Life Foundations 101: Appreciating Personal Identity and Internal Coping Mechanisms

01/04/2017 08:40 pm ET Updated Jan 04, 2017

How strong is your personal identity or your appreciation of your inner qualities? Do you have internal coping mechanisms that keep you going? These are two critical questions we ought to be able to answer with confidence and strength. As life changes or throws us a curve ball, our appreciation of our inner qualities and use of personal coping mechanisms can help navigate us through difficulty and uncertainty. That’s why they are so important. Let’s pick apart the first question in order to gain a deeper awareness of ourselves.

1) How strong is your personal identity or your appreciation of your inner qualities? Well, ask yourself this—before your job, your income, your spouse or fiancé, your kids—would you still be able to appreciate yourself for who you really are? Do you fully embrace the fact that you are kind, loving, honest, helpful, funny and/or other trait(s)?

If you find your overall appreciation wavering day in and day out (not your temporary mood), you might need to reflect on values that you truly care about and hold onto these. To name a few values, there is humility, honesty, and dependability. Strong values often form the basis of your greatest inner qualities. Now you name the values you hold dear to you.

Alternatively, you might need to be reminded of your greatest inner qualities. Listening to friends, family and other acquaintances who might casually describe the impact you have on others can help. If you think they may be biased, think again. They are the ones who know your worth.

For parents, getting kids to engage in activities that help channel and build positive inner qualities is a great way to build confidence early on. For example, if you want your kids to gain and appreciate self-discipline as an inner quality, you can encourage them to start exercising. Possibly join a sport. Joining a sport with a friend from school can help them even learn how to build social networks outside of school. Being able to socialize effectively is an innate quality that can help develop better quality relationships for life. Ultimately, participating in rewarding activities will help kids develop self-esteem, appreciate and likely engage their inner qualities for the rest of their lives.

As adults, if we affix a job, a relationship, or an income to our personal identity, we fall short of truly valuing ourselves. The greater part of society tells us to value monetary goods such as a house or car—or materialistic goods such as a fancy dress—or aesthetics such as our looks—and forget about personal values. The more we grow up, the more we might feel we need these ‘goods’ to satisfy our egos. Try and keep yourself in tune with your inner qualities by building from the inside out. Not from the outside in.

Finally, we can learn about ourselves from life experience. For example, we might fail an exam or lose a job. In this case, doing better on the next exam or finding a new job will help us appreciate our strength to rise from difficulty and applaud personal effort. Our appreciation of our innate qualities over time can be strengthened through success or difficulty.

Altogether, there are at least four ways (described above) to strengthen appreciation of your inner qualities:

a) Reflection

b) Reminders from friends, family or other audience (i.e. seeing our positive impact on others)

c) Engaging in Rewarding Activities

d) Life Experience

Overall, the greater our appreciation of our qualities, the greater our confidence to truly face life. Temporary sadness or other difficult emotions will arise, but your foundation will be the strongest it can be to go through these emotions.

2) Do you have internal coping mechanisms that keep you going? Yes, life is challenging. Yes, you may face overwhelming difficulty. Yes, you may also get a big promotion. How do you cope with life as changes come and go? I have written about important habits that can keep you going when you may feel the blues. You may want to try some of these. As a reminder, you may use gratitude statements to keep you appreciative of the good. Or you might be utilizing help from a professional outside of friends and family. More than likely, you will be using a combination of mechanisms to keep you going.

Coping mechanisms help us feel strong emotionally and physically. These mechanisms help us filter away negative energy and channel our inner strength. Whether we go to the treadmill or to a trusted friend, we can build in routines that help bolster our sense of optimism, positivity and overall well-being. Improved coping mechanisms can provide an optimistic outlook on life, which a new Harvard study has linked to living significantly longer.

When we may feel overwhelmed with emotion, self-expression can become extremely useful. If we don’t have someone there to understand us, we may need to resort to internal coping strategies (i.e. on our own). We might focus our attention or energy on others rather than ourselves. We might further use exercise and diet, and boost our heart and brain health. We might write down our thoughts, possibly so that others can benefit. We might pray and hope for the best, and then let life unravel as it may. We might learn to accept things as they are rather than become flustered by them. Again, more than likely, we will use a combination of mechanisms to keep us going.

Altogether, there are at least five helpful ways (mentioned above) that people might cope internally:

a) Focus attention or energy on others

b) Improve exercise and diet

c) Write down your thoughts, for yourself or possibly for others to benefit

d) Pray and hope for the best, then let life unravel as it may

e) Learn to accept things as they are

Not all internal coping will come naturally. Developing discipline to engage in these activities and more is important. Positive self-talk or “self-coaching” is also key to sustaining helpful coping. I write more about coping strategies during difficult times here. More about positive self-talk here.

In sum, we ought to answer with confidence these two key questions: 1) How strong is your personal identity or your appreciation of your inner qualities? 2) Do you have internal coping mechanisms that keep you going? If you can answer these questions with confidence and strength, you will likely navigate yourself through life more easily when circumstances change. Keep strengthening your character, and you will eventually see and feel the impact your heart has on others.

The writer at Niagara Falls enjoying the beauty and majesty of nature.
The writer at Niagara Falls enjoying the beauty and majesty of nature.

Najma Khorrami is a global and public health professional with a passion for writing to help others. She earned her Master of Public Health in Health Policy from The George Washington University in 2012, and rounded out her studies with a Global Health Certificate from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In addition to her passion for global health policy and wanting to one day help create public health programs for the disadvantaged in developing countries, she enjoys cooking and volunteering. She hopes to spread self-empowering messages for audiences of all ages, especially youth. You can follow her on Instagram at @najonoor!

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