I often hear from my clients that they don’t know who they are. Part of the process of counseling is helping my clients define who they are and what that means. It is important to understand that our identity (who we are) is not stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving as human beings. It is also important to understand that people are complex beings containing many dimensions. A combination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences combine to make us who we are.
It has been my observation that most people identify who they are by the roles they play in life (father, sister, wife, parent, a profession). In reality, these roles do not define who we and are not stable over time. They describe what we are doing at a given time in our lives. If we define ourselves by our roles and one or more of our roles change, we lose our identity. I have experienced this and I found myself searching for an identity. Our identity cannot be tied to only what is currently happening in our lives.
Our identity cannot be tied to one event or period in our lives. This leads to being tied to the past. Example: the person at the high school reunion who identifies him or herself by their time in high school. Our lives are not a snap shot. Our lives are more like a feature film lasting many decades that include our accumulated experiences. We have our successes and our failures. We have all made mistakes over the course of our lives. It is important not to define ourselves any specific events.
Our identity is not determined by how others define us. Some people will like us and others will not. Some people will agree with what we say and do. Other people will not agree. Their opinions in many cases have little to do with who we are and more to do with who they are.
Who we are is an internal process and not about the external. For me, identity is what my values and beliefs are (and those have changed over the years). It is my thoughts and feelings as well how I perceive things (and myself) to be. From this I can determine my purpose in life and not have it determined for me.