We’ve had the most delightful opportunity to chat with young students and professionals on major topics in which a lot of people find interest and curiosity. We’ve discussed purpose and career, and today, we would be discussing ‘Identity’.
Victoria Olaniyan is the creator of the ‘Identity PodCast’ on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. She is also a PhD Candidate and an Educator. I’ve known Victoria for about three years now, but we haven’t really had the chance to have an in-depth conversation. This all changed last week, and I am excited to share some of her thoughts on ‘Identity’ with you.
1. Forget the conventional definition of ‘Identity’. What does ‘Identity’ mean to you and what does it mean to discover your true identity ?
Identity is who I am when all my “accolades” are stripped away. When I’m not able to describe myself as an academic, as a podcaster, a British Nigerian or a 25 year old, who am I ?
Discovering identity to me is finding out who I am underneath all my labels. I identify myself as a beloved, fully known and accepted child of God.
2. What do you believe is the relationship between ‘Identity’ and ‘Purpose’ ?
Identity can be defined as who you are in God, while purpose is what you have been put on this earth to carry out on God’s behalf. Knowing who God has created you to be, will serve as a major indicator as to what He has called you to do.
Understanding that God has created you, placed certain gifts, talents, and abilities in you, and has also allowed you to go through various circumstances for a reason will help you to understand what you’ve been put on this earth to do. I believe that it’s impossible to have one without the other.
3. What are some of the wrong ways that young people try to discover their identities ?
I can only speak for myself - I’ve made so many mistakes in trying to navigate this journey to discovering my identity.
However, one major mistake that comes to mind is believing that I have an identity outside of God. Our identity is given to us by God, out of His own divine mercy and purpose for us.
We cannot believe that we will be able to discover our identity by following man made rules. The world tells us to “look within”, to “find ourselves”, and to “create our own destiny”, but that road leads to nowhere (trust me!).
True identity is found in the one who made us. Many think identity is found in a good job, multiple degrees, assets, relationships, looks etc., and spend all their lives striving to get them all. When the search is over, they wonder why they still feel incomplete. Identity cannot be found in and of ourselves. It can only be found in God. When I learned that, I stopped believing that all my “stuff” is what makes me who I am. For this reason, I love that Acts 17:28 says: “In him do we move, live and have our being”.
4. How does a person’s community (friends and family members) contribute to the discovery of their identity ?
The people we have around us and the people we allow to influence us can play a huge role in determining who we become. But I’ll focus on the positives lol.
Having a Godly community is very important because I believe that your friends and family members are often the first to see the good things that God has placed in you. God has strategically placed certain people in our lives to help bring out who he has called us to be and to help silence the lies about ourselves that we are often too quick to believe.
Intentionally seeking out Godly community, or maintaining Godly relationships is key in our journey to discovering identity.
5. Can you give us some practical steps for young people who are trying to discover their true identities ?
Three things that have helped me are:
1. Going back to the basics. That is, going to the Bible and finding out what God says about you, finding out why He sent His son to die for you in the first place, and finding out why He loves you.
It is also important to spend time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to show you who you really are. (It’s a scary prayer, so don’t pray it if you’re not ready lol!)
2. Relax. As young people, we’re always so bogged down by trying to be the best at everything, so we can feel relevant or feel like we’ve got our lives together. But we need to realise that God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Our identity is who we already are, and our identity is already settled in Jesus Christ. Discovering identity is not about doing - it’s about being. Being who He has called you to be. And as we get closer to God, we will find it easier to see who we already are. Then when we strive to achieve all our earthly goals it’ll be with a higher cause in mind and not so much to create an identity for ourselves.
3. Choose your circle wisely. As I mentioned earlier, your community is important. Get around people who speak to the person God has created you to be. Get around people who want the best for you, and who can encourage as well as correct you. Get around people who will speak life when all you can do is speak doom.
I’m sure you enjoyed reading Victoria’s answers as much as I did.
Please follow Victoria’s Podcast @theidentitypodcast on Instagram.
We have a lot more Reflect Dialogues to come. Don’t forget to follow our blog on Instagram @thereflectblog to get quick updates, and for inspirational content.