Our “sense of self” might be described as our understanding of who we are, our make-up, wiring, preferences, and areas of strength and growth. Knowing these things and being able to communicate them can be beneficial both personally and professionally.
Here’s a question to explore: Where and how does our sense of self develop? In our society, we often buy into a false sense of self – a list of “supposed to’s”, like who we are supposed to be or how we are supposed to look. There’s no doubt that image sells. Advertisers make loads of money each year banking on that. However, if we work from the raw materials inside rather than the false overlay, this is when we get the best of who we were created to be.
So what influences our sense of self? There’s a tendency in our humanness to use the externals of life to give us a sense of self: profession, performance, looks, material possessions, relationship status, circumstances and other people’s reactions or opinions of us. Our sense of self will feel like a roller coaster if we base it on these things.
What would it be like if we based our sense of self on something more stable – something more assured? These might be things like our gifts, skills and abilities, passions, and – most importantly- who God says we are. While the externals do contribute towards our identity and can hold great value in our life, it’s reassuring to know that a sense of who you are does not have to be based on someone’s opinion or the circumstances of the day. Instead of allowing the outside world to dictate the inside, we could try living from the inside out.
How can we cultivate a sense of self internally?
- Put off the old self, put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22,24). Read, meditate on, and walk in the belief that what God says about us is true. He loves us (John 3:16), He delights over us (Zephaniah 3:17), He is completing a good work in us (Philippians 1:6).
- Catch yourself and fight against the negative talk in your head that might be self-defeating.
- Take time to explore the things you are passionate about and get involved in those areas.
- Sit down with trusted friends or family and ask what gifts and abilities they see in you.
- Try new things that push you out of your comfort zone and have fun with it! You never know, you may discover a skill or passion you never knew you had.
Developing a healthy sense of self does take work but it holds great rewards. It can hold new places of confidence, great joy, and the freedom to live out who God created you to be in a way that matches your authentic, genuine self.