Who am I really?
Originally appeared online in the teen series Trending - January 3, 2023
It was my first year of college. I’d gone home for a holiday break, and now it was almost over. I adored college, and yet, the night before I left, I crawled in next to my mom, who was reading in bed, and cried because I didn’t want to go back. It just didn’t feel like home yet.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that feeling was sparked by something deeper than a few months spent surrounded by unfamiliar people and places. I’d also found myself in new social environments, and was beginning to question why I believed what I did as a Christian Scientist. Drinking? Hookups? Who was I, and what did I really think? In my quest to figure out what I believed and valued—rather than simply accepting what others had told me I should believe—I’d begun to experiment with different choices.
Most people would probably look at what I was doing and think it was pretty tame. Still, I didn’t feel like myself. That feeling peaked one weekend night a few weeks after the break when a group of friends and I took the bus to attend a fraternity party at a nearby university. It felt like our first “real” night of college, and everyone was excited to go. But as soon as we arrived at the party, I panicked. I couldn’t pretend any longer; it just wasn’t my scene. I left, along with several friends, and went back to our campus feeling stupid and embarrassed. The next day, I woke up with a rash around my neck.
As a lifelong Christian Scientist, in the past I’d relied on prayer for healing. And I’d seen on many occasions that what appears to be a physical problem is often related to a deeper spiritual hunger. When that need is met, the physical challenge typically dissipates. In this case, the issue seemed pretty obvious: I was feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, literally and figuratively.
I was feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, literally and figuratively.
For the first time since I’d arrived at college, I began to approach the question of “Who am I?” from a spiritual perspective. To me, this meant getting a better understanding of God and everything God made in order to learn who I really am and my individual place in God’s creation.
A turning point in my prayers was the realization that I was created to express God in a unique way. There is no one else who can express the spiritual qualities that I do in exactly the same way that I express them.
I also discovered that being a Christian Scientist—living my life in a way that honored God’s goodness and valued my relationship to God, good, above all else—wasn’t something I did because someone told me to. I did it because I loved God, and feeling close to God brought me joy. That didn’t mean that I was holier or better than my friends; they were on their own journeys of spiritual growth, whether they realized it or not. I could value the spiritual qualities they expressed without comparing or questioning my own worth.
Looking back, I can see what a pivotal moment that was for me. Not only did the rash on my neck clear up but I found a self-confidence that I had never experienced before. After that, I was more acutely aware of God’s “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12) directing my steps and giving me a sense of purpose in my day-to-day life. And I felt comfortable being true to myself and the values I’d discovered. They were important to me.
People even stopped asking why I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I formed friendships that were meaningful and mutually supportive. We had the best time having fun together, regardless of whether they were drinking or not.
I can’t say that I’ve never felt insecure again. All of us are at times faced with the pressure to conform, and that can sometimes be not so easy to resist. But as we cultivate the practice of looking to God to tell us who we are—for assurance that we are loved and irreplaceable—we find the confidence to be true to ourselves, and we discover the lasting joy of doing so.