Identity Crisis – Who Are You?
An identity crisis, as the name implies, is when a person begins to question their sense of sense and place in the world. An identity crisis is usually a result of one’s inability to form an identity about the self. There is a conflict between who you are, what you think you are, and what others think you are or should be.
Identity is a difficult word to define as it is very subjective. Some have gone on to describe it as the “subjective self” which works fine enough. However, identity is everything – experiences, values, relationships, etc, that makes up a person. In essence, identity is the total of every interaction we have had to date.
So many psychologists have gone on to propound different theories on identity and identity crises with the chief being Erik Erikson. However, the purpose of this post is not to indulge you in the rhetorics of the academic side of this discourse. This post is simply to point it out and give pointers on how to handle it. There are beautiful resources like this and this that you can read to understand better.
The purpose of identity is to have a sense of belonging. In essence, it helps us define ourselves so that we can relate with others more effectively in the different communities we find ourselves. A lot of the issues surrounding suicide, depression, crime, divorce, and mental health crises, all stem primarily from an identity crisis. On the opposite, overcoming identity crises leads to healthier and happier lives.
Because of the complexity that comes with the digital world, it has become even more difficult yet, never has it been more important to know who you are. Before, our lives revolved around our immediate community. Today, we find ourselves in multiple communities over the internet with people across the globe. More so, we have our identity tied to many things like work, family, relationships, religion, finances, etc. Hence, having to find ourselves in each of these settings, can be so daunting.
You know you are suffering an identity crisis when you begin to question yourself, or your role at work or in society at large. A lot of times, an identity crisis sets in after events like a breakup, a divorce, love of a loved one, job loss, etc. this leads to the feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness, loss of interest, fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration, sleeping difficulty, etc, While all these events most times might be outside your control, knowing who you are is definitely within your control.
While there are many ways to deal with an identity crisis, one sure way is introspection. Introspection is not the same thing as worrying or overthinking. It is more about looking inward to ask yourself those difficult questions. For instance, if you lose your job and are suffering from an identity crisis, you should ask yourself if you lost that job because you were not competent enough or because of some office politics.
If it is an issue of competence, rather than feeling less of a person, make the hard choice to go and develop yourself. That job loss is another opportunity to become world-class. If it is office politics, you know damn sure that it is not a self-problem, and there is nothing you could have done about it.
Introspection is about asking yourself hard questions like – Who am I? What can I do? What did I do wrong? Could I have done better? What are my values? What makes me happy? What makes me sad? What are my goals? What am I doing to achieve my goals? etc., It is not just asking these questions but also answering them honestly. Trust me, it takes a lot of self-awareness to go through this process.
Introspection is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is something that needs to happen regularly. I like introspection because it shifts your focus to the things you can control rather than the things you cannot control. At every stage of your life, you must review who you are. Introspection is about listening to yourself rather than listening to the world.
There are other ways to deal with identity crises like having a support group and even seeing a therapist but a lifelong solution will be to ask yourself the hard questions and go on to provide honest answers to them. Take these answers and go on to cause a ruckus.