For most of my life, I saw myself as the responsible oldest daughter, the reliable friend, the good student, and then the successful career woman. That was my identity. That's how I defined myself. Beginning in my teen years, I also tied my identity to how I looked, what I ate, how much I exercised, and how everyone around me perceived me. I was a mess, stuck in the cycle of an eating disorder and disordered eating, continually trying to be good enough.
But when Jesus boldly interjected Himself into my life, things began to change. Through these past few years of wholeheartedly following Christ, He’s shown me how quickly I misplace my identity. Through His grace and mercy, He gently reminds me my identity isn’t in my appearance, my job, or my relationship status. It’s not from my success as a mother or wife. Not from the number of likes or followers on my Instagram.
My identity comes from Him and Him alone.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). The key to our salvation is not when we do X amount of good deeds or when we finally have it all together. He says we’ll be saved when we believe in Him! And as saved people, we take on a whole new identity in Christ.
Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” God claims this over everyone of His believers. We know from the very first book of the Bible that we were created in His image (Gen. 1:27). This is no small thing. We were created with specific traits to reflect the character of God. He didn’t create us to live as lost, hopeless children. He created us to live full, whole, free lives in Jesus Christ.
So how do we root ourselves in Christ and this new identity? Below are four practical steps I’ve learned and am still using as I fight against misplaced identity:
1. Study the Word.
All the things that the world says make us who we are—our bodies, our relationships, our bank accounts, our social media profiles, you name it—are going to change. Think about how clothing styles and beauty trends have shifted just in our lifetime. If we place our identities in things, we will never be content.
Unlike culture, God doesn’t change. We need to study the Word of God to find our true joy and contentment. His words are faithful and true (Rev. 22:6). He “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). And when you are a Christian, His Spirit dwells within you (1 Cor. 3:16).
God wants us to stand on holy ground and see ourselves the way He sees us: a temple suitable for Him to dwell in (1 Cor. 3:16). He wants to use us like He used countless men and women of the Bible. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be so consumed with meal prepping or working out that I miss out on how He can use me.
Ephesians 2 reminds us that we were dead in our sins, but God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ. We are saved by grace through faith and seated in the heavens with Him. We are His creations, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
As believers and God’s creations, we are to live like we are already seated with Christ in the heavens. Let’s be women of the Word who meditate on His promises every day.
2. Set aside time to be still.
How many times have you heard someone recite Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God”? We are quick to remember this verse but not nearly as quick to practice it. In our identity struggles, we need to set aside time each day for stillness. Embracing the quiet helps us trust in God’s control over our lives.
Rather than using this time to check your social media accounts or text friends, use it to talk to God. Listen to Him. Even five minutes a day can make a difference. And if you’re in a busy home with lots of children and total stillness isn’t possible (I get that!), that’s okay. Incorporate stillness with God when you’re doing the laundry or dishes. Being in communion with Christ helps us better know His character and His identity—and gain a better understanding of our own identity in Him.
3. Practice gratitude.
Adopt a posture of thanksgiving. We can thank God for lungs that work and breathe, day in and day out. For ears to hear and eyes to see. For legs that can walk. For the ability to enjoy food and a digestive system that knows exactly how to process it for energy. For a soft tummy that held and birthed a baby. For stretch marks that remind us of the beauty of pregnancy.
When we thank the Lord for the bodies He’s given us, we start to see ourselves as He sees us—created in His beautiful design, body, mind, and spirit.
We need to also remember that our imperfect, physical bodies are passing away. The bodies we have today are not our home.
We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 5:1–5)
One day, we will have new bodies. We will be new creations with new names. All fear, pain, and death will disappear. God Himself will be among us, and He will wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:3–4).
In the meantime, thank God for the bodies we have right now that points to the cross. Praise Him that one day we will have eternal perfection in paradise with Him.
4. Ask God to change you.
Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches (John 15:5). We cannot bear fruit without Him. He is in control. Our identities are rooted in Him and Him alone. With proper care and attention, those roots will grow deep. Like plants, when we are rooted in Christ and live for Him, we grow stronger and flourish into who He has designed us to be.
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col. 2:6–7)
God will continue to prune us throughout this life. He wants to make us more like Him. As believers, we aren’t guaranteed a happy life. There will be trials and hardship, and for some of us, that might include disordered eating or body image struggles. But when we root ourselves in Him, we are guaranteed a life of knowing and loving Jesus—and living with Him in eternity. We have this hope as an anchor for our souls (Heb. 6:19).
Ask God to keep refining you, to change you from the inside out. Surrender your worries about food, exercise, and your physical body to Him. Abide in Him as the true vine (John 15:1). Fix your eyes on Jesus and on what’s yet to come. Rooting our identity in Him is a process. Don’t give up! Through it all, His love will never fail.