The Most Detrimental Form of Identity Theft

Have you ever had your identity stolen?  Imagine the feeling of someone else thieving your power, your name, your privacy, & who you really are.  What an awful, devastating, and hopeless experience.  There is another form of identity theft that is even more detrimental to you… In order to avoid this type of theft, answer this question; who would you be if your label was taken away from you?  I’m talking about the one thing that you relate with in the most personal way.  The answer you usually give to the question, who are you & what do you do? Or the description used by others to define you?

Recently, I was faced with the threat of identity theft at my own hands. I had to make the tough decision to protect myself while making a major life change. So, I did what I had to do…

I broke up with my identity!

Sounds harsh right? I’ll admit it wasn’t easy. We had been together for 10 years! I went back-and-forth struggling with the decision. After all, my identity is what brought me attention and celebrity status. I enjoyed being with her. She was fun, she took me all over the country, and to some very exotic places. She helped me meet some of the most amazing people & create lifelong friendships.  She also offered an immediate connection, and opened a lot of doors with others. Their eyes would light up at the mention of her. Several times, complete strangers would walk up to me and say “hello” as if we were old friends. Some would even ask for my autograph, all because of her.  Wow! She was pretty freaking awesome! Not only that, but I’m the only one who could claim this particular title, so that means she was unique too.  How cool is that?  Then why the hell would I ever want to break up with her?

The concept of identity is something that has become a very important topic for me. Too often I see people wrap themselves up in what they do. They are the smart one, they are the basketball player, the football player, the coach, the executive, the leader, the trouble maker, the parent, or any of the thousands of other labels we put on ourselves. Worse yet are the tags we allow others to put on us. Those that infect our hearts and minds, and become our identification.  You’re not smart enough, you’re not tall enough, you’re not fast enough, you’re not attractive, you’re damaged goods…  you are not enough!

Whenever we allow what we do, (or what someone else says we are or are not), to determine our identity, we give away our power.

Giving away our power is one of the worst things we can do to ourselves. I know firsthand, because I did just that when I allowed myself to be known as “the basketball player”.  While it may seem great at the time, it is devastating when that distinction ends. That is why, when I decided to end my role as the radio analyst for a D-I college basketball team, I thought twice about it. I was essentially breaking up with an identity that had been really good to me. It had brought me a lot of perks, attention, and recognition.

I prayed a lot about the decision, and I drew from my past experiences and lessons learned. Thankfully, what I learned is that my identity is not who I am to the public. It is not my career, it is not my past, nor my accomplishments. It is not my failures, it is not my relationships, nor is it what anyone else says I am.

I learned that only God has the power to determine who I am. Admittedly it was still difficult to let go of my radio analyst title. I even cried at the ending of such a beautiful & rewarding relationship. I also laughed at God’s sense of humor. There I was, passionate about helping others discover their true identity and purpose, and desiring to save others from the hurt that would inevitably come from giving away their power.  It was as if God was standing there looking at me and saying “Well Shelley, now what are you going to do? The time has come to put your money where your mouth is.”  Okay okay, I get it. You’re right God. I know I am not what I do. It has been a great ride and now it’s time to move on. Time to have faith… Time to embrace uncertainty with anticipation of God’s next role for me.

One thing is for certain. My identity & power are rooted in God, therefore, I will no longer be a victim of theft.

He is the vine & we are the branches.  When we stay joined, then we will produce lots of fruit, but apart we can do nothing.

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The Power of Words


Do you have someone who is a positive influence in your life?  Someone who is your cheerleader, coach, or relentless supporter?  We all need to have at least on person we can count on to say just what we need to hear at the right time.  I had a coach who made a very positive impact on my life. He was a master at motivation because he took the time to genuinely get to know me and what mattered. He knew what made me tick, and what made me ticked off!  He was hard on me when he needed to be, but he always found a way to focus on the positive, which led to my willingness to run through a wall for him.  Sometimes he would just listen, and other times he would offer advice.  His words were always empowering.  Regardless of my ability to put points on the scoreboard or rebounds in the stat sheet,  I knew he truly cared about me and wanted what was best.  We went on to have an extremely successful 4 years of basketball together, culminating in a state championship my senior year. To this day, he is still there for me if I need him.  He has transitioned into a successful business man, and raised a beautiful family with 3 amazing children who will continue his legacy of spreading positive energy and empowering others.

Empowerment.  That is the ultimate benefit of our words…

Words can lift others to heights they never dreamed they could reach on their own. Unfortunately, words can also do irreparable harm.  As wonderful as my high school coach was at empowering others, I also played for a different coach who was quite the opposite.  Her words cut like a razor sharp machete.  Every negative word & angry attack left me & my teammates feeling like we were somehow defective and not worthy. Needless to say, the longer we endured this type of treatment, the more unmotivated and defeated we all became. I could go on and on about the pain her words inflicted.  It took me years to overcome the negativity that seeped through my veins.  It was like a virus waiting to rear it’s ugly head when I was facing a challenge or big decision.   Words like, “you’re not good enough”, “you don’t deserve it”, or my personal favorite, “you’re just a loser” came ringing back through my head like she were standing in front of me berating once again.  I think she was trying to do the best she could with what she knew at the time (it has taken me years to be able to believe that), but those words cut me to the core, and it took a very long time to mend those wounds.

We all have a responsibility to empower one another.  The bible says, in Ephesians 4:29  “When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you.”

Every encounter we have provides us the opportunity to help someone grow stronger, or make them weaker. How can you empower those around you, and be the blessing they may need?

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