The term identity is one commonly used by developmental psychologists and researchers when referencing an individuals sense of ‘differentness’ or ‘likeness’ with others. Ones identity is often tossed around with terms like ego strength, self-esteem, individuality, etc. Many individuals find that they need to ‘send’ or ‘broadcast’ a given set of values or beliefs in order to find their true identity and selfhood. The fact of the matter is, semantics aside, that all of us as human beings are complex and unique. There really is no other human being exactly like you. Not one with the same feelings, relationships, hurts, history, and passions. So, if finding ones identity as we may call it, is a function of comparing oneself to others or contrasting with others. This process of comparing/contrasting yourself with others is an analysis of things are are external to you. The problem lies in this, the fact that when you identify yourself with the external, which is not you, then you miss the very uniqueness that makes you different and YOU!
I think specifically of a former client that said she had lost herself. She spoke that she didn’t know who she was or what she stood for. I asked her who she thought she might be and she launched into a monologue about other women in her neighborhood and what they are and what they are not and almost exclusively used the ‘external’ to better define who she was. To complicate it further, she had spent so much time with her kids and meeting their needs that she did not find time to engage in what I call self-care, the care we must take for ourselves in order to be healthy in our relationships. She came to learn through the counseling process that who she is, is an inner journey and that when using others to define who we are and who we are not she ended up loosing focus on her own talents, strengths, and sense of uniqueness.As long as you continue to define who and what you are by what you are not, you end up in a process whereby you swap your one-and-only uniqueness for similarity. Thus, in the process you find that you in fact give up your identity and never catch the vision of your unique self. Start looking in. What are your strengths, what do you do well, what are you passionate about, what really drives you, what do you value beyond all else? These questions and others can help you determine, independent of others, who you are and what comprises your true identity.