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Are you having an identity crisis?

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We have all heard about this concept before (identity crisis), but not many truly fully understand what is meant by this. Identity crisis is a psychological term that describes someone who’s in the constant state of searching for his identity. So identity crisis doesn’t refer to real crisis, but it just describes a normal stage of personality development. Now the real problem happens when the person fails to find a suitable identity and ends up with a fragile one.{{more}}

What is a psychological identity?

Identity or psychological identity is your capacity for self-reflection and awareness. People usually acquire their identities through the tasks they do and the objects and people they identify themselves with. For example, if you asked someone “who are you?” and he replied saying “I am a teacher,” then this person identifies himself with his job and thinks of himself as the teacher, instead of Andrew or David.

The following are some examples of people identifying with other objects or other people in their life:

o Identity with a person: Children who try to imitate their parents and dress like them are doing so because they are attempting to identify with their parents.

o Identifying with a job: A person who proudly speaks of his profession and answers the question of “Who are you?” with his job’s title is a person who is identifying himself with his job.

o Identifying with an object: A person who proudly owns a big house may be identifying with her house. She may identify with the ‘big house,’ as it gives her a sense of accomplishment. This can also possibly be the same person whom you will find walking with her head down, if she incurs financial challenges that force her to have to downsize her home. This happens because she identified herself with her house and so when the house is gone, she may find herself with no psychological identity.

As soon as the person who didn’t find the right psychological identity faces a big life challenge, he or she will usually lose this fragile identity and end up searching for a new one. Haven’t you ever met a person who always seems to be trying new roles over and over without adhering to any of them? This is usually the behaviour of a person who is suffering from an identity crisis. Identity crisis can give a really strong blow to your self-confidence and your self-image.

How to overcome identity crisis:

1. Accept that you are no longer the person that you wish to be. If you are dealing with an identity crisis, you have likely come to the realization that there are major parts of yourself that you would like to change. Work to accept this knowledge; it is an important insight and can help you to learn a lot about the things that you want in life. Pay attention to feelings of anxiety or tension connected with certain choices or tasks in your life. For instance, if you are questioning your career path, be aware of the way your current job makes you feel. Coming home at the end of the day feeling tired and anxious may be a sign that it is time for a change.

2. Take stock of all of the activities you do throughout the day. Make a list of the things you do that are important to you and the things that are not. What are the activities you do that make you feel good? Do you give yourself ample time for those? It is common for a person to fill her schedule with things he feels he has to do, rather than the things that add to his life. Work to concentrate on developing those things that make you feel good about yourself and invigorate your life.

3. Take time to contemplate and reflect on what you want, rather than struggling to fill all the moments of the day. By giving yourself some time to reflect, your next step may become obvious. Try also to not be too rigid about stringent goals and absolutes. These types of rules can add stress and take enjoyment out of your life. Avoid becoming your worst enemy or biggest critic; cut yourself some slack. Take time to appreciate your life and enjoy simple things. Sometimes letting go of unnecessary self-imposed rules can help to put things in perspective.

“Identity cannot be found or fabricated, but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go”– Doug Cooper

“Unless you know who you are, you will always be vulnerable to what people say.”– Dr Phil Mc Craw

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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