your sense of self becomes pliable to anything, and who you are as a person becomes pretty shaky.
The way we - and other people - define ourselves tends to be through our performance, achievements or possessions. For God, it’s not based on that at all; it’s based on His love for us as individuals – that includes ALL the situations, dramas and habits we’d rather ignore. An identity developed from that angle isn’t easily changed. I’ve found that I’m only cognisant of (and therefore living out) this truth when my relationship with Jesus is 'on track'. In times when I divert and become out of tune with what’s important, I am more likely to act out bad habits resulting that hurt other people and myself.
The key to not falling off is, like any other relationship, consistency. Being consistent in reading the Bible and praying, being fully immersed in this God-life.
Those who hear [the Word] and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. - 1 James 23:25
Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen off though, as the saying goes, 'if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again'.
Just to be extra clear, I’m not saying we should ignore opportunities to improve and constructive criticism. What I am saying is what we don’t have to bathe in the negative self-talk that people (well-meaning or otherwise) pour on our lives, because what we accept as the truth becomes self-perpetuating. For example, if I accepted that I was this bundle of contradictions as I mentioned above, the way I lived would follow suit. A mess. And for a long time it did, but now I know that’s not the real me, I no longer feel compelled to live up to this perception. Being in touch with Jesus shines a light on the things I can take or leave in life when it comes to how I define myself.
Anyone [who walks with Jesus] gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 20
Community also has a critical part to play here. The hallmark of a positive community is having people who can see qualities in you that you may not think of as unique, rare, special or important, because they come naturally to you. These people can verbally reject some internal mistruths you tell yourself, or that other people may tell you. They can also tell you objectively where you need to improve. People balanced enough to see your positives without putting you on a pedestal, people who make the effort to encourage and steer you on the right path.
You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
You might be thinking that other people shouldn’t be able to tell you who you are. They shouldn't be able to define your identity, and you’re right. However, we do not experience life or develop our perspective in a vacuum – so whether or not we accept it, other humans have an significant impact on how we live. So let's surround ourselves with with the voices of those who will build us up, not tear us down. By being aware of that, we can make more proactive, conscious decisions to filter what comes into our worlds.
So, who are you?
I hope after reading this you start asking yourself this question at a deeper level. You may have heard that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made, a member of a royal priesthood and known by God before you were knit in your mother’s womb. This is all true, but someone can’t just TELL you your identity. I knew these phrases like the back of my hand growing up and they never had an impact on how I saw myself. It came from a personal revelation that I wrote down in one of my journals, which I reread from time to time (because, it’s easy to forget amidst the day to day struggle). The next layer of understanding your true identity, is through revelation. Revelation being defined as:
The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence – Oxford Dictionary
It might sound a bit magical and far-fetched at first, but I promise you it's not. It’s the only thing that has brought true changes in my life (I’m still a work in progress, but the progress is definitely there). These revelations aren’t reserved for only some of us, but they do come through a life of getting to know Jesus through his Spirit, daily.
Freedom from the old you,
Freedom from people’s skewed perceptions of you are and ultimately,
Freedom to fully embrace the Real You.