During my junior high and high school years, I was surrounded by incredibly intelligent ladies. Currently, one of my friends is at a prestigious medical school studying to become a neurosurgeon. Another friend is in a master’s program of engineering. In fact, a few of my friends became engineers. Another friend graduated from Stanford with a biology degree while playing collegiate volleyball.
This friend group developed in seventh grade, our first year of junior high. I honestly do not remember how we all came together. It started with a few of us sitting together at lunch. Eventually our little circle grew and grew.
But there was one rule, an unwritten rule. No boys allowed. We were a group of academia-driven, goal-oriented, pubescent ladies barely navigating the social dynamics of junior high. The last thing we needed were some distracting boys.
We seemed to like each other enough to stay friends in high school. Most of us were A-type personalities and excelled in school and sports. The same group of ten to fifteen ladies continued to gather for lunch daily. Our lunchtime conversations did not revolve around boy-talk or the hottest television drama. Instead, we compared answers on the latest test and complained how much AP homework we had.
Because it is easy to get lost in this type of crowd, it was hard to find an identity. I knew I was not the most intelligent. Heck, I was not even the most athletic. I was pretty average in comparison to my high school girl friends.
In those beautifully awkward years of junior high and slightly less awkward years of high school, I naturally created my own identity. I needed something to make me stand out in this crowd of intelligent, athletic, Ivy League bound ladies. So, because of my unique passion for nutrition and fitness, I took on the health nut identity.
During this time, I was slowly restricting foods from my diet. I would even add up calories on my way to class. As a result of my healthy food and exercise habits, my friends expressed admiration for my self-control.
In fact, this attention went beyond just my friends’ group. The (*gasp*) popular kids caught wind of this. But every conversation, whether with a friend or acquaintance, felt like an interrogation. “What foods do you eat? What foods do you not eat? Do you drink soda? Would you eat cake on your birthday?”
It felt that everything I ate in public was watched. It became so difficult to maintain this health nut identity. What started as a passion for nutrition and fitness morphed into a façade. I even remember reading that dark chocolate had health benefits. I so desperately wanted to eat some but knew I would lose my health nut identity. Yes, that seems a little dramatic. But, I was a high schooler. At the time, that was my logic. It was just easier not to eat the dark chocolate than watch everyone make a big deal of it.
Eventually, I wanted out. This identity was so fleeting. This health nut identity solely revolved around my ability to control my eating. I dreamed of moving somewhere where I could start fresh. I thought college was my chance. But choosing a college only an hour and a half from my hometown meant lots of familiar faces followed me there. This health nut identity did indeed follow me to college. It probably had something to do with me being a nutrition major, personal trainer, and group fitness instructor. I still always felt watched – watched by my roommates, watched by my friends, even watched by my fellow nutrition major peers.
I just wanted to be left alone. At this time, my struggle with bulimia was in full-swing. This should come as no surprise. Having spent junior high and high school with my meal plan on display, I naturally pendulum swung to eating in private. In secret, I would binge on all the “forbidden foods” then purge them away. I was depressed and wanted to be isolated. Bulimia became my best friend.
Bulimia, or any eating disorder for that matter, is a very jealous friend. It wanted to keep me isolated from other friends. Bulimia thrives in the dark of isolation but shrivels in the light of community. But even still, bulimia was that friend I wanted to hang out with after a long day of classes. Bulimia was that friend who helped me process emotion. Bulimia was the friend I would spend my weekends with. Eventually, I personally identified less and less with my health nut identity and took on the bulimic identity.
So, check the irony on this. Initially, the health nut identity served to make me stand out amongst my large group of friends. But, this morphed into a bulimic identity that isolated me from all my friends. Hence why I titled this blog post, “identity crisis.”
Notice, I used little “i” identity not Big “I” Identity. This was because I was searching for the wrong kind of identity. My hope was that discovering my little “i” identity would be enough to rest my young adult foundation on. But as we can see, that did not quit pan out. (Side note: I heard Joy on the Sheologians podcast use this contrast of little “i” versus Big “I” Identity – I must give credit where credit is due.)
I would describe little “i” identity as that which makes me, Megan. This includes my personality, my passions, my gifting, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with discovering these traits about myself. But, this next part is key. When I rested all that I am on this health nut and bulimic identity, I fell flat on my face. Why? Because these identities were so fleeting. We even see in the span on eight years how I morphed from one to the other.
Which is why Big “I” Identity is the ultimate key. As I discovered this concept of “finding my Identity in Christ,” I found that He is never-changing, and He is everlasting. He is the constant in my crazy, chaotic life. He remains my Identity when I feel lost in a group of women. He is the best friend that bulimia never could be. He created me to find peace and rest in Him. And He created me for community, not isolation. He is my ultimate Identity so that I will never have another identity crisis.