Finding Your Identity

How do you see yourself when you look in the mirror?

I wept as I read through the descriptive words over a hundred women submitted, to express how they view their identity. As I reached the end of the list, each letter had melted into a blur.

“Worthless. Stupid. Fat. You don’t matter. You can never add up. Lazy. You’re a failure. You can’t do this. You’re not enough. Naïve. People pity you. You can’t accomplish any goals. Unimportant. Second choice. You will always be alone. You’re not a good mom. Your kids are a mess. What’s wrong with you? You can’t do anything right. Mentally unstable. Undeserving of love. Broken. I don’t belong here. You’re a loser. There is no way out of this situation. You’re a failure at marriage. You’re a stain on society. Poor. No one likes you. You’re not worth my time. Unwanted. Not qualified. I’m never going to amount to anything. Weak. Invisible. Unremarkable. Average. Alone and always will be. Unnoticed. Flawed. Rejected. I can’t keep doing this. I want to give up.”

The pain behind every tormenting word was excruciating. I could imagine the lifetime of aching experiences that webbed together those words. But worst of all, I could relate. And I recalled a time when many of those exact thoughts and declarations consumed my once frail identity.

Are you struggling to find your identity? Stuck thinking about what your circumstances have labelled you as? As you pray, let peace take over your mind. Rest in knowing that you are: forgiven, healed, loved, the list goes on and on! Check it out HERE.

It was surprising at first that so many women thought the same way about themselves as I once did. I never was alone in my thoughts as I once believed. Prayer seemed like the only logical move to make after reading through such wrenching vulnerability and honesty. As I continued to pray for each of them, I felt God interrupting me to say “If they only knew. If they only knew the truth about themselves.”

This simple research assignment from God turned into a trip down memory lane. It took me back to the emotional abuse of a little girl. To the girl who endured physical and sexual abuse and found relief in self-harm and addictions. To the girl in elementary and middle school who was bullied relentlessly. To the high school girl who lashed out in so many destructive and hurtful ways. To the girl who picked the wrong guy time and time again. To the homeless single mom, to one barely hanging on. To the girl who became a college drop out and a statistic. To the single mom shunned and shamed by church after church. Labeled and beaten down by society.

They’re just words!

Words couldn’t possibly impact the trajectory of a life and the decisions made along the way, right? These words sliced deeper than any knife. Words that stung and left gaping wounds with scars that never fully heal. Each word buried deep and branded on my skin for the world to see. No matter how I tried to mask those words and create a new identity; I would always be reminded of who I once was either by the enemy or by society itself.

By the absolute grace of God, I am still standing but I refuse to write words that tell you to get over it, move on, think positive, move on with your life or some old and tired cliché. What I am going to tell you is that you have a choice. You have a choice to believe the truth and gain life or a choice to believe in the lies that bring defeat and despair.

The book of Proverbs is a gift of instructions on the use and power of our words. Many believe scripture is telling us how we should speak towards others, but Jesus is also reminding us how we should talk to ourselves. Proverbs tells us our words provide nourishment, life, health, a sweetness for the soul, refreshment, satisfaction, joy, a love of life, and an abundance of good days. It also says that our words can crush the spirit, cut like a double-edged sword, are as harmful as being hit with an ax, and has the power of death and destruction.

{Proverbs 11:17, Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 16:24, Proverbs 18:4, Proverbs 18:20-21, Proverbs 25:18, and 1 Peter 3:10}

Finding Christ in my early 20’s gave me hope. Hope for a brighter future and a chance to change the generational curse my family seemed to be under. The Bible declared that I had a new identity in Him, I was a new creation and all my sins were now washed away. While that was all true to Jesus, to the world that was another story.   

Yet God was reminding me daily, that I do belong in this world, and I am worthy and wanted more than I could ever imagine. My desire to still connect with my Creator was so strong that I began to study the bible on my own. Shape-shifting my identity to please the needs of those around me was exhausting. So, I chose to not give up on myself, to not give up on church, to never give up on my Savior, and I was ready to begin to learn the real me.

Jesus promised that I was worthy, loved, adored, cherished, chosen, redeemed, strong, a conqueror, predestined, powerful, appointed, anointed, forgiven, justified, saved, blessed, whole, and healed. He said my body is a temple, housing the Holy Spirit. And through Christ, I found my soul purpose and destiny.

Check out this video by Mercy Lokulutu to one of our National Conferences as she reminds us of how beautiful and perfect we are. Be encouraged that when God created you, YOU took His breath away! For more videos and encouragement, check out our Videos Page HERE!

God CHOOSES to love us.

I also discovered this profound truth – God doesn’t have to love me. He doesn’t have to care for me or guide me. He doesn’t have to encourage or help me reach my destiny. Because He’s God, doesn’t mean it’s His obligation and duty to do or feel any of these things for me. And yet He does. He chooses to love us.

He has also gifted us with the power to choose. We have the choice to accept His love, grace, and forgiveness. We have a choice to believe the truth He says about us. We have the choice to follow and love Him. Or…we can remain on the same path we are on today.

We can allow the external words we have collected over the years to rule over our lives, decisions, and ultimately our identity OR we can choose an eternal identity through a relationship with Jesus! We can read scripture and understand it to be true, but it is entirely up to us to walk confidently in His truths otherwise it means little.

When our identities are built on an external foundation and not one from an eternal perspective, a stable sense of self can never truly exist. One blow to this weak foundation and we’re left altered, shaken, and broken. We then quickly run to something or someone else to define ourselves. And the cycle continues.

When our identity is consumed with God’s truths, we are free to glorify Him and live out our purpose in the ways He has uniquely created us for. True fulfillment will never be discovered if our thoughts are only on the external – the good and the bad. When lies creep back into your mind remember that a false belief about yourself is one that can never align with scripture. Dig deep in the Word daily, write out God’s truths about you, and memorize those words so they are always hidden in your heart.

Imagine the freedom of living in a self-assured, confident, and stable manner. You wouldn’t have to confuse your identity by flip-flopping back and forth to please others and trying to be someone God hasn’t assigned us to be. Can you imagine the risks we may take, the boldness we’d have, the dreams we could reach, and the unconditional love from Christ that we could soak in and share with others?

Society, circumstances, and others seek to define us and squish us into a tight, tiny box full of their standards. But this is a battle God has already prepared us for. Scripture is full of His truth. We just need to seek and store it in our hearts and minds. Our battle for our true identity is a war that’s already been won…we only need to claim our victory!



Shaylah Coogan

Shaylah Coogan is a writer, speaker, abuse survivor, and once a homeless single mom of two in diapers. She launched There Once Was This Girl in 2012 to encourage and empower women who are parenting alone. It is through this platform where she openly shares the messy and most ugly parts of her life as a single mom and how she survived through a deepened relationship with Christ. Shaylah spent years in ministry walking side by side hundreds of single moms, helping them uncover their profound worth, purpose, and full potential through the freedom that can only be found in Christ. Shaylah lives in North Texas with her husband and two adult children who are now in college. You can find Shaylah at




The Life of a Single Mom logoThe Life of a Single Mom is a national, faith-based, nonprofit that exists to see that no single mom walks alone. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s support group in cities throughout the U.S. and beyond. We have a large array of books, curriculum, training materials, and online instructional videos to support ministry leaders who lead single moms. Our single mom programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, financially, and parentally through a number of projects including: Single Mom University, Single Moms Across America, the National TLSM Single Moms Conference, and a variety of programs throughout the U.S. For more information, visit