If I knew then what I know now, life might look very different. I wrapped myself tightly in an identity based on performance. I could name a half a dozen names that I used to describe myself growing up–student, singer, babysitter, guitar player, sister, and daughter. What happens when the role you immerse yourself in is no longer viable? Does this negate who you are and lead to a loss of identity? Have you ever lost a sense of yourself?
As the third child in the family order, I had two older brothers to live up to. They proceeded me in everything and as much as I loved them I was not happy when the teachers would say “oh, are you a Gruber?” In the moment those words were spoken, a piece of who I was seemed to leave my body. It’s as if my brothers blazed the trail and now I needed to walk in their footsteps.
Parts of my identity returned in high school as I flourished in the all-girls setting. Now I was known for accomplishments that stood on their own and not the merit of my brothers. It felt good. I now stood in a place of belonging because of the things I was good at. What I didn’t know and wouldn’t know for years is that I am who I am because of God–no performance was necessary.
The Desire to Perform
The desire to perform and prove my worth was strong through college and beyond. I was not receiving a different message when I talked with friends or observed what the world said was important. Life continued on and I believed I was living in line with a good life. The bottom line was that I didn’t know any different.
I watch my grandson who is now fifteen months old and I realize I feed into this idea of performing. He is extremely observant and is getting so good at repeating what I am doing (clapping, animal sounds, playing hide and seek, reading some of the parts of a book, etc.). I praise him whenever he has done something new. It is a natural instinct as a parent or grandparent.
In many ways, I believe we are born with the desire to perform. The reactions we receive from those that love us feed into the place inside us that says we made someone happy. We strive to continue the actions, words, or activity that brings us the highest praise. Those early responses help to create a sense of who we are.
But what happens when the praise stops or the reactions to our performances diminish? If your identity is tied up in what you can do, have you lost a sense of yourself when you can no longer function in that capacity?
Lose Yourself to Find Yourself
God takes the innermost parts of who we are and molds and shapes them into a beautiful mess as part of the story of us. He never once requires us to prove ourselves before He whispers “You are mine.” I was in my fifties when the truth of what God says about me took root and I began to blossom.
Last week, I wrote about my journey of grace, and much of what I described then mirrors my evolution of identity as God’s daughter. The process has taken years but the destination is worth the wait.
When you live in a place of believing that you must prove yourself, you find it difficult to reach the point of “good enough” in your journey. You strive for the end goal only to find yourself never quite reaching the finish line.
When I learned that God brings us to the finish line first to equip us for the journey, everything I knew about striving and straining came to a halt. God shifts all we know about ourselves in a worldly sense and replaces it with “you are chosen and worthy” in the same breath. We are no longer slaves to doubt and fear (Romans 6:6-7), but we can all stand in the freedom of a life in which God created us “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
This week let’s stand in the truth that:
It’s not about deserving something. It’s about being loved, chosen, set apart, and desired since before we were born.
God is who He says He is and because of that we are His beloved not because of works but because of His Word.
We are not asked to prove ourselves or perform in a worldly sense because God is not of this world.
When we walk with God, He loves our mess, our joy, our struggles, and our successes.
Our story is important to God–from beginning to end.
We can be sure of who we are because God is who He says He is and our identity is secure in Him.
Today you can …
Take God’s promises and know they are true. Trust that your story is not over until God says it is over. Hope in the One who wrote the first word and the One who can’t wait to watch your story unfold until the final chapter is written.
God reassures us …
For it is not from man that we draw our life but from God as we are being joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. And now he is our God-given wisdom, our virtue, our holiness, and our redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30, TPT).When you live in a place of believing that you must prove yourself, you find it difficult to reach the point of "good enough" in your journey. #newpost #TellHisStory #linkup Click To Tweet
I am praying you all have a wonderful week and when you have lost a sense of yourself you find God in your next breath.
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So you are the 3rd born – what I call the freshness after the storm. Third borns have the Joy of the Lord – not that they are always joyful but they have a gift for bring joy into all situations. 3rd borns are never mean to be mean; they are mischievous for the pure joy of it! I understand the desire to perform for positive reinforcement of who we are – but I’ve never really had that kind of positive reinforcement for my performances, or evaluators who really saw who I was or what I did of any value. It wasn’t until I really realized who I was to God and the sincerity and intimacy of that love that I felt someone (God) understood and appreciated the package of me and what I felt called to. I wish I had felt that, realized it much earlier. It’s totally different facing the world, walking out what you believe God has designed you for when you feel, know and are encouraged by His presence right beside you! Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Mary! I am so excited you have fulfilled what God has designed you to do with your book! Shalom! ~ Maryleigh
Dear Mary –
A little late to the party here!
This is a question that keeps re-inventing itself as I move through each transition –> ‘If your identity is tied up in what you can do, have you lost a sense of yourself when you can no longer function in that capacity?’
That it keeps revisiting tells me that I still have some work to do …
But I know I’m not alone, I’m in good company …
YOu are never too late for the party. I love whenever you show you up. Thank you for highlighting the question above. I find that I too ask this question during every season of my life. I pray we find that we have each other as we continue to do the work.
Mary, as the sixth of seven mostly high-achieving siblings, I can totally relate to questions like, “Oh, are you a Graber?” 🙂 I also understand the unsettled feelings that come with losing a sense of yourself … if I’m being completely honest, I think I’m sort of in the middle of that right now. It’s disconcerting, but I think I’m OK with it because I feel it’s not permanent. I love what you say about God writing our stories … I’m so glad we can trust the Author and Finisher of our faith.
There is something to be said for large families and the competition that many times ensues. Losing a part of yourself is natural as your kids get older and you love both of your parents. I have been through both and that is what set me on this journey of finding out who I really am. You will be glad to work through this. The other side brings freedom.
Good morning dear Mary,
Thank you for your transparency. It allows us to see where we can understand each other and perhaps where we still (and always) will need God. My family will be going away next week. I cannot wait. The stress has been constant for my husband. I will be in touch when we return. Love, Julie
God has a way of sharing a message that reaches others. I always need God so I am thankful for people like you that continue to point me to Him. Have a wonderful time away with your family.
Mary, I too grew up in a family based on performance. I think it is so normal in our success driven society. I have lost myself several times. And as we grow we need to remember these truths and keep finding our identity in God. I am constantly reminding my children that I love them no matter what they do or don’t do. And God does too. My son took the ACT test the other day and and he came home saying he thought he did well. And I told him whether he met his score goal or not I loved him. That his identity was not attached to his score. “I know” he said, and then finished it for me, “and so does God.”
Thank you for sharing, Theresa. We do need to remember to keep finding our identity in God. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job as a parent teaching your son about his worth and identity. Have a great weekend.
I have been down this path several times as my circumstances and roles have changed. Your encouragement is so needed.
I imagine we all have experienced this path over the years and will continue to as we face more challenges along the way. I am so glad to have you here each week, Lauren.
After the death of my mom – I had a season of not knowing “who I was.”
I get that, Susan! I also felt lost after my mom died and even more so after my dad died.
This is so timely and much needed for times as these. Thanks so much for this reminder. Many blessings to you!
You’re welcome. The more secure we are in our identity in Christ the better we are able to function and do God’s work.
A truth that I keep having to learn and sometimes fall backward on. When our identity is rooted in God instead of performance based, it frees us to do what God wants us to for others too, doesn’t it. It gets us out of our own way.
I also fall backward on knowing the truth of who God says I am. I appreciate you reminding me how God wants us to help others in order to get out of our own way. Hope you have a great weekend.
Yes, it’s about being loved by our amazing Heavenly Father! Great post Mary! 😀
It is about being loved and we are blessed to receive such an abundance of love. Happy Weekend!
Isn’t that an interesting observation of your grandson? Do we learn at such an early age approval when all eyes are on us? For many years I was caught up in the performance, striving, earning, trap. If I achieved I received the praise (love) that I sought. It is almost unnatural to think that an awesome God can love us just as we are – no performance or striving needed. This, too, has taken years to sink in. Sure, I still get caught up at times, but I’m reassured that God sees me through the blood of His Son and THAT is His perpetual view of me…no earning needed.
I also wonder if we are learning performance = praise at an early age, which then sets us up for how we strive as we get older. It sounds like you and I grew up trying to please others in order to gain happiness. I am thankful to know that God sees both of us through the blood of his Son. We are truly blessed.
It is telling when we watch our grandchildren love to perform for the praise. It comes so naturally. No wonder it’s hard for us to grow out of it sometimes.
I know you have seen praise in action with your own grandchildren. It’s not wrong but I do wonder if even at this early age we are setting the stage for a performance-based life.
Mary, your post comes as a timely message for me while I am pushing myself at breakneck speed to garner all that I need to prove my worth to a publisher. I pray that in the midst of my writing, I will remember I do not have to prove myself! God has already made me worthy and prepared me for whatever work He gives me! Thank you for the reminder. Deep breath and relax a little.
I know you have been working hard and God knows that too. The good thing or the difficult thing is that He already has written your story. I pray that your hard work pays off. In the meantime, deep breathing is a really good thing to engage in.
“It’s not about deserving something. It’s about being loved, chosen, set apart, and desired since before we were born.” I love your words.
I too often do get caught up in performing or accomplishing to find my worth. Many times I look over with envy at someone sitting and doing nothing. How confident they must feel in their worth. I struggle with knowing I am enough, and I have done enough.
However, I have made great strides. Thank you for your encouragement.
Thank you for your vulnerability. I believe God knows how hard it is for us to sit in a place of feeling worthy or enough. I know I have made great strides too, but I am not in a place where I never get tripped up. I am praying for you Maree. May you feel God’s love daily and in that place may He reassure you that you are enough.
Mary, this is very powerful, “He never once requires us to prove ourselves before He whispers ‘You are mine.’” Amen!
God’s truth is always powerful. He has loved us from the time we were just a tiny thought in the grand plan of the world. May we know God as He is and find that is just enough for us.
Yes! This is good news for people pleasers. We can find daily success in resting in Jesus and who HE says we are
I am a people-pleaser from way back so this truth is setting me free. I hope you are enjoying your sweet time with family.
“What freedom it is to know my identity comes from being God’s daughter. I can drop the “act” and crawl up in His lap of love and security.” Thanks for this beautiful reminder of God’s love!
There is freedom in releasing who we want to be and instead aligning it with who God created us to be. I’m still learning some days but I am closer to freedom then I was five years ago. Thank you for your encouragement and joining in the conversation.
It is wonderful that God loves us despite what we do or don’t do. And it requires a subtle shift to serve Him out of an abundance of love, not to gain points. How gracious and patient and kind and loving He is.
What you said is key–serving God out of an abundance of love, not works. God is so very patient to teach us the lesson again and again when we need it repeated. He is such a loving Father.
Yes, though I thought I could somehow perform enough to be loved by people—and by God—it all ended up being empty, and it stripped who I was and my value right away. I’m so thankful the Lord loves us as a father loves, not as a human loves, if that makes sense. Blessed was the day He helped me to understand that I didn’t need to perform to have His love. I already had it because I was His daughter.
Such a beautiful post, Mary! Than you for addressing the idea of performance and God’s love!
Your words make perfect sense. Knowing that I have a Father who loves me unconditionally provides me the freedom to love others in the same way. There is a transformation needed to go from self-centered and performance-driven to standing on the truth of who God says He is. I wish I had learned this truth years ago. Thank you for always encouraging me in this journey.
We live in a performance-based society. As an elementary teacher, “theatrical” performance in the classroom was crucial to my students’ attention. I was being “graded” on student test scores. I took “teacher” as my identity. What freedom it is to know my identity comes from being God’s daughter. I can drop the “act” and crawl up in His lap of love and security. I, too, have a grandson. I reward his performances with claps and squeals of approval. AND…all day long…at any given moment he crawls up and into my lap for love and security. My love for him is given without any regard for his performances. THAT is how God sees us and it’s so freeing. Thanks for your words, My Friend. I needed this reminder. I am the Daughter of The Most High.
I understand the identity of being a teacher and how that feeds into our performance gene. No wonder I was always so tired when I got home after a day of teaching. I love how you described dropping the act and crawling up into our Father’s lap. Oh, how He loves when we do that. You are so loved by your Heavenly Father and leaning in and relying on Him is sufficient.
Thanks be to God that our ultimate worth is not tied to.our performance. Your little grandparenting tidbit of wisdom did not slip by unnoticed, Mary. We communicate so much to our little people by what we praise and applaud.
I am with you in how God loves us because we are His not because of what we have done. I still have moments when I fall back into the striving mode but God gently pries my fingers off of the stage of performance just as quickly. I’m glad you caught my quick ode to grandparenting. I see Jack growing quickly and much of what he responds to is praise as a fifteen month old.