My Identity Crisis-Defining Myself by Exercise

You know the feeling when you look over a verse, passage, or quote that literally leaps off the page and resonates with you in an inexplicable way? It’s almost as if the words were written for you, in that moment, and pertain exactly to how you feel or what you are dealing with. I definitely get this feeling many times when reading Scripture and inspirational words. One of the most memorable memories I’ve had of this experience was when I stumbled upon this verse from First Timothy, thanks to good ol’ Pinterest :)……identity crisis verse

Alright, now let’s focus on the words. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).”

I genuinely love living an active and fit lifestyle. It is something I will never grow out of or stop pursuing. For many years though, I let this lifestyle consume me in a very unhealthy way.
I have been an avid exerciser and athlete for as long as I can remember. From a young age, I followed a path to becoming a professional dancer and therefore involved myself in 20+ hours a week of training. As of a year and a half ago, upon entering college (as a dance major), I had a drastic paradigm shift and decided to leave my dreams of becoming a professional dancer behind. A few days after I decided I needed a new activity to entrench myself in. I needed to do something to ‘rebuild my identity’.  So I signed up for a half marathon. Heh.
Now nothing was inherently wrong with this new goal, but the way I approached it was completely off. I decided I had to reshape my identity as an ex-dancer turned runner. I couldn’t possibly just exist as a non-dancer, I thought had to have something new that could define me.
Prior to this, mind you, I had never had a pleasurable experience running. As a dancer, I was discouraged from ever running due to the pressure it puts on your joints. I had a lot of work to do to achieve my goal, and I most certainly worked my booty off. Not only would I stick to my training plan for running, but I would supplement it daily with an additional workout.

This identity crisis came at the worst time. During the big transition into college, I was already dealing with feelings of insecurity and loneliness. That on top of the whole ‘project reshape Zahra’ thing made me feel unworthy and alone.

I can honestly say that probably 40% of my freshman year of college was spent at the gym.

It was one place I could appease those feelings (temporarily) by forcing myself to do things that made me feel accomplished.

Here’s a look at my average schedule back then:
3:00-3:30ish- Wake up
3:30-5- Do schoolwork/study
5-7- Run
8-4- Classes/Internship
6-8- Organizations
8-12- Study
Basically, I allowed exercise to cement my sense of self and shape my identity. Who would I be if I wasn’t the girl who ran all the miles or was always on the treadmill? I had this notion in my head that no one, including myself,  would think I was worthy or accomplished if I didn’t keep up a regimented routine that had no room for flexibility. During high school, I battled an eating disorder which was fueled by the same unhealthy thought patterns. I thought that I was only valued or “worthy” as a skinny person, and that the size of my body defined who I was as a person. Thankfully, I overcame that eating disorder with treatment, but clearly the identity crisis I had didn’t fully escape me- until now.
It took me a year of reflection and listening to God for me to realize that I am not a better person if I beat my half-marathon PR. I am not a worse person if I gain weight. These self-made metrics have no relation to my actual worth, purpose, or value as a human being. I now actually really enjoy long distance running but know that it does not MAKE me. It is something that I do, and I do a lot of things! It does not define me or make me any better or worse of a person.

The weight on the scale doesn’t determine how worthy you are. It doesn’t determine your relationship to God, or your eternal purpose. It doesn’t make you a better or worse person. It is not an identification number, nor does it define any characteristic or part of you.

Like Timothy says in verse 4:8, Godliness is profitable unto all things, unlike pursuit of purely physical goals that are short-lived and unfulfilling. You’re always going to try to get a faster mile time, or squat a heavier weight, or weigh a lower number.

If you revolve your purpose and identity around this you will inevitably be unfulfilled and empty. If you revolve your purpose and identity around God, you won’t be chasing a distant finish line that never stops moving. You will be fulfilled in the faith that you can grow as a person because you have a Creator that has a plan for you and an unyielding love for you. 

Although I don’t believe in the term “Godliness” as it stands because I don’t think anyone can ever try to be like God,  I do think we can try to emulate the Prophets He has sent down to us and spread the goodness God has ordained us to. That is what I am trying to remind myself. It doesn’t matter what my body can do, but it matters what my soul does and how I act to spread goodness and hope in the world.
Do you find yourself always chasing floating goals? Or searching for new things that will make you feel better about yourself or shape your identity? You’re not alone. But you can get out of an endless rat race by reminding yourself that you are innately worthy. You weren’t created by accident, and your identity was shaped by a God that loves you and didn’t create you to be stuck in a loop of self-hate and deprecation.
Happy 1st Monday Message, you guys. Thanks for reading.


Hi Y’all! My name is Zahra and I’m a 19 year old college student passionate about growing spiritually, learning endlessly, and living healthfully. I love to express my deepest sentiments and ponderings through writing. I thank you for reading my words; I hope they nourish your soul!

December 4, 2017
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  • Reply Khadijah

    OMG I was the same!! So glad we can relate!

    December 12, 2017 at 6:28 am
  • Reply Khaishoon Basrai

    Loved reading this Zahra ! You are such an inspiration !

    December 11, 2017 at 3:13 am
  • Reply Meera

    Lovely post. It’s nice to see how you’ve reflected on things in your own life and how this has shaped you. Identity is always hard and i personally always find myself questioning mine, when in reality it’s just something that should come naturally. Loved reading this x

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    December 6, 2017 at 7:38 am
    • Reply admin

      Thank you so much, Meera! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

      December 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm
  • Reply Fanna

    Loved this post! It’s so important to not let the numbers define you and to instead focus on the personal health and happiness of the mind. It’s so good to read such greatly reflecting posts <3

    December 6, 2017 at 4:48 am
    • Reply admin

      Thanks for your kind words, Fanna! Numbers can be dangerous, but it’s important to remind ourselves that we cannot be quanitified!

      December 6, 2017 at 12:17 pm
  • Reply Laura @ The Mindful Mom Blographer

    A beautiful, thoughtful and reflective post. Your words about over-exercising or whatever other tasks you’re so involved with not defining you are perfect. So important to remember. I loved reading this!

    December 5, 2017 at 11:12 pm
    • Reply admin

      Thank you SO much Laura! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

      December 6, 2017 at 12:23 am
  • Reply Heather

    I love how open and honest you were in this post. Your words really resonated. It’s tough not to let the numbers on the scale define us but you’re so right that we’re worth so much more than that. Thanksmso much for sharing!

    December 5, 2017 at 10:40 pm
    • Reply admin

      Thanks so much, Heather! 🙂

      December 5, 2017 at 10:48 pm
  • Reply Sarah

    I love to exercise as well. It is very much a part of my week. And as I’m ramping up to train for a marathon this verse is even more important. My identity and purpose is not ruined if I have a crappy run or if I have to miss a run due to life or a need to heal. My purpose is bigger than each individual run or food choice. All that being said, my workouts and my food choices do add up to achieving my goals which also glorify God. Balance is a good thing. 🙂

    December 5, 2017 at 5:00 pm
    • Reply admin

      Exactly! I love what you said- “My Purpose is bigger than each individual run or food choice”. I so feel that! Good luck in your marathon training!

      December 5, 2017 at 9:16 pm
  • Reply Amy

    I so appreciate you reminding me of the verse 1 Timothy 4:8! I too, love to exercise but I try to do it as worship, taking care of my body for the Lord to use it for his work. Beautifully written and encouraging!

    December 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm
    • Reply admin

      That’s a great mindset! It really should be something we do simply to honor the beautiful and capable bodies that God has given us.

      December 5, 2017 at 9:03 pm
  • Reply Natasha Botkin

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing your deep insights and how you move with the flow of your Divine life.

    December 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm
    • Reply admin

      Oh thanks so much, Natasha! <3 <3 <3

      December 4, 2017 at 3:16 pm

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