The idea of ‘finding oneself’ is often linked with hippies, abandoning all responsibilities and taking off around the world, in the belief that somewhere in the Gobi desert or half way up a mountain in Nepal, or on a beach in Mexico lies the answer to who they are, what their place in the world is, what the point of it all is.
Oddly enough, they usually don’t find it. They come back with malaria/frostbite/sunburn, an album full of photos, some memories to last a life time, and very often a tattoo or a criminal record, but with no more sense of who they are than they had when they started out.
In order to lead well, though, whether you’re leading just your own life or a huge multi-national corporation, it is my belief (borne out by some of the things I’ve been reading and hearing about leadership), that you need to know yourself.
Part of this is knowing who you are in the sense of having a right estimation of your place and value in God’s sight. This isn’t the place for a huge Bible study on that theme, but suffice it to say that you are loved, highly valued and accepted by the King of Kings.
The above is true of all His children, though, so the other part is knowing who He made you uniquely to be, and this is the bit that people often struggle with.
Insecure people don’t believe that their gifts and talents are really good enough, they often come across as arrogant because they over-state their own gifts and talents in an attempt to convince themselves that they are worthy of the position to which they have risen.
Other people make terrible leaders because they are in the wrong kind of leadership position, or are trying to utilise techniques and gifts that, though good, are not their own.
Jesus led with authority because he was absolutely sure of who he was.
– He didn’t need to do flashy miracles to draw attention to himself, but he used them in the right way at the right time to point people to God.
– He didn’t have to justify himself when faced with false accusations, but could take them on the chin and surrender himself to the consequences.
People liked the confidence he had in himself and his father. They were drawn to him, in fact, they flocked to him. People would leave their livelihoods and families just to follow him.
God has given you unique gifts and talents, whether they are of vision-casting, inventing new gadgets, being able to genuinely listen to people and help them to feel understood, or any number of other things.
Another sheet of the mind-mapping exercise I told you about in an earlier post was ‘Who am I?’ I had a vague idea of what I thought I wanted to do in life, but didn’t want to either reach for something I wasn’t being given, or miss something I was.
I wrote down all the personality traits, skills and gifts I could see in myself, as well as any adjectives that came to mind. I started with the positive, but included the negative too, not to put myself down, but to recognise some of the things I am probably not called to do – forestry, for example, or long-distance running!
Knowing who you are, recognising what you’re good at, what you’re bad at, and what you need to do a bit of work on enables you to a) be comfortable in your own skin, b) find work or life-roles that fit your skills and strengths, and c) if you are in a position to choose or hire team members, find those who fill the areas you’re missing.
You need to be honest with yourself – don’t tell yourself you’re a great people manager if you know you’re not, or a meticulous planner if you frequently leave home without your keys! You’ve got nothing to gain by creating a false self-image. The people you meet who are most confident and comfortable with their lives are not the ones who have spent longest hiking through rainforests, but the ones who are most self-aware.
You can join them – and it won’t cost an arm and a leg!