Michael sees Brad approaching, and he dreads what is about to happen. “Hey, Mikey, try this!” Brad says. Brad opens his hand, and Michael sees exactly what he expected to see—a fresh marijuana joint. He doesn’t want to accept it, but he doesn’t want to seem like a loser either. “Look,” Michael says weakly, “maybe another time. . . . OK?”
Jessica sees Brad approaching, and she’s ready for what is about to happen. “Hey, Jess, try this!” Brad says. Brad opens his hand, and Jessica sees exactly what she expected to see—a fresh marijuana joint. “No thanks,” Jessica says confidently. “I have future plans that involve breathing. And besides, Brad, . . . I thought you were too smart to smoke!”
IN THE above scenarios, why is Jessica better able to resist the pressure? Because she has something that Michael doesn’t. Do you know what it is? An identity. No, not a card with a name and a photo on it. An identity is an inner sense that tells you who you are and what you stand for. Armed with that knowledge, you’re empowered to say no to trouble—to control your life instead of letting others control it for you. How can you develop such confidence? Answering the following questions is a good start.
1 WHAT ARE MY STRENGTHS?
Why it matters: Knowing your abilities and positive traits will boost your confidence.
Consider: Everyone has various gifts. For example, some people are talented in art or music, while others are athletically inclined. Raquel has a knack for fixing cars.* “When I was about 15,” she says, “I realized that I wanted to be a mechanic.”
Bible example: The apostle Paul wrote: “Even if I am unskilled in speech, I certainly am not in knowledge.” (2 Corinthians 11:6) With his thorough grasp of the Scriptures, Paul was able to stand his ground when others challenged him. He didn’t let their negative attitude shake his confidence.—2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:5.
Analyze yourself. Below, write down a talent or skill that you possess.
Now describe a character strength that you possess. (For example, are you caring? generous? dependable? punctual?)
“I try to be there for people. If someone needs to talk and I’m busy, I’ll still stop what I’m doing and lend a listening ear.”—Brianne.
If you have trouble identifying a character strength, think of one way that you have matured since childhood, and write it below.—For examples, see the box “What Your Peers Say.”
2 WHAT ARE MY WEAKNESSES?
Why it matters: Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, your identity can quickly change for the worse if you let your shortcomings get the upper hand.
Consider: Nobody’s perfect. (Romans 3:23) Everyone has some trait that they would like to change. “Why do I let the silliest things get to me?” asks a girl named Seija. “The smallest thing sets me off, and suddenly I lose control of my emotions!”
Bible example: Paul was aware of his weaknesses. He wrote: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law.”—Romans 7:22, 23.
Analyze yourself. What weakness do you need to keep in check?
“I’ve noticed that after I finish watching romantic movies, I get a little sad and I want to find someone to fall in love with. So now I know that I have to be careful about that type of entertainment.”—Bridget.
3 WHAT ARE MY GOALS?
Why it matters: When you have goals, your life has direction and purpose. You’re also more likely to avoid people and situations that could hinder you from accomplishing what you’ve set out to do.
Consider: Would you get into a taxi and tell the driver to drive around the block repeatedly until his car ran out of fuel? That would be foolish—and costly! Goals keep you from traveling in circles with your life. You have somewhere to go and a plan of how to get there.
Bible example: Paul wrote: “The way I am running is not uncertainly.” (1 Corinthians 9:26) Rather than drift through life letting things happen to him, Paul set goals and then lived in accord with them.—Philippians 3:12-14.
Analyze yourself. Below, write three goals you would like to reach within the next year.
Now pick the goal above that is most important to you, and write down what you can do now to start achieving it.
“If I don’t stay busy, I catch myself just floating along. It’s better to have goals and progress toward achieving them.”—José.
4 WHAT ARE MY CONVICTIONS?
Why it matters: Without convictions, you’ll be wishy-washy. Like a chameleon, you’ll change colors to blend in with your peers—a sure sign that you don’t have your own identity.
Consider: The Bible encourages Christians to ‘prove to themselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ (Romans 12:2) When your actions are based on your convictions, you stay true to yourself—regardless of what others do.
Bible example: While a teenager, the prophet Daniel “determined in his heart” that he would observe God’s laws, though separated from his family and fellow worshippers. (Daniel 1:8) By doing so, he stayed true to himself. Daniel lived in accord with his convictions.
Analyze yourself. What are your convictions? For example:
Do you believe in God? If so, why? What evidence convinces you of his existence?
Do you believe that God’s moral standards are for your good? If so, why? For example, what convinces you that obeying God’s laws regarding sex will make you happier than conforming to your peers’ “free” lifestyle?
“In school, kids play on your insecurities, and I didn’t want to be insecure about my faith. So I worked on developing clear, firm reasons for my beliefs. Rather than tell people, ‘Oh, I can’t do that because it’s against my religion,’ it was more a matter of ‘I don’t think it’s right.’ These were my beliefs.”—Danielle.
In the end, which would you rather be like—a fallen leaf that gets blown around by every mild breeze or a tree that withstands even powerful storms? Strengthen your identity, and you’ll be like that tree. And that will help you answer the question, Who am I?
When you have a strong identity, you are like a firmly rooted tree that can withstand powerful storms
Some names in this article have been changed.