What do we mean by ‘Identity’?

by Talitha de Klerk

Definition: Personal Identity

Personal Identity is an individual’s sense of self, in other words, it’s defined by (a) a set of physical, psychological, and interpersonal characteristics that is not wholly shared with any other person and (b) a range of affiliations (e.g., ethnicity) and social roles.

Identity, in the psychological sense, involves a sense of continuity, or the feeling that you are the same person today that you were yesterday or last year (despite physical or other changes).

Such a sense is derived from your body sensations; your body image; and the feeling that your memories, goals, values, expectations, and beliefs belong to yourself. This is also called personal identity.

From a Christian perspective, there are some basic assumptions we need to cover regarding personal identity, before we can share our approach to establishing each part of our dancers’ personal identities in the classes.

Please note that these findings are largely based on and adapted from teachings by Arhur Burk from Plumbline Ministries in the USA.

These assumptions are:

  • As humans, we are all made in God’s Image. (Genesis 1:27 “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”.) This has many implications, but definitely implies that we have relational capacity and the three ‘parts/legs’ of our identity reflect and find their basis from the three parts of the Triune God of the Bible, namely Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
  • According to Burk, these parts/legs are:
    A Sense of Belonging (Largely based on Jesus, the Son) evident in our relationships with others.
    A Sense of Worth (Based on Father God) evident in our relationships with God.
    A Sense of Competence (Based on the Holy Spirit) evident in our relationships with ourselves.


What does a Healthy Identity Look Like?

Someone with a healthy personal identity is able to ‘be themselves’ authentically under various circumstances. “the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions”. This authenticity also allows others to be more authentic. They are people who easily function in communities and include others in their pursuits, but will also survive in seasons when they need to stand alone. They are flexible in relationships, but can also take a stand for truth when it’s necessary.

They easily take risks and step out in faith and obedience, because they are secure in their relationship with God. Although they are capable, they do not find their self-worth in their abilities, but rather use their abilities to empower others to do the same. A healthy identity is not built only on anything we can lose in this life (like relationships, abilities, health, popularity) but rather rooted in an eternal relationship with God, as a creature created by Him, reflecting Him and functioning from His faithful provision.

How is our Identity Tested?

Picture by: Mikhail Nilov (Pexels)

Varying circumstances and situations, pressure, unfamiliar territory and failures all test our personal identity and reveal to us the state of the ‘foundations’ we have built our identity on. This happens when we lose the thing (relationship, career, ability, dream, popularity/status, power etc) that made us feel like ‘somebody’, and we start questioning who we are again.

So like a tripod, for most of us, each leg of our identity is at different lengths, we might have a long leg of competence and worth, but a short leg of belonging etc… which is an area for growth. This balance usually also differs in various seasons of our lives, depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

In the next few months’ blogs we’ll elaborate more on how each part of our identity is built or damaged and what best facilitates healing in each area, and how we work this into our ‘Identity Curriculum’ in the classes, so look out for more blogs on Identity on our website soon!