Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Los Angeles-Induced Identity Crisis

I've spent the last two years of my life re-building my identity, so after 10 minutes on the phone with one of my mentors/close friends yesterday, I was a little confused and almost offended when she told me I was in the middle of an identity crisis. A word of advice? Look up definitions before you get offended.

What is Identity?

1. The individual characteristics by which a person is recognized.

2. The condition of being oneself and not another.

3. The state of remaining the same, as under varying aspects or conditions.


So there you have it. Your identity must know WHO it is, that it is YOU and not another, and must remain itself in any situation.

Adapt: Make something suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly.

I, by nature, am an adapter. To some extent, all of us are born with the ability to adapt. In nature, it's necessary for survival - and in our social environments, it's necessary for peace. If we're in a healthy environment, adaptation isn't that harmful. But some of us have childhoods that force us to take on the nature of an extreme adapter in order to avoid conflict. And all of us are living in a world that wants to force us to adapt to it, and ultimately, to re-define our identity.

When we don't know our God-given identity in the first place, identity changes go unnoticed, or just seem reasonable.

And when YOU don't know who God made YOU to look like, to be, and to act, you'll chase alternate identities for the sake of being at peace & avoiding conflict with the world around you.

Identity Crisis: Confusion of goals and priorities. Personal internal conflict that involves confusion about one's role & a sense of loss of continuity to one's personality.

The last four days I've been in Los Angeles. Prior to that, I've been traveling the country in a car, living out of a duffle bag for 4 months, wearing the same pair of shoes every single day, and barely doing my hair and makeup. I've been staying with simple people, learning to live on a non-existant budget, and I've gone shopping twice in 6 months.

Recently, my life has been flooded with girls and women who don't know who they are anymore, who have been destroyed by our sex-saturated culture, whose boyfriends are addicted to porn, and who are stuck in jobs, relationships, and emotional messes that they hate.

96 hours in LA, and my heart ACHED. The city you live in and the television you watch are selling you sex, money & a lifestyle you won't ever get. I'm used to that. But here in LA, it's on steroids. Even billboards for bail bonds are dripping in sex and half dressed women with bodies I'll never have. I didn't realize what I'd become numb to until I saw it in its extreme.

Every billboard seemed to scream at me, "You will never be sexy enough, you will never attractive enough, you will never have enough money - I will sell you this lifestyle if it's the last thing I do." It's convincing, but what Hollywood doesn't know is that I'm driving home to my inbox full of women who have been destroyed by the lifestyle that those billboards and reality TV shows have been selling.

And I cannot bear it's weight.

I'm not buying into it, but my heart is pulled to the very thing that threatens its life.

So I called Christen almost in tears, and asked her to help me sort out my heart.

"It's conviction. You see the lie, and your heart is sensitive to it. You've always been sensitive to this. Pay attention to it. Don't ever cope with conviction. Don't ever quiet it. Don't ever tell yourself to learn to deal with it because the entire city is, or your friends are. Don't judge those who have bought into it, but don't adapt to them either."

What is coping? What is acting on conviction? How do you stay and keep your heart from hurting?

"Everywhere you go, you MUST acknowledge what is there. And then you ask yourself, 'Who is Lauren, and who is she here?' "

Identity crisis. The Lauren that LA is trying to sell me is one who should have miraculously found a way to hit the gym every day while traveling across the country, and who should have put more money for clothes into her budget. The Lauren that LA is trying to sell me is one that makes her work to death for the money. It tells me that no matter what my identity is in Christ, all men will always choose a sexy woman's body over my heart. The world tells me that my character and love and intelligence and sweetness and heart will never match up to the larger than life woman who drips sex 24/7, a hundred feet above traffic.

Traffic composed of men and women who have traded their God-given identities for the sake of avoiding conflict with the world around them.

Traffic composed of women so distracted by who they aren't, that they don't know who they are.

Traffic composed of girls who wake up hating their skin, their faces, their hair, their stomach, and their legs - and go to bed every night thinking about it.

I know, because I've been there. And these last 5 months have been some of the only months of my life that I haven't found disappointment in the mirror every single morning. But it came back this week. And to cope, I want new makeup, better fitting jeans, some heels that show off my legs, and have had no problem skipping meals.

96 hours of competition, and it's more than my heart can bear. Partially because I cannot win on those terms, but primarily because it's too painful for my heart to let go of who God has told me I am. I can feel something grasping and grabbing wildly for my heart. And I don't want to give it over.

I want to do something we women never do, and brag on myself: I LOVE WHO GOD MADE ME.

I LOVE my identity. The one God gave me.

I love that I always want to stand up for the defenseless.
I love that I see beautiful things in everything.
I love that I have flaws, because it makes me love the man who loves me in spite of them EVEN MORE.
I love that I get more excited over reading the book of Luke than any pop culture magazine.
I love that I want to hug everyone.
I love that I am beautiful to God.
I love that I see my friends as family.
I love that my heart rips open when I see girls in pain.
I love that all my mistakes are paid for by Grace.
I love that some days I know exactly what I'm doing & other days I haven't a clue.
I love that I am sensitive & affected by Los Angeles.
I love so many things about myself.

I adore the Name that God has given me.

And when the world asks me to adapt - to change, modify, or take on other versions of myself in order to avoid conflict or to be accepted, I will now always ask myself:

Who is Lauren? And who does SHE want to be HERE?

Isaiah 43:1-7 might be the greatest part of the Bible when it comes to your identity: "Do not fear, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned. For I am the Lord your God - your Savior; I give all of creation for your ransom."

The word for "name" is not talking about your first, middle & last name. It's the word for your core. Your heart. Your soul. The deepest part of you that makes you unique. What makes up you. He has called you by THAT. And when you, the you that God created you as, walk through life - you will be untouchable. Because he has handed over the entire world for the sake of ransoming and redeeming the real you, for Himself. And he will fight for that you.

Put Isaiah 43:1-7 in your bathroom. And make a list of everything you love about yourself. Put into words who God says you are.

Please. The real you is too valuable to lose.

24 comments:

Just me said...

Amazing post!

jamie said...

This was beautiful Lauren. I don't know you, but it is so unbelievably encouraging to see a woman who is sold out to Christ. And knows her identity in a world where knowing your true identity is oh so rare. Thank you for sharing your heart and being so open, you encourage me to do the same.

SassyJomi said...

Awesome!! Love it! And am going to sit down and do just that - make a list and post it where I can see it. And have my daughter do the same thing.

Emily said...

Thank you for good words, dear Lauren.

I'm sensitive too. I've been lately overwhelmed by girls posting only skinny airbrushed photos of abs and legs all over twitter and pinterest. Some of them are fine, but most of them are tagged with lust, shame, impossibilities, and unhealthy. I want to scream a comment on every picture "THAT GIRL PROBABLY ISN'T HAPPY! AND HER THIGHS WON'T MAKE YOU LOVED."

But I can't do that. So I stare in the mirror and say God's name for me: Adored. I sit next to girls in college group and get excited to spend time with good women in the making. I tell my friends how beautiful God made them.

I hate the lie that anything outside of Jesus will make me happy. Thanks for being sensitive and fighting for truth. God has spoken Love over you. Keep speaking it.

Kiersten Johnson said...

It is so interesting the perspective you have for LA. I grew up there and have lived there my whole life (26 years). However, I never saw what you saw and why is that you may ask. Well it is because that is what I only knew. That is what I was told. That is what I believed. So now that I have moved out to care for my grandma I am learning that is not what I am supposed to be. It is a daily struggle because I don't know who I am anymore. I am having to find it all over again. And if I am being honest I don't like who God created me to be. But slowly but surely I will get there one day. Yes, it is sad what LA has to offer those who live there. But sometimes I am thankful because I can help others who struggle with the same thing. When I am truly healthy I will love to be able to walk with them step by step knowing what it is that they are going through. Thank you for your honesty!

kay morrison said...

lauren,
i adore your heart to know Him and to know yourself and to live from that place. i know He is delighted by you.
i love you-
kay
ps-the morrisons miss you and max.

Laura Noelle said...

Lauren, thank you for speaking the truth to our hearts. I have found so much solace in reading your blog--knowing I'm not the only twentysomething facing these struggles every day. You are an amazing woman and inspiration!

Tori said...

I moved to Los Angeles a couple a months ago and have been struggling with some of the same things. I just graduated college and am looking for a job. So on top of that being in a city as overwelming as LA has been tough. But I love reading your posts and how God speaks life to me through them. Thank you.

enjoyingnow said...

It is amazing how you put this into words. I have NEVER thought about my identity in this way. I feel conviction in my soul but oddly this revelation brings freedom and relief to my mind. Thanks for not getting offended and therefore being able to share this with us all. ;)

Ally Eng said...

Thank you. You don't know how much this has helped me.

Sarah Asay said...

ah. thank you for writing about this. sometimes i wonder if i'm the only one who will go MONTHS feeling fine & suddenly a few little things bowl me over and i'm out looking for magazines to help me lose weight, put on makeup better, whatever else. because i KNOW that route never works. starving myself can come like a seductive siren but it never EVER brings me the peace i'm looking for. or new clothes, or berating myself, or a million other things. i have found true peace in knowing i am God's daughter (& that doesn't mean i have to wear ugly clothes or something-it just means that my worth isn't in what i'm wearing or what the scale says). but just a few things can completely tip that out of balance. so thank you for this post to remind me of the Truth, and also, that we aren't alone in this madness.

Ally said...

Lauren, this post is incredible.

In my personal experience, sometimes the hardest part of an identity crisis is actually seeing it for what it is, and recognizing it's not just an issue we need to figure out or deal with or get ourselves together, but a direct and dangerous threat to who God has created us to be.

This reminds me of Lamentations 3:21-24 in the NIV translation: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Too often I'm so busy getting consumed by the world that I forget who I am and who's my portion.

Thank you for sharing your heart in this amazing post.

Ally

Emily O. said...

I am a mix of all these emotions- knowing I'll never measure up to the world, and wondering why I care because I possess the grace and love of God...

...and it breaks my heart as well to see other women and girls suffering with these issues. Thank you for this.

Jo Princess Warrior said...

I only feel like I have worked out who 'ME' is in the last 3 years and I love being 'ME' much better than trying to copy bits and pieces of everyone's personalities that I admired.

There is freedom in living and knowing my identity - not what everyone else told me I should be.

Love this: "Too often I'm so busy getting consumed by the world that I forget who I am and who's my portion." <-- me too!

Max Andrew Dubinsky said...

Thank you for endlessly teaching my heart on this adventure. I am honored to be on it with you.

kelly summers said...

this is so beautiful, and i needed desperately to hear it. it actually took me a few days to read and read again before i could truly process it and let it sink in.

i think i've been in an identity crisis for a long time, and sometimes when you're in that place it's hard to see a reason to get up and keep trying, keep fighting for who God says you are. but i want to really know what you're writing about. i want to be confident in who God says i am. i want to live as the person He has called me to be, rather than what i think i'm "supposed" to be. so now i'm praying that God would wipe my mind and my heart clean of all i think i "should" be and rewrite His name and His calling for me.

Anonymous said...

I love that you're focusing on identity! My church has recently emphasized our identity in Christ alone and has strenghtened us with these versus:
1 Peter 2: 9-10
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

Our identity is a grand one, a holy one, a royal and chosen one that has a purpose: to proclaim HIS excellencies!
So thank you for doing this!

Sincerely,
~A woman of God, A first time reader that has recently moved away from LA, that has an amazing friend in Australia that encouraged me to read this.

Rachel Renée said...

Thank you for this, Lauren. I have always struggled with this, and even wrote my own blog post about it recently. If you're interested:

http://ofloveandbeauty.blogspot.com/2011/07/envy-because-other-people-just-seem-to.html

I so appreciate your honesty! You are beautiful.

Victoria Dubinsky said...

Aww, Lauren, you are so sweet. And a very talented writer. I don't share posts very often, but I will def share this one on FB. I can feel your love.
XO,
Victoria

x_coribeth_x said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I shared it with my friends on FB. I always enjoy your writing because I find it so relevant to my own life.

Sarah @ Simply Dove said...

Hi Lauren! I just recently found your blog, and I'm so glad I did! I think I was meant to read this post. Last week I posted something on my blog about how I continually struggle between who pop culture says I should be and who the Bible says I am. This was just what I needed to read! Thank you for posting this! Im definitely going to be a regular reader!

Alicia Philbin said...

Thank you so much for this post! As the others have said it is so easy for us ladies here to get steamrolled by pop culture and everything they constantly do to bring us down. Only recently have I begun taking small steps away from self-hatred, and insecurity and all things this culture has told me I am not but yet need to be or else I will never be of value. But God says different and that is something I need to be reminded of constantly. So thank you for sharing your heart with us! It is so encouraging.

Christina said...

Great post. I live in LA, and always have. I worked in the fashion industry in Hollywood for 2 years, and I met this head on everyday. Everyone wants to be a someone and yet they are so uncomfortable in the skin they're in. So was I. It's hard to live in a city where the messages all around you are "not good enough". And I know that when I take my eyes off of Christ, the current swiftly carries me down stream. Life here for me as a devoted follower of Christ, is a constant upstream fight, against a horribly strong current; where being a Christian is especially hard, for women and young girls alike, because of how incredibly abnormal it is.

leeleegirl4 said...

Lauren, this is so beautiful. For years I have struggled to see myself as Christ sees me. I just keep seeing my flaws and where I fall short. I forget my success and that I was created for great and beautiful things. Now that I can see the truth, I want to share it with everyone. Thanks also for including the Bible passage from Isaiah. I so need to hang those verses up next to my mirror

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