“What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your life?”

Someone asked me this recently, and I’ll be honest: I had to pause and really think about it. I’ve lived what feels like many lives, in seemingly every corner of my life: my career, my knowledge about my life as a survivor, being connected to my birth mother, and everywhere that has happened in between.

Truthfully, it’s hard to pick just one lesson, but there is one that I think provides the umbrella for every other lesson that I’ve learned:

Be who God created you to be. And follow Him wherever He leads you.

I guess you could say that’s two lessons, but to me, they go hand in hand. If you live your life as the person who God created you to be, you will pretty obediently follow Him. And likewise, as you follow Him, you will grow more and more fully into who He created.

That means…

Not who your boyfriend or girlfriend or even your spouse wants you to be.

Not who your extended family want you to be.

Not who the culture out there screams that you should be.

Not who your friends want you to be.

Should you value their counsel and examine whether their feedback is relevant? Absolutely. Should you apply it to your choices, actions, and thoughts? Most certainly. There may well be some very valid feedback they’re attempting to provide you that may shape your life in a more productive way.

My family, my husband, and even various friends and colleagues have helped me immensely over my lifetime to continue to make myself a better person.

Here’s the key, though. Those individuals who have helped shape me did just that—they shaped me. They didn’t try to jackhammer me into a version of myself that they wanted me to be.

Words of encouragement and affirmation about areas in which you can continue to grow and change are very different than words that attempt to tear you down and convince you to recreate yourself in an inauthentic manner.

Think of it this way…

You’re not a skyscraper that needs razed, so don’t let others attempt to turn your renovation into a demolition.

Words of truth about who you are, your gifts and strengths, are very different than words spoken to cast doubt on your abilities, hopes and dreams.

If you’re surrounded by people who spend more time trying to manipulate you into being a version of yourself that’s not genuine and true to who God created you to be, and more in line with who they want you to be, then it’s time to find others who will be of greater support to you.

If you’re constantly being bombarded by the messages in our culture that tell you that you have to think a certain way, dress a certain way, live a certain way in order to be liked, loved, or successful, then it’s time to turn down the noise of the outside world.

Don’t grow deaf to the beauty of who you are by listening too long and hard to the voices who tell you who they believe you should be.

Don’t allow their vision of you to thwart God’s version of you.

And do yourself and others a favor—be courageous enough to follow Him, even when you’re not fully sure of who He created you to be. You will likely find yourself where He’s leading…