Today’s world seems to present us with options of who we should be rather than aiding us in discovering ourselves as individuals. This occurs as social media, entertainment, and societal stereotypes perpetuate the idolized goal of belonging to something other than ourselves. In that process of belonging, one can easily lose themselves and, in fact, become a false version of their own true self. Our need to mold our lives to appear to be #goals causes us to try and morph ourselves into things we are not and into things we think others will better like. In this deconstruction of the self, we lose our own identity and, even worse, our connection to God.
While growing up, our personal identities seem to be filtered through a flow chart or tree diagram as we choose certain paths. There is no Venn diagram in which there is a cross between different sectors of our lives. If you are one thing, then you must also be everything else that is associated with that. This societal behavior seems to pervade all aspects of the identity: gender, faith, sexuality, political ideologies, hobbies, interests, talents, etc. However, this societal pressure begins to be uncomfortable sometimes. It is like trying to fit our size-XXL personalities into a child’s extra small.
Throughout this process, one begins to feel like a hollow shell covered by the excess of this society and world. If you are doing it “right”, then you are closer than others to fulfilling that specific, widely accepted type of person. There is nothing sadder than this end goal. We are too often caught up in weaving a certain ambiance around us that we ignore the true self-discovery that God calls us to pursue. The futile pursuance of becoming something that we are not leads to that satisfaction Himes warns us about. When we finally attain that goal, we are satisfied that we are that person who gets 1,000 likes on Instagram and makes it onto the public, popular page. We may be satisfied, yet we are the farthest point from feeling fulfilled.
I, in fact, was caught up in this pursuit of satisfaction when I should have been striving for fulfilling restlessness in discovering God in myself. When I was younger, I thought that, since I was a boy, I was doing something wrong if I did not like sports or video games and preferred theater and the arts. To complicate the matter even further, I discovered I was gay, which obviously did not well match my criteria for being a good, Catholic boy. I spent years morphing myself into something I was not until I finally came out as gay. Paradoxically, I then spent too much time on trying to fit the mold of being the “perfect gay”: stylish, appearance-obsessed, somewhat feminine, and the GBF (gay best friend) to all the girls. I eventually realized I was still caught up in the same pursuit of satisfaction rather than discovering my true identity.
If anything aggravates God the most, I bet it is the frustration of seeing His unique, individual creations that He has deemed as good pursuing to be something other than their beautiful selves. Every single human being reflects and embodies the reality of God, yet humans strive to morph into a mold that many others are also trying to fit into as well. This eliminates the diversity of humanity and even rejects the majesty of God in each of us. If this goes unchecked, humanity will be driven farther and farther from the God of their identities; rather, they will fall into the idolatry of worshipping the false self.
In order to address this personal identity crisis, the change must begin being made at the individual level. Society is made up of individuals, thus the individual is they key to addressing society. There is so much beauty in being individualistic. Discovering our own likes and dislikes makes us unique; however, this uniqueness seems to scare people. They do not want to be the outsider or different, but God calls us to live out this individuality for it exemplifies the dignity in our diversity. People must be able to feel comfortable in who they identify as in order to be confident in standing up and professing, “This is who I am.”
I strive to be individualistic in order to make others feels confident in who they are as well. I am a gay, male, politically moderate, Catholic creature of God. Some of this may seem contradictory but God made me this way so it cannot be skewed despite what society may say. As others realize this same conclusion, we can begin to recognize the God in each other. God reflects Himself in all humanity; therefore, He embodies “I am who I am,” Once we can say that, “I am who I am,” then we have recognized God in ourselves and we can recognize that same God in others. We can understand that the struggles we face each day in society do not hold up against the beauty of our true identity: restless and unique beloveds of God. This is true confidence. Posting a selfie that gets a million shares, wearing the trendiest outfit, or flaunting our “perfect” bodies is not confidence. Seeing the diversity of God in our own individual identity as valuable and worthy of dignity is true confidence.