If I asked, “Who are you?” how would you answer? I have found the default answer almost always centers on career or parenthood. “I’m an accountant.” “I’m a mother.” “I’m an actress.” “I’m a doctor.” “I’m a writer.” This may be true, but even if you have the most important job in the world, like caring for your children, this is not who you really are. Take it from a father who dearly loves his four adult children. If you define your identity by your children, once they leave the nest, you will be lost.
Who we are is much more than what we do. It is about what drives us, what motivates us, what fuels us to wake up each day with joy and meaning. I believe it’s ultimately God’s purpose for our lives. In Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy Wilson says, “people are forced to construct theories about their own personalities from other sources, such as what they learn from their parents, their culture, and yes, ideas about who they prefer to be.
In other words, our perception of our Self is often based on a narrative we create from all the clues around (culture, family, social circles) and inside (unconscious feelings and behaviors) of us.
We may be so highly influenced by peer expectations that we shape a narrative that fits into what others perceive we should be. However, there is a major rub in doing this. When the story you tell about your Self is not authentic and not consistent with who you really are, you get confused and stuck between two conflicting worlds and create your own Self-generated chaotic matrix. Even worse, when you tell your Self a negative story about you, these very thoughts wire your brain to become who you think you are. That is why I always emphasize that:
We believe the stories we tell our Selves so be very careful what you consistently tell your Self.
The trick is to find the real narrative, the one deep within you that represents who you really are, how you really feel, and what truly brings meaning to your life. Repeatedly telling yourself negative stories and perceptions driven by your fears and anxieties will only strengthen those pathways within the wiring of your brain. This in turn will prevent you from finding your real narrative and purpose. For nearly twenty years, James Pennebaker, esteemed professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and author of several books, including Writing to Heal, studied the impact of writing Self-narratives on the mental and physical health of individuals. He discovered how the simple act of writing about our lives, including our honest thoughts and challenging experiences, is a pathway to healing, Self-development, and overall well-being. Common threads of emotional dysfunctions and addictions appear, but patterns of purpose and passion also emerge, bringing to light a truer picture of our Self.
For me, writing my story helped me identify and name the primary emotional issues that were preventing me from living a life of joy and freedom. It also helped me to understand my primary passion, and realize my joy comes from helping those less fortunate than me.
Once my life and daily activities were aligned with this passion, my life was beautifully transformed into what I believe God intended when He envisioned me.