How Finding Beauty in the Broken
Will Free Your Identity
January 31, 2022
Sometimes life can feel like the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, in which Murray lives the same day over and over again. No matter what he does he cannot seem to get out of this repeating time loop. Sometimes our identity is like this. We might see ourselves as a 16- or 17-year-old teenager. We may be older, but our identity seems to be frozen in time from those high school years. We might have grown as a person and achieved success academically and professionally, yet we still see ourselves as that awkward, insecure teenager in high school.
If we go through crucible experiences, pain and trauma that fundamentally alters the course of our lives, that also has a tendency to lock in our identity. We see ourselves as that person who made that horrendous mistake or who suffered that unspeakable tragedy. We feel full of guilt, or perhaps what was done to us makes us feel worthless, fragile and completely disempowered.
This sense of frozen identity, which very often is a false identity, holds us back from being who we truly are. It also holds us back from being the light that our world sorely needs. If you feel bad about yourself and feel worthless, how will you have the desire or the energy to care for others? You will tend to feel that you are incapable of helping anyone or doing any good. The world would be better off, you might think, if you never existed. Like lepers in the Bible, you can see yourself as “unclean” and feel people should stay away from you. Being near others will only lead to them getting hurt.
So how do you get out of this cycle of frozen identity, be it from high school challenges or from a crucible experience? How can you free yourself from the prison of this negative perception of yourself, so you can contribute to the world and to others?
1. Your Life Matters.
The starting point is to realize that your life matters and that the world needs your gifting and your talents. Wallowing in self-pity, recrimination and resignation will not only be bad for yourself, it will be bad for others. Negative self-talk will inevitably be manifested in how you treat friends and family and co-workers.
2. You are Loved.
I believe all humans are loved by God. My faith teaches us that as humans we have intrinsic worth and value. Many of us have at least one person who loves us because of who we are, in spite of our foibles. Some have friends, family and co-workers who are actually cheering for us. They wonder when we will see how special and valuable, we are. When will we see ourselves the way others see us?
3. The World Needs Us.
I believe we are all special and unique, with a combination of unique gifts and talents. The world needs what we have to offer.
4. Deal with the Lie.
Many faith perspectives teach that there are forces of light and darkness. So, from that viewpoint, we might have negative feelings that say we are worthless, that we’ll never amount to anything or even that we never should have been born. Don’t listen to the lie. Don’t believe the lie. This is where some digging and some hard work may be needed. For some, counseling can be very helpful to get in touch with why we feel badly about ourselves. Counseling can help us understand why our self-image is trapped in our former teenage selves or locked into the bottom of the pit during the lowest moment of our crucible experience. Friends and family and even co-workers can help us gain a true perspective of who we are as well.
5. Forgive Yourself and Forgive Others.
If you view your crucible experience or whatever is holding you back as your fault, the first step is to forgive yourself. This may also involve asking for the forgiveness of others who you may have hurt. Sometimes, others have hurt us perhaps profoundly. A key part of healing and moving on from your crucible if others have hurt you is to forgive them. This is not so much because they deserve it, but because you deserve it. Bitterness and anger are like poison which stops you being whole and moving on.
6. Broken and Beautiful.
We as humans are not perfect, and sometimes we may feel we are broken. Like a broken vase, we may feel that we have many imperfections. Yet in our brokenness there can be beauty. People who move beyond their crucible experiences often use their pain and their brokenness to help others. Cancer survivors help others with cancer. Those who have suffered abuse help others who have been through abuse. In helping others, we use our brokenness to be a light to the world, providing healing to others; and in the process help to heal ourselves. Our pain has meaning now. We have a mission. We have a calling. We have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
7. Our Mission.
Using our lives, even the broken parts, to lead lives of significance, lives on purpose dedicated to serving others, gives us meaning and purpose. It can also lead to the rewiring of our brains. Negative self-talk can be very powerful. But when we use all of who we are to help others, we begin to get feedback that is out of tune with the lie. We get feedback from those we help, as well as friends, family and co-workers that we have value. We are doing something good to help people. Drip by drip, this positive feedback and the evidence we see about who we really are and how we are helping people can slowly change our identity.
Changing our identity, which may be frozen in time, is not easy. But as we begin to accept ourselves as broken and beautiful; as we forgive ourselves and others; as we begin to use all of who we are, even our brokenness, to help others; we begin to change. Our fixed negative identity, the lie that we are worthless and should never have been born, begins to change. The ice melts.
We begin to see ourselves as loved by the creator and the universe. We begin to see ourselves as loved by our friends, family and co-workers. We begin to see ourselves as having a mission and a purpose that will help others and that the world needs. We do indeed see ourselves as broken and beautiful. We look at ourselves in the mirror as, yes, having imperfections, but as also having incredible worth. We might even begin to like who we see.
- You are loved. Focus on how God or the universe does love you. You are loved by your friends, family and co-workers. Ask those who know you well why they love you. What attributes that you have do they most value?
- Deal with the lie. Whether it is counseling or the help of friends, family and co-workers, get to the root of the lie. Where does this negative self-image come from? Why do you feel this way? What is the truth? Begin to take steps to fight the lie and turn to the light, the person you really are and the person the world needs.
- Live your mission. Our mission, our calling, our life of significance is often rooted in the very brokenness we have suffered during our crucible experiences. Think about how you can turn that pain into a purpose that can help others and indeed can help the world. Talk to friends, family and those who know you well about how you can use your brokenness to benefit others; and in turn see your image begin to match who you truly are; broken and beautiful.