Perhaps you’ve never contemplated whether you have a dissonant identity. That’s ok. I coined the term to help you detect and resolve identity struggles that may arise in your life. I will explain the term and teach you a few steps to follow when you recognize dissonance in the future.
First, let’s take a step back and break down “identity.” There are many beliefs and definitions about identity, but I am going to focus on three aspects: one’s perception of themselves, others’ perception of them, and reality, who a person truly is.
Only God is fully aware of reality, so we won’t spend time sorting out what is true. Yet, it’s important to note that our perception does not equal truth, and we can go to God regarding all our identity challenges since He is able to differentiate between perception and reality.
How do you know if you have an identity struggle? Examine the following thoughts and determine if any of them resonate with you:
Who am I?
Does God want to use me?
Am I loveable?
Following God is too hard. I’m never going to be good enough.
I’ll always be overweight, single, or unhappy.
Does God really love me?
I’ll never get a promotion.
It is what it is.
Identity struggles can arise in a few of the following ways:
- We believe God or others view us negatively.
- We cannot seem to live up to our potential.
- We feel hopeless regarding our ability to be a catalyst for change.
You may have a dissonant identity if your views about yourself do not line up with your values.
When you contemplate whether God loves you, it’s often because you did something outside of your value system. But God’s love is unconditional, so He doesn’t write you off because of your mistakes. However, you may act a bit like Adam and Eve, hiding from God when you sin (Genesis 3:8). Instead, God wants you to run to Him for forgiveness and reconciliation. He will help you resolve the dissonance and remind you who you are (Psalm 145:18).
How does He do this? He’s given us His Word, which is truth (John 17:17). When we forego reading God’s Word, we shift away from the truth and will eventually experience a dissonant identity.
To begin the process of resolving dissonance, identify which of the “identity struggle statements” might result from the root belief, “We believe God or others view us negatively.” Perhaps any of the following: Does God want to use me? Am I loveable? And I’ll never get a promotion.
Once we’ve identified the negative thoughts and some of the roots behind our thinking, the next step is to search for truth. So we go to God’s Word. Maybe you’ve contemplated, “Does God want to use me?” It’s human nature to ponder this question, but we must look to God’s Word to accurately resolve the dissonance. If you’re a believer, then YES, God wants to use you! You are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
Perhaps you’ve wondered, “Am I loveable?” When you’re considering if others love you, the base of this processing is your perception and knowledge of love. But in 1 John 4:10 (NIV), God instructs us saying, “This is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
It’s important to recognize that our understanding of love is limited, but God’s is not. If we acknowledge that we cannot comprehend the depth of His love and also, continuously invite Him to reveal Himself to us, He might increase our ability to love more like Him. Then, we will love ourselves and others more deeply!
You can continue this pattern with any identity struggles you face.
- Identify the struggle
- Look for the root belief system that needs to be corrected.
- Go to God’s Word to re-align your identity with Truth.
For example, if you cannot seem to live up to your potential, you might feel that you’re too bad. But God’s Word states that Jesus didn’t come to condemn you but to save you from your unrighteousness (John 3:17). And if you feel hopeless, thinking, ‘It is what it is,’ the underlying belief might be that you feel hopeless regarding your ability to be used by God as a catalyst for change. But, you can reframe. God has not given you a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Perhaps He is calling you to action, or contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).
Whatever identity challenges you face, there is hope through God’s Word.
To explore whether you have a dissonant identity, reflect upon your values. Some common values include faith, relationships, having enough food, shelter, autonomy, and significance. You have values; are you living up to them? If not, there is dissonance in your life.
Pray about it. Search God’s Word so you can understand if He values what you value. If you have ungodly values, God can transform your mind (Romans 12:2). If you’re not living up to your values, God can help you fight your battles as He did for Gideon (Judges 7:22) and David (1 Samuel 17:45). He may not speak to you audibly, but He’s given you His Word, the Bible, which is enough (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Once you catch the scent of a dissonant identity creeping in, through prayer, targeting the root of that struggle, and using God’s Word to remind yourself of Truth, you can move toward a consonant identity.If you’d like to continue the identity work you started today, check out The Identity Reset Mini Workbook where I define consonant identity and help you explore how unwanted titles impact your relationship with God. My husband and I wrote this in partnership with our publisher, Revell, and hope it strengthens your relationship with yourself, others, and most of all, God!
Ashley Elliott is an author and speaker who devised and published a theory to help individuals gain insight to their personal thinking patterns that prevent them from reaching success in relationships at work and home. She is also a licensed counselor and coach who specializes in grief and communication. Additionally, she consults with business leaders to help increase employee engagement and retention. Compiling her counseling skills with over a decade of higher education teaching and leadership experience provides an engaging, interactive experience where learning feels fun! Check out her book and lots of free resources at chuckandashley.com.