David Benner, a psychologist and author of the book “The Gift of Being Yourself”, defines identity as “who we experience ourselves to be – the I each of us carries within.” Identity is the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create our sense of self. We are continually shaping our identity and who we are, especially as young adults.
It includes the relationships people cultivate – such as one’s identity as a friend, child, or partner. Identity involves the characteristics we have that we have little control over, like our height and race. Most importantly, our identity encompasses our political opinions, moral attitudes, and religious beliefs, all of which guide the choices one makes daily.
You will often feel pressure to define who you are through your job, successes, grades, appearance, financial status, or what other people say about you. To make it easy, you might try to take on a generic image that appeals to you – glamourous, tough, bohemian, or edgy. But these cultural images alone are superficial and quickly fleeting. They do not help define your values or give you a moral compass for making big decisions.
The very foundation of our identity is easily shaken when faced with failure, loss, or other stressors. It results in us scrambling to redefine ourselves by something or someone else. We cannot have a stable sense of self when we place our identity in external things. We may receive an overwhelming number of messages telling us to define ourselves by external measures, but what would it look like to base our identity in our spiritual selves?
What is your spiritual identity?
Your sense of spirituality is one of the most important aspects of being your true self. For some, this identity will come from a specific religion. For others, it can come from a sense of connection to the earth or universe or being a part of something greater than yourself. Having a personal sense of spirituality is one of the most important steps to happiness because it gives life meaning. Without it, life can seem empty and without purpose. People who are not spiritual can feel lost, alone, and unsure of who they are.
For example, you might highly value feeling like you belong or that you are accepted. You can get that sense of belonging if you have expensive things, are involved in a club, or have a large group of friends. This could instantly be shaken if you moved and lost touch with people you were close to. You might struggle to feel accepted in your new school and ask yourself if something is wrong with you. Your spiritual identity, though, might ask: “Have you ever wondered if it’s possible for you to belong just because you are you?” Outside influences will not shake it. You would come out of the experience of moving feeling confident that you belong, even if you do not have others to reaffirm it.
People who are unsure of themselves can become slaves to their feelings because they are constantly reacting to the world around them, rather than responding with thoughtful choices. Our emotions are not always logical or rational, but our spiritual compass is. When you have a strong sense of spiritual self, you can face life’s ups and downs without shaking your understanding of who you are. You will have a solid foundation that stays the same no matter what changing circumstances uproot your feelings.
You might not know what spiritual path you want to take, but throughout the journey, you will gain a greater sense of self. You define what matters the most to you, and act on those values with each decision you make. Do not put so much weight into what other people think or say, and instead turn inward to discover who you are.