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Losing your identity as a child can affect you for many, many years and impact all aspects of your relationships, including your relationship with God. Knowing who you are in Christ and what the Bible says about you can be extremely healing.
So let’s look at some of the things God has to say about you that can replace what you lost and heal wounds from years of not having a clear view of who you are!
Losing Your Identity
My Childhood in the City
When I was 12 years old, my family made the move from Manhattan to Long Island. It was not a move I was happy about at all.
I had friends in Manhattan that I knew for nearly my whole life. I attended a private school where I was in the gifted program (yeah…that didn’t last long!) so I got to spend a chunk of my day in special classes.
The other chunk I spent being a runner for two of my teachers (who clearly had a crush) who wanted to send notes to each other. Nothing inappropriate of course. It was mostly a cute kind of bantering back and forth. I enjoyed reading them (they did not attempt to hide them as they were innocent enough and they were both single) and I enjoyed being their chosen messenger even more!
So school was always so much fun for me!
I used to love going to block parties all summer with my friends. My mother never knew where I was and that was ok; everyone watched everyone else’s kids in the neighborhood and we all knew to be home when the street lights came on.
It was the late 70’s after all and it was a simpler time!
I enjoyed chasing the ice cream man down the street after my mother would hurl a sandwich bag of coins out of our 3rd story window!
Then there was my older sister going to get the infamous wrench from the fire department so she could open up the fire hydrant for us kids to play in! In the evening, a big truck would roll down the street with rides on its bed; rides like the Whip and a small roller coaster.
Some days my sister and I would bike down to Fort Tryon Park and visit the Cloisters. Other days we might go to High Bridge and go swimming in the huge pools!
In the evening, my grandmother would come out with her lawn chair and sit on the curb, chatting with friends and family. We lived in an apartment building with family members on various floors, as well as across the street.
While she sat chatting with everyone, I would play kick the can, the dreaded Red Rover, or tag with my friends.
I might see my older cousin Danny coming down the street. I would spot that red hair from a distance and run over and jump up on him! He would catch me and then perch me up on top of the mailbox that I always tried desperately to climb up on by myself with little success.
Summer in Manhattan was like living in a big amusement park surrounded by everyone I loved.
I Don’t Want to Move
No, I did not want to leave the city. Ever.
But leave we did.
My mother and stepfather both ran a department in a company that was relocating to Long Island and so we relocated as well.
Suburbs? What was that? No, I didn’t want any part of it!
You mean I can’t just walk a block to my favorite pizza place or down the street to the candy store? No block parties? No kick the can? There were no kids? Nope, I don’t want to move!
I had to go to a new school where I was not in a gifted program because it was a public school; there was none. I was in a huge class and surrounded by faces I did not know, and that seemed to not want to know this kid from the city.
I felt out of place. Everything I identified with was gone! Losing your identity is tough enough for anyone but especially for a child who is soon entering their teens and struggling with who they are anyway!
I was no longer the person I was in the city. I no longer had friends.
Losing Your Identity – Who Is the Real Me?
I wanted to make friends and fit in, but the kids on Long Island were different than the kids in the city. I didn’t know how to relate to them. They liked different things and had different activities than I was used to.
They dressed differently. I had always worn a uniform to school. Now all of a sudden I had to worry about dressing in a certain style for school.
They seemed a bit reluctant to accept this new girl from the city.
So I would create a “me” that people would like so that I could make friends.
I went through my life, from about the age of 13, not knowing the real me.
Have you ever met someone and ended up picking up characteristics from their personality? I did that ALL the time!
My sassiness came from my friend Stacy.
The love of being fashionable and in style? That came from my friend Robin.
My love of makeup? Well, I think that one is mine. Oh well, you get the point!
Who is the real me?
I spent the greater part of my life taking aspects of people’s personalities and I realized, I didn’t know who I was!
I was not authentically me! It wasn’t me, it was some sort of conglomeration of everyone I was or tried to be friends with.
I lost my identity at a very young age and, while I managed to eventually fit in with friends in school, it wasn’t as me! Even though not intentional, losing your identity means you wear a mask!
Not knowing who you are in Christ means that mask not only stays on but it evolves over time depending on who you are with.
When You Don’t Fit Into the World Around You
The real me didn’t fit in anywhere anymore.
My family? No, I didn’t fit in there.
I felt like an outcast because my stepfather had his own daughters, my stepsisters. He had his son, my brother. He and my mother had been married before and divorced. During their time apart, my mother married my father and had me. They divorced a few years later and she remarried my stepfather, who had also been married to someone else and had my two step-sisters.
So he had children of his own and I never felt like I was good enough; like I was always compared. I felt like I was just someone he inherited. We never got along once I reached my teen years.
Yes, I had my biological dad, who adored me, but he lived over an hour away now and he passed when I was only 21.
When I was older, I didn’t fit in within my marriages. I have been married before, more than once.
I went from marriage to marriage before I was saved, always looking for someone to fill that need for acceptance. Always looking for someone who would love me unconditionally and make me feel accepted.
Not knowing who you are in Christ opens up a door for you to look for who you are in other people’s eyes. The problem with that is everyone will always have a different expectation of who you should be.
Losing your identity makes it more difficult for you to know if someone is right for you, and it makes it difficult for them to even know who THEY are married to.
No matter where I wound up, I didn’t feel I fit in!
You see, I was focused on fitting in within the world but knowing who I am in Christ is something God placed in me, not what the world told me I was! I was looking in the wrong places to mold who I was as a person. I should have looked to God.
Lack of Empathy in Relationships
This search for who I was in the wrong places always ended up creating problems.
I never learned to be empathetic or even sympathetic with people because I was too busy sponging from them the parts I admired and trying and trying to develop my own identity.
I couldn’t identify with them because I didn’t even have an identity of my own!
It’s hard to walk a mile in someone’s shoes when you are too busy trying on everyone else’s!
How can you even begin to identify with someone’s feelings when you can’t even identify with yourself?
My multiple marriages never worked out because, not only did I keep choosing the wrong people, I could not even put myself in a position of understanding THEIR feelings.
As I said earlier, not knowing your spiritual identity makes it difficult for you to discern if someone is right for you because you don’t even know who you are! How can you determine that someone is the perfect person for you if you don’t even know yourself? How can you feel empathy for a spouse when you can’t even figure out your own feelings?
A lack of empathy really came from a lack of spiritual identity. Losing your identity means it is far more difficult to feel toward people because you are just looking at them to fill a void in your own identity, not getting to really know them or theirs.
Knowing Who You Are In Christ
I was always looking for the world and other people to give me my identity and not going to the source of who I am!
It made sense when I wasn’t saved because I didn’t know that source, but once I WAS saved I should have begun to find that identity in the Word instead of struggling with not knowing who I am in Christ.
But, instead of going to the Word to find my identity, I was picking and choosing aspects of other people that I liked and tried to make them my own. After all, if I liked that about their personality, wouldn’t that mean other people would like that about me too? Here I was, repeating the same old pattern.
When you’ve experienced losing your identity as a child, it doesn’t just magically go away when you get saved.
I wasn’t worried about the importance of knowing who you are in Christ. I was seeking the approval of man instead of seeking the approval of God. I was believing that who God made me wasn’t good enough just because I had been rejected by one or two people in my life, regardless of how influential (or not) those people may have been.
The problem was, I never allowed anyone to know the real me because there was no real me! Not knowing who you are in Christ and losing your identity is like walking around with an empty cup waiting for other people to fill it.
I was still looking to people to define me, even as a Christian.
Knowing Who You Are in Christ – Who God Created Me to Be
Not knowing who you are in Christ, losing your identity that HE placed in you, means you are constantly morphing because it is not who God made you! So you will always be looking for yourself! He didn’t make me to mirror other people!
I got tired of constantly evolving into someone else and I got tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. Losing your identity can create that despondency because you just get exhausted by trying to keep up with who you are TODAY!
Here I was wanting to serve God in ministry but I could not do that without authenticity. I needed to silence the enemy and his lies and really embrace who God made me to be, not who I felt other people would like and accept.
Once I allowed God to do that work in me, once I allowed myself to find the authentic voice in me, that real me began to emerge.
Not knowing who you are in Christ, losing your identity through either childhood experiences or through things that happened in your adult life, doesn’t have to be a life sentence! You CAN find your spiritual identity and live authentically you, fully and securely knowing who you are in Christ! You can do that by studying His Word and seeing what HE says about who you are and then mirroring that instead of other people.
I am now much better at knowing who I am in Christ! Yes, I sometimes still struggle with it but I know where to go when that happens!
Knowing Who I am in Christ -So Who Does God Say I Am?
Colossians 1:22 - Holy and blameless
Colossians 2:10 - Complete
1 Corinthians 2:16 - Possessing the mind of Christ
Romans 5:17 - Reigning in life
Mark 16:17-18 - Possessing the power of the Holy Spirit
Colossians 3:10 - Renewed
Jeremiah 1:5 - Formed, known, set apart
Have you had experiences with losing your identity in the past? Comment below if you’d like and share how God helped you find who you are in Him!
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