The Real You

If you need a cake, I"m all over it. Not because I am naturally a great cook, but because of lots of practice, I make a mean cake. I am also good when it comes to poetry or deep discussion. If you need to keep a plant alive, however, you"ll have to call my friend Kathy. Besides horticulture, she"s great at health-related diagnoses and usually has a jump on my doctor in assessment of childhood diseases. I could bore you with all the lists of all of my friends and what they"re known for, but here"s the point: When you"re new in town, nobody knows anything about you. And while that may feel bad, it could be good.

Loss of identity is one of the biggest and most difficult issues that accompanies moving from one place to another. While preparing for a class my church offered on moving, I noticed that every book I picked up had at least one chapter and sometimes whole sections on loss of identity. People who have just begun to make a new home in a new location often feel like a big "blank" to their new neighbors. But in the midst of the struggle, it"s good to stop and reflect on what could be a silver lining: Transitions can provide valuable times for re-evaluation and change.

I was somebody

When Danielle moved 1200 miles away from family, friends and every familiar thing she had ever known, she was shocked by the extent of her feelings of loss. As a mother of four, one of the biggest losses was the realization that her new home was not the "hang out" house for neighborhood teenagers. Back in California, she had often jokingly complained about the messes they made and how often they invaded her basement. Now she had a larger home, but no neighborhood kids to use it! She was surprised by how much she missed the activity and by how much the "kid-friendly house mother" role had become a part of her self-definition and identity.

When you pack your favorite book in a brown box and move it across the country, it remains the same book. When you open to Chapter One, none of Jane Austen"s or Margaret Mitchell"s words are different. Scarlett is still selfish, and Elizabeth is still prejudiced.

You remain physically intact, also. Even though every trip to the grocery store feels like a safari and just charting a course to the closest hospital seems like finding your way in a foreign land, you are still the same person you left behind at your old home. It just takes time for that person to find their place in a new place. So, in a word, "Relax." Soon enough, people will not only know your name, they"ll also know whether you love opera or rap!

New eyes

While relaxing is a healthy response to the stress of moving, you can also use times of transition to see yourself through the new eyes and perspective of a new place and new people. Moving is an excellent excuse and a good reason to take an honest look at the real you. If you"ve lived in the same place most or all of your life, surrounded by the same set of people, you may be shocked to discover how comfortable you"ve become with your habits, friendships and interactions with others. Being new sometimes means that you"re around people who, having no history or previous relationship with you, can see things about you that your mom is too close to see. Maybe you"ll need to re-evaluate how blunt you are or whether or not you come across in a group as the "bossy" one. Seeing ourselves through the new eyes of the new people we meet can be a valuable tool in looking at our own hearts and actions.

The new you

Have you ever wanted to start over? I"m not saying that moving to a new city means you can assume the identity of some other more mature or exciting person, but it can mean a new beginning. Maybe you were in a rut. Maybe your family members always treated you like the baby, and you"re looking forward to playing a new role in your new life. Maybe you"ve had the propensity to take on too much work, never able to say no.

Moving to a new place could be the impetus you need to break old habits. No one knows yet that they can call you whenever they want something done. No one knows yet that you"re always late to every event. Looking inside and asking, "Who do I want to be?" can get the ball rolling on some new habits and priorities.

The invisible man

How many times in life do you get to be invisible? All too soon, you"ll be the coach of one of your kid"s soccer teams or the president of the PTO. With that in mind, it"s not a bad thing to be invisible for a while! When you"re lost in a new supermarket trying to find diced green chilies (which are probably not on the same aisle as they were in your old grocery store), think about how others might feel when they"re new to your neighborhood, church or place of business. Use the pain that comes with the feeling of being unknown to let God build compassion for the lonely in your heart and life. Next time someone new moves to your street, maybe you"ll be quicker to take cookies or lend your riding lawn mower.

Being invisible can also give you the opportunity to relate to God. Having to depend on Him for comfort and companionship builds a close relationship with Him. Not being so busy with meetings or lunches lets you hear His voice in a way that you may not have heard it for years if ever. And, while being "nobody" somewhere is a humbling experience, the Bible tells us that God gives humble people the grace and strength they need (James 4:6).


While you"re adjusting to your new place and, perhaps, discovering more about yourself in the process, try a "real you" exercise. Make a list of the following:

  • Five words that describe who I am (adjectives)
  • Five things I love (nouns)
  • Five things I do (verbs)

At the very least, it"s fun to reflect on things about yourself that you may not have had time to think about while packing! And better yet, this simple exercise may prove enlightening to you and your family. As you gain a better sense of who you really are, you often gain confidence, as well. Knowing your hobbies, interests and personality traits can make for good conversation when introducing yourself to new groups of people.

The real you

Whether your passion is scrapbooking or football, landscaping or writing, eventually, people will know it and you. Part of the fun of new relationships is the discovery of shared interests and goals. The "new" and "old" you that make up "the real you" will be part of new relationships and will fit in to new places. Enjoy the process while you can, because sooner than you think, you"ll be on someone"s speed dial under weed extraction or chocolate cake!

Background Information

Questions and Answers


If you've been through a experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.
Share Your Story

Other Things to Consider

Life PressuresWorking Moms, Stay-at-Home Moms

RelationshipsBlended Families, Divorce, Parents and Adult Children, Caring for Elderly Parents