How to Develop Your Identity

Level One – Bad  …
You feel like a “nobody”—unimportant. 
Level Two – Worse
You feel like you don’t know who you are.
Level Three – Worst
You want to disappear.
Very often in messy marriages, one or sometimes both people feel one of these ways. I think I’ve visited all three of these levels at one time or another in my life and marriage. Perhaps you find yourself falling into one or more of these categories …
So, how do you get out of this ever-darkening hole of nothingness? 

Black hole

Well, it didn’t happen overnight, so it certainly won’t be fixed by the time you finish reading this post! But here are some important tasks to add to your already long Christmas “To-Do List” …
1.  Pay attention to how you feel and don’t suppress or deny those feelings.
This means you need to get specific about what you’re feeling. Don’t just say to yourself, “Well, I’m feeling sad” and let that be it. Explore whether you’re feeling depression, grief, even perhaps anger, etc. In fact, you may be feeling several feelings. That’s often the case. But then go on to ask yourself “Why am I feeling this way?”
2.  Express your feelings (appropriately) to other trusted people and especially to God.
Do this when the feeling happens, if you can express it appropriately. But if you can’t, then turn to God to help you sort through the pain—finding comfort and perspective as you lean into Him.
3.  Set boundaries when needed.
Yes, just the simple act of setting boundaries can help define who you are. Each time you do it, you not only help others to understand who you are, you help yourself to feel more aware and confident in who you are separate from them.
4.  Reflect on what you like and dislike.
The best way to do this is by making a list. Writing it down makes the realities you explore about yourself more obvious and concrete. List everything that makes you unique—even weird! List the things that you won’t put up with or want to avoid. Boil it down to the convictions you have about life, God, and relationships, perhaps making it into a mission statement for your life. Then review it regularly.
5.  Cultivate your passions and talents.
You may not feel like you have either of those things, if you’re truly “missing in action.” But there is something you enjoy. Intentionally spend time doing whatever that is regularly.
6.  Follow your internal convictions rather than trying to please everyone.
Just remember the old adage, “If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one.” It saps the lifeblood out of relationships, as well as, your healthy sense of self.
7.  Anchor your identity in whose you are.
If you are a believer, then the God of the universe has chosen you, indwells you and loves you with His life.
You might not think that all of this is important, but let me remind you of some of the consequences of losing yourself …
On a personal level, it can lead to everything from eating disorders to addictions. Relationally, it often leads to a lack of empathy, communication problems and little or no intimacy.
Is this what “you” want for your life and marriage?
I didn’t think so! 
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

Photo by Elsie esq. (Flickr)

Today’s Post is Linked to – No Ordinary Blog Hop 
and my favorite other blog …

  • what a lovely and helpful ministry you have. many blessings to you!

  • Ro elliott

    This is a very practical and helpful…I am walking right now with 3 friends through the rough waters of marriage…there is such truth here…thanks for sharing…

  • This is so logical, and I do admire people like you who are able to think through important things in such a systematic way. I have a lot to learn from you. But I do have to be a little contrary and suggest that, also, there are sometimes for losing ourselves? I gain so much from losing and then finding, experiencing deeply during the times of “lost”… as long as there’s a time of finding at the other end…

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much for saying! I’ll have to give your blog a visit today too!

  • messymarriage

    You’re welcome, Ro. I’m so glad you found it practical and helpful. I will pray for you and your friends, that God would use you to minister to their weary hearts. So glad we share the same passion!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks for the encouragement, Kati. And you are right, there is something to said for “losing yourself” at times. But I have to say that what I’m writing about is different. Losing your identity is an unhealthy place to be. It leads to codependent relationships and disharmony both internally and externally.

  • Love this. Great tips. Much for me to ponder today.

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    it is so easy to loose yourself in other people’s ideas of you, and so hard sometimes to find your way back. great tips!

  • I love how practical you are with your advice. This is good stuff, Beth. Thanks for being a beacon of light.

  • messymarriage

    Great! Thanks for stopping by and saying, Heather. Next stop, your blog! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, it is, Tara. Especially if you have a compliant nature to begin with and are around some “take-charge” or controlling people. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  • messymarriage

    And thank you, Lisa, for sharing some encouragement with me. Now, I’m on the fast track to check out your insightful words!

  • Definitely something I can relate to! I am now trying to navigate through some of this with a new baby. I feel like the mommy part of me needs to find a balance with the rest of me. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Chasenajsmom

    Numbers 3 and 6 sound so simple, but SUCH a challenge for me. I really had to relearn a lot. When My husband and I were in pre marital counselling, our counselor remarked to me, ” you need to find out who the heck you are”. I was SO OFFENDED by that statement, but he was RIGHT. If I don’t stand on my own two feet instead of codependently leaning on my human husband, I’ll fall eventually and be angry with him for it. Great Post Again, Beth!

  • Wow these are great. When marriage gets tough we start looking to blame. Is it him? Is it me? I can tell you, when I love myself I find it much easier to believe he loves me and I can love him back. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Oh yeah. Motherhood can be a big contributor or factor in “losing yourself” in a not so good kind of way. I’m glad you see that issue cropping up now, so that you can implement some proactive strategies to keep from falling into that “deep, dark hole,” Venessa. I will certainly pray for you in this! Thanks for coming by and I’ll be by “your place” soon!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, it usually overtakes you in such a subtle and slow way that you don’t recognize when you’re in “the hole.” But going to a counselor is another great way to climb out, so thanks for being real and sharing about that facet of rediscovery, Kimberly. And also for encouraging me here on this slice of cyberspace! *Hugs*

  • messymarriage

    You are so right! We need to feel whole to be able to wholly give ourselves to our spouses/others. Thankfully, the “Holy One” can help us to regain our lives. He is, after all, the Great Redeemer! Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, “Happygirl.” You’ve made me happy too!

  • this made me want to cry. such freedom in this post friend. thank you.

  • Matthew Shedd

    Very much new here, but this was a great help and encouragement for me. Thank you for giving me some ideas to start actually figuring myself out.

  • messymarriage

    As always, Emily, you warm my heart!

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad you found MM and glad it encouraged you too, Matthew. I hope these strategies help! Thanks for stopping by and hope to hear from you again!

  • Claire

    Yes, who we are in Christ… when that revelation sets in… wow! Thanks for your posting, Beth!

  • Kim Hall

    Thank you for all the wisdom and hope you offer to married couples, whether they are in difficulty or in love. There is always something to learn, to do better, to tweak.

  • Ourhomeschoolreviews

    Great points! Thanks for linking up to the NOBH!! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much for stopping by and saying! I hope your Christmas is extra special!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks, Kim! I appreciate your sweet encouragement!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, if only that revelation would set in and “stay set in.” haha! I seem to have a little trouble keeping that one in place. Maybe I should quit “trying” and start trusting! Thanks for stopping by, Claire, and encouraging me.