• 64°

Coming into your own

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

I had the opportunity on Feb. 22 to present a creative workshop for teen girls as part of the first Girls Rock event held at East Suffolk Recreation Center hosted by Mr. Dominique Cox and his enthusiastic staff of female mentors. I titled the workshop “Identity Affirmed.” The participants ranged in ages from 9 to 15 years old. My interactive presentation involved the girls in peer-to-peer affirmations, storytelling, selfie reflections in the mirror and practicing positive self-talk. The participants also created their own versions of affirmation dolls, which are paper dolls that have words of affirmation all over their clothing.

The two hours that I spent with these girls was an exciting time. It also confirmed for me my passion to share more of what I understand is shepherding people to actively realize the envisioned version of their unique identity.

The complexity of living and maturing today requires keen nurturing and sensitivity to the process of coming into your own. I’ve always thought that phrase “coming into your own” was a rather peculiar statement. It always seemed like it was unfinished and that there should be something after the word “own.” Own is often connected to a possessive pronoun or adjective with an object. Coming into your own what?

Becoming yourself is the object of what you are coming into. While most may think of it as related to possession, your own is rather the understanding of belonging. The Bible says “Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

I often share with people the ingenuity in the method of beginning personal affirmations with the two words, “I am.” I demonstrated to the girls on Saturday the power in stating “I am” before their names whenever they introduce themselves. Our God is a genius. You cannot identify yourself with the words “I am” without identifying yourself with Him. Therefore, I believe coming into your own is coming into the fullness of who God envisioned you to be. We do this by actively and intentionally unwrapping the mystery of the “I Am” inside of each of us.

The scripture says, we are not our own. Therefore, man cannot tell you who you are. The originality of your design can only be made known from the designer. Coming into your own requires relationship. It requires relationship with God and relationship with your community. Rather than people who try to force others to become what they want them to be, an affirming community is excited to see others participate in life-giving activity that highlights their unique gifts and personalities. When more opportunities come your way that allow you to demonstrate who you are, your affirming community shows up to witness to who you are not to watch what you do. They applaud your becoming process.

Community is important to becoming because people build people. Zig Ziglar said about leadership, “You don’t build a business — you build people — and then people build the business.” The most influential way to build people is through the words you say about them.

Identity affirmation is needed for all people but for young people in particular because there are so many influences today that manipulate and confuse the next generation about identity. Young people are insecure about their identity because they belong in insecure communities and insecure families. The best thing we can give our young people to help them is to encourage them and sponsor their growth. Affirming words water and produces well-being.

At the end of the workshop last weekend, I taught the girls a cheer about identity. We stood in a circle and shouted, “I AM, I AM, I AM. I HAVE MY OWN IDENTITY. ONLY I CAN BE ME.”

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.