Owning My Identity

When I sat down to write this article after weeks of thinking and making notes to myself I couldn’t compress my ideas into one article. I wrote one draft explaining the sort of identity crisis I have experienced in the last few months and resulting conflict and existential questions I have about where I fit into the world. Then I wrote another draft from a more doctrinal, intellectual perspective using teachings from the Writings about the intentional infinite variety that the Lord created resulting in the unending distinction of individual identities. I wrote another about the contentment and security in my own identity that has grown and developed in my years of being a stay-at-home mom and the peace that has come in that process.

Each draft held significant portions of my thoughts, each shared some of the profound realizations I have had in the weeks of thinking about this article. But I couldn’t get any one version to hold them all.

In talking through my article yesterday with some friends something was pointed out to me – part of my dissatisfaction was that all of these versions of reflections on identity are true and existing inside of me, even as they are in conflict and harmony with each other. Each version of my article felt true on its own, but still somehow lacked the punch I wanted. I think that was because, on their own, each one was too simple to hold the complete complexity of my reflections. Here’s my attempt to bring together those three drafts.

Over the last few months I have run into a boundary of what is required of my children (and therefore our whole family) by the school that they go to. I didn’t anticipate it, and it has thrown my sense of self into a spiral. It has brought on what I’ve decided to hold as something of an identity crisis for myself and my family. Questions about my goals in parenting and decisions for my children have all come crashing in on me. In particular, the purpose of education and extra activities both for my children and even myself, and how those things are developing and changing as my older children grow out of the small children phase.  My brain exploded. Now it feels like a flood of new and tense conversations need to happen between my husband and I. I need to seek out perspective from other people whose choices in these areas I respect. Now. Because the reality of my brain and anxiety means that I’m aware of these questions and that they will affect every. single. daily. decision.

Who am I? What do I stand for? What are my chosen priorities? And who are we as a family? What do we chose to stand up and fight for in the world? Are those intentions being reflected in our priorities when the rubber hits the road?

In pondering these things I found this passage from True Christianity 32:2, 6

“No one’s character is completely like another’s. As the saying goes, there are as many opinions as there are people. Therefore no mind, that is, no will and intellect, is the same as another or similar in every way. As a result, no one’s speech is identical to anyone else’s, either in tone or in the thought behind it. Nor does anyone’s action copy another’s to a T, either in manner or in the emotion and inclination behind it. This infinite variety as well is like a mirror in which we can see the infinity of God the Creator.” ….
“The angelic heaven and also hell have made the infinity of God even more obvious to me. God has arranged and ordered both places into countless communities and groups according to every type of love for good or love for evil, allotting every individual a location according to what she or he loves. All members of the human race have gathered there since the creation of the world; they will continue to gather there throughout the ages of ages. Although each person has his or her own place and situation, still all who are there have such a partnership with each other that the entire angelic heaven is like one divine human being, and the entirety of hell is like one monstrous devil.”

This passage comforts me as it confirms there isn’t one right answer, one right way to be. There isn’t one “solution” to these questions. The world around me can’t and won’t assign me a passing or failing grade. We are SUPPOSED to be different, creating infinite variety. And yet, even in heaven and hell those differences allow each person to have a specific location in a group and community. We are designed to live in community. Communities are intentionally different and, in attempting to gain clarity about my own identity crisis, part of what I need is to sort out which trajectory I’m on. Which loves and affections I’m prioritizing, and what group I am aligning with. What societal changes I and my family are working together to take a stand on. What community we want to help in growing and developing.

And even as I face this particular identity crisis I can see other parts of my self that have become secure and that I am content in. As a young stay-at-home mom I felt external pressure that surely this life decision could not be fulfilling. I must need more. There must be more to my identity;  moms lose their identity to mommy-hood and this must obviously be true for me too. For years I didn’t find a clear boundary there. I lived with one foot in each world, excusing or embracing my choices depending on the opinions of the person I was talking to. I couldn’t cope with more completely representing myself on either side because I hadn’t found my own boundaries.

Almost a year ago at a baby stimulation class with my youngest child the teacher asked each mom to put a bean bag on their baby’s head. She talked about how this teaches body awareness. It helps them learn the boundaries of their own body. “I end here.” Babies learn how to interact with the world through learning where their own bodies end and the rest of the world begins. Something in that moment struck me powerfully – that there is an emotional and mental boundary too. I am me, and I end here. The rest of the individuals in the world, society and it’s pressures and influences, they are there. I am here.

Finding that boundary of where we meet allows me the freedom to have my identity and discover where I align with others and define where I don’t. And that clarity and boundary allows me to choose where and when to back off, change my opinions, allow parts of myself to die off or to choose to stand up and care and fight for something I believe in with confidence. It feels like a comically obvious but profound realization for me – by not having to be everything I am free to be anything – I get to choose the particular combination.

I have found a real security and contentment in the mom part of my identity as this sense of myself has developed over the last few years. I can appreciate other mothers’ decisions and still hold my own. I am able to powerfully own my choices to be a stay-at-home mom and the roles that I fill in my job. I am passionate about it and satisfied in it, and I don’t need to side step that part of myself.

Working on owning and defining my identity has been an incredibly powerful, anxious, uncertain, and conflictingly wholesome process these last few months. Thanks for sharing in that process with me by reading.

About Abby Smith

Abby is a person. She works at being an emotionally intelligent person whose main focus currently is being a happy and loving mother to four kids and wife to Malcolm. Born and raised in a General church minister's family, she has been exposed to the Bible and the Writings since childhood but is enjoying reading and understanding these books as an adult more and more. The amazing knowledge about love and wisdom and all of the emotions that follow have truly made her a happier and more self-assured person. Her husband serves as the head pastor of New Church Westville near Durban, South Africa. While leaving family behind is a challenge, she quite enjoys living in Africa.

2 thoughts on “Owning My Identity

  1. Thanks to your article, I have been thinking about my own identity and who I am and want to be. I definitely feel that feeling empowered as a mum, or a career woman, or whoever you decide to be according to what you value most, is very important for us to be able to move forward.

    Thank you for some insight to start me in a new direction on my own journey! I often am swayed by other peoples opinions, but I found recently that I don’t have to be. I can listen, I can hear but I don’t always have to agree. I love the expression, to agree to disagree. It is important to have your own opinions and to be authentic and genuine in those opinions. No one person is ‘right’ but each has some perspective to bring to the conversation. Being more curious about another’s opinion is great but I like that you don’t have to take it on…

  2. Cool, Abby; thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. (I’m so glad that you’re so happy with being a stay-at-home mom!) I’ve had similar identity crises, too – especially since a stay-at-home mom is assumed to have charges at home with her! :\ – and I’m not sure I’ve resolved them……. I guess I’m just stuck in the middle, but relatively blissfully so, fortunately. Thanks for pulling your various trains of thought together for us, in this article; I thought it came out well. And I hope that your school conflict has resolved itself satisfactorily?…..

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