Hey everyone!! I’ve been working on this blog post about seeking our identity through God with an amazing lady named Kristi! We each did an interview and found out we are similar to each other in many ways! Check them out below!
Kristi’s Story: (@recovered_state_of_mind on Instagram)
Q: What is the youngest age you remember defining your identity in something or someone and what/who was it?
A: The youngest age I recall having a negative connotation attached to my identity was in early middle school. I am a pastor’s kid, I was very naïve, always followed the rules, and everyone made sure to let me know what they thought about that. I quickly grew to hate the title I once felt pride in. I had always loved being a pastor’s kid before then. But it turned into something that set me apart in a way that I didn’t want to be different. Thus, began my journey to attempt to define who and what I wanted my identity to be in. My “troubled” identity of choice: anorexia.
Q: How did this chosen definition of your identity serve a functional purpose for you?
A: The more problems I “had,” the more respect I gained and acceptance I was offered by my classmates and friends. Ironically, the acceptance is what further threw me into the depths of depression and anxiety. I had to be rebelliously imperfect to fit in, but being rebelliously imperfect was costing me my life. The eating disorder and wars with self-harm became my entire life. Every second of my day was filled with thoughts about restricting food and my body and endless self-loathing.
Q: When did you realize that this identity was no long working for you?
A: There comes a point when the eating disorder is no longer serving a purpose. It is no longer working to fill the void it once covered up. My senior year of high school is when I knew that either life had to end or life with an eating disorder had to end. I entered a residential PHP two hours from home in last-chance hopes of finding freedom and finding my identity.
Q: What did your time in treatment teach you about your identity?
A: It was my time in treatment that I strayed the furthest from my faith. Looking back, I believe that was necessary in order to eventually come back to my belief in a God Who wants only good and healing for me. I needed to learn to find faith and trust in myself as a foundation before I could allow God to step in to supply the strength that I couldn’t come up with on my own. I needed to know that my identity didn’t have to come from my faith as a title or that my identity didn’t come from the monster that ruled on in my mind for the previous five years. Treatment taught me who I am as a person, without the eating disorder. I learned that I didn’t need the eating disorder to be an incredible person who was worth time and had hope. Eventually, I would learn that this innate worth and hope came directly from God, but I just wasn’t aware of Him as the source at the time. I fully recognize and embrace now that my worthiness was and is because He says I am valuable beyond measure.
Q: What other messages from society influenced your beliefs about who you are as a person?
A: It wasn’t all peaches and cream post-treatment. It is so easy to put our identity in our life circumstance. My goal was by age 23 to be married and have a college degree. Here I am at 29 and yet to achieve either of those. I’ve spent years living in shame for the things society says I should have and do and be but I’ve continuously fallen short. I’m here to tell you that your identity is never hidden within the things out of our control. It’s been such a hard lesson to come to accept that my marital status and occupation have no reflection on who I am. I contribute to the world and people around me because of who I am as a person, not because of my place in life. Accepting my own life’s timeline has been vital to the process.
Q: In what ways do you still struggle with this concept and what do you do to work through it?
A: I still frequently battle low self-worth over not being even remotely near where I want to be in life. It has forced me to throw out my ideal picture of life and trust that I am where I am for a reason. That God knows my dreams, and that He is on my side, not holding out on me. It has forced me to strip away everything I hope and dream for and recognize who I am without accomplishments and dreams fulfilled. Who am I without a husband and children and a college degree and a “big girl job?” Does not having those things make me any less worthwhile? Does it dampen my importance and value? I know that the answer is “no,” but it’s a lesson I continue to learn every day.
I frequently have to remind myself to daily fall before the foot of the cross and realize that my worth and value was defined in that hour 2,000 years ago. The moment that Someone chose to die a criminal’s death on behalf of a person who is always falling short, such as myself, who spent many years wanting nothing to do with God. I cursed God in my darkest hour and still He wanted me. Still He loved me. Still He waited for me. If I can spit in somebody’s face (so-to-speak) and still be offered an endless, all-encompassing love, then that is where I want to find my identity. My value is rooted in something that will never change. My value is rooting in something that my status and job and mistakes can never change. My source of identity is concrete and that is an incredibly freeing concept. I get to be me, just as I am, and always be enough.
My Story: (@runningtowardrecoveryblog on Instagram)
Q: How did you determine your identity when you first were struggling with your mental health?
A: Although I had grown up going to church, once I began to face challenges in my mental health during middle/high school, there was definitely a time where I was convinced that God had abandoned me. In my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why would He make me feel so lost and helpless? Why would He make me struggle with all these mental health issues? Why would He make church so hard for me to go to?” My identity began to be so focused on outside things, such as my GPA, my weight, and what others thought of me. Nowhere did it include what God thought of me. This not only was a distorted way of thinking, but it led me deeper and deeper into my sorrows and life without God. At this point, my anxiety intensified in various situations, I struggled with depression, and later, I developed an eating disorder.
Q: When was the turning point where you began to shift your identity towards God?
A: When my mental health was deteriorating, I began to question my existence. In short, I started to believe that this world would be better off without me. However, there was a small part of me that was urging myself to wait for a sign that I should stay. This is the point when God worked in His truly amazing ways. I started hearing messages that kept reappearing from various sources that expressed similar ideas. I kept hearing that I was valuable, worthy, and loved, especially in God’s eyes, and that I need to put my full trust in Him for what my path will be in life. Also, I came to believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I went through all my struggles and hardships to show other people who are going through something similar that they are strong enough to get through it and that they will never be put through anything they can’t handle. More importantly though, I can show them that God’s love can lead them to a better place and help them find their true identity and self-worth through Him and not though society’s idolizations.
Q: What are your thoughts about your identity now?
A: Now, I’ve realized that God was by my side the entire time, and I was the one that left. Since I was confused why God made me go through all of the pain I was experiencing, I ended up just giving up, drifting further and further away from Him. I was questioning His motives and since I had multiple bad experiences at my church, I felt like I was being pushed away and I wasn’t meant to be with Him. Like I said, that is far from the truth and I am grateful that I’ve learned that God has a special reasoning for everything and that He never stops loving us no matter what. He has helped me grow in ways I could have never imagined and now I know I can go to Him when times are tough rather than blaming Him for it.
Q: Do you still struggle with the pressures that society places on everyone to base their identity on? How do you work through this and keep your faith in God?
A: I still struggle with these ideals as society continues to romanticize diets, the prestige of schools, and the “perfect” lives often depicted on social media, along with much more. However, I can work through this by remembering God’s everlasting love for ME just how I am. Essentially, I don’t have to act like I have everything together or be an overachiever for Him to love me because He already does! God knows that we all are imperfect and He is perfectly okay with that. That’s the whole reason He sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross so we could all live our imperfect lives with the protection of His love. It’s amazing just thinking of the grace that He has, not just for me, but for all of us! It can be easy for us to miss that when we are caught up in today’s society, but once we find our true identity within God, we are able to live a much more fulfilling life.