The person you think you are and the way you act around others don’t always mesh. Certain life events, such as trauma or loss, or a new phase of life, can have you questioning your sense of identity and who you really are. Here are several signs you’re going through an identity crisis and tips on how to cope. What Is Your Identity?
Your identity is your sense of who you are, both as an individual and in relation to others and society. Your identity includes your personal characteristics, encompassing who you are physically, mentally, and in your relationships. The social roles you play are also a part of your identity.
There are also other aspects of who you are that form your identity, such as your unique memories and interpretations of them, your values, and the long-term goals you pursue. How you see yourself also depends on what you expect out of life and from yourself and others, and your basic beliefs. No one else has the same identity as you do. What’s more, because your identity crisis is about you as an individual, therapy for you alone may help you significantly.
What Is an Identity Crisis?
An identity crisis happens at a time when some change makes you reevaluate who you are. Erik Erikson, a prominent psychologist, developed a theory about identity crisis as a psychosocial stage that adolescents go through as they try to discover who they will be as they mature.
However, identity crises don’t happen just during adolescence. You could have an identity crisis any time that you undergo a life transition or find yourself in a significantly different situation or role. It could happen during midlife. An identity crisis could happen to soldiers returning to civilian life. You may be in a new relationship or having a major health problem. Or, you could have an identity crisis during the time you are moving quickly toward retirement from your work.
What Does an Identity Crisis Look Like?
When you are going through an identity crisis, your life may look somewhat chaotic to you and even to others. In a way, you are on a quest to discover who you will be in this next phase of your life. Therefore, you may experiment, trying out different roles in your relationships and personal behaviors.
Your values may begin changing and may conflict with your old values as you move toward a new sense of self. Along the way, you may feel a lot of uncertainty about who you are and where you fit into society. If you can’t get past this phase, the identity crisis signs continue, and you find yourself in a state of identity confusion. Fortunately, if you pass through this phase successfully, you can gain a higher level of maturity and a stronger sense of self.
Signs You’re Having an Identity Crisis Your identity crisis might not be obvious to you. You will likely know that something is different and uncomfortable for you. Yet, if you aren’t mental health professional, you might not know what is happening to you. So, how do you know if you’re having an identity crisis? Here are the top five identity crisis signs.
1. Questioning your basic understanding of who you are One of the identity crisis signs is questioning the aspects of yourself that make you who you are. For example, you might question your basic character. “Am I a kind person? Am I an intelligent person? Am I an honest person?”
You might also question certain traits that affect your perception of yourself. Examples include whether you are really an extrovert, whether you are easy to get along with, and whether you are conscientious in your work.
Finally, identity crisis signs may show up as questioning what matters to you most. You may ask yourself if you are passionate about the things that you thought were your driving force in life. You may wonder what your purpose in life is and whether it is different from what you thought it was.
2. Feeling anxiety, agitation, or dissatisfaction with life Going through an identity crisis can feel extremely uncomfortable. You may feel disturbed by the thoughts you are having and the changes you are experiencing. Identity issues can bring a state of turmoil, making you feel anxious, agitated, and unhappy with the way your life is going.
3. Changing yourself to suit any environment, situation, or relationship. During this unsettled stage of your life, you may find yourself changing your values frequently. Rather than maintaining a stable identity in any situation, you shift to different values or tendencies based on where you are, who you are in relationships with, and the situation you are in at the time.
While adapting to different environments to a certain extent is not a problem, it can be distressing if your basic sense of self is clouded by confusion.
4. Trouble answering questions about yourself Suppose you are having a conversation with someone you just met. If they ask you questions about yourself to get to know you, do you find it hard to come up with answers? Or, during a job interview, do you feel mystified when the hiring manager asks you about your traits or characteristics? If so, these might be identity crisis signs.
5. Not being able to trust that you can make good decisions Because your values and beliefs are constantly shifting during an identity crisis, you may feel that you can’t make a reasonable decision. You may vacillate between various options, never settling on any one choice. If you do make a decision, you might second-guess yourself. This could cause you to change your mind multiple times or feel like a failure. Therefore, your self-esteem may plummet.
How to Cope with Identity Crisis An identity crisis is a time of major change. Sadly, you may respond with changes that aren’t advantageous for your mental health and well-being. However, once you notice identity crisis signs, you can begin to make changes that help you. Here are some ways to cope with an identity crisis.
Express what’s important to you. Talking about your values can help you home in on the ones that matter most to you. You can talk to a friend or family member. Or, you can discuss your values with a professional psychotherapist.
Give yourself time for objectivity. Rather than jumping from one decision to the next, take some time to think about your options objectively.
Take care of yourself. Learn to accept yourself for who you are at this stage in your personal development.
Set firm boundaries and stick to them. At this time, you are busy trying to find out who you are. So, set boundaries with others to avoid being confused by their demands or needs.
Don’t fall into bad habits or destructive behaviors. Although it may be tempting to use drugs or alcohol, engage in unsafe sex, or take unreasonable risks, these ways of coping will only bring more problems.
Face your identity crisis squarely. Don’t try to hide from your self-discovery or avoid thinking about it. Only when you face it directly can you get past it to the next phase of your life.
Getting Professional Help for Identity Issues
Suppose you are having identity crisis signs. Where would you go for help? The Lukin Center, headed by Dr. Konstantin Lukin, offers a range of evidence-based psychotherapy services. We help people with identity crises, relationship issues, or other mental health challenges.
From neuropsychological evaluations and medical management to a wide range of treatments, you can achieve better mental health and a more satisfying life with the help of our large team of providers. For premium in-person psychotherapy in New Jersey or teletherapy, the team at The Lukin Center provides the help you need most.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist psychologist and founder of Lukin Center for Psychotherapyin Ridgewood, Hoboken, Montclair, Jersey City, Englewood and Westfield. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.
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