Who am I? That is the underlying and fundamental question that guides our existence. For the most part, when you ask someone who they are, they automatically lead with their vocation, their relationship status, or some mentioning of their children. It is no accident that people lead with this. American culture pushes these things as social status indicators. They are markers of success in our society. Whether people like it or not, they see a status distinction between a cashier at Walmart and a neurosurgeon. It is just how we have been conditioned to think. We believe these things contribute to our identity, but in reality, they may be a barrier to us truly understanding ourselves. In my life, I have met women who thought their identity would be solidified if they got married and had a family only to realize years later in the depths of depression that what they thought would complete them really prevented them from discovering who they really were. I have met men and women that were ladder climbers. They were always reaching towards the next degree and the next higher rung professionally only to discover that the emptiness they so desperately tried to avoid was not filled with a larger paycheck and more letters behind their name. It seems the quest for identity for some takes them further away from who they really are. The one thing that all of the people who lack personal identity have in common is that they look to the externals to complete them and they fail to look within themselves. Carl Jung once said: “Those who look outside of themselves dream while those who look within themselves awake.” The key to our personal identity is not found in the externals. It is found within us. The externals are merely an expression of our internal process. Our identity is constantly evolving and growing if we are living a healthy and meaningful life. It is a living and breathing organism within us with no other goal than to bloom to its full beauty and reach its full potential. The natural outcome of this process is that an individual improves society and makes everyone and everything around them better. This happens not just from effort, but really is the product of one having a healthy identity. So, when you are looking at yourself, your activities, and your identity you need to ask yourself what it all is based on. Are you working within society’s version of what makes someone successful or are you looking inward and forging your own path? Do you feel fulfilled or is there still a sense of hollow emptiness inside? When do you feel joy?…not just happiness, but pure unadulterated joy? If you have no joy, that is also indicative of a problem. If you do have joy, engaging in those activities that give you joy are important to the journey within and towards your true identity. Always work to be yourself…to be authentic…to be vulnerable. For in this, we become the fullest and most beautiful version of ourselves and in doing so, we help the world around us and make it a better place. As daunting as it can be, we should never be afraid to look within ourselves. The world has enough successful people. What it lacks are truly authentic, integrated, and compassionate individuals. The path to become this takes effort, but the payoff is great. Nothing matches the realization and the fulfillment of who you were created to be. Like the petals of a rose unfolding is the tender and fragile beauty that comes with identity. Perhaps the whole purpose of life is to find our true and authentic identity. As I see it, then, and only then do we have something to truly give the world.-

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