Have you ever been bombarded with doubts and questions about yourself, who are you, and what is your purpose type self-interrogations? An identity crisis describes an experience where you question your sense of self and identity. It can be triggered by big changes or stressors. Here are the symptoms of an identity crisis and how to cope with it.
Symptoms of an identity crisis
You may be having an identity crisis if you:
- Are questioning who you are overall or with regard to an area like a relationship or career
- Are experiencing great personal conflict due to this questioning of who you are
- Recently experienced big changes that affected your sense of self like a divorce
- Are questioning long-held things like your values, spirituality, beliefs, interests, or career path
- Are searching for more meaning, reason, or passion in your life.
An identity crisis is usually triggered by big changes or stressors such as:
- Graduating high school or college
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- Starting a job
- Losing a loved one, spouse or parent
- Becoming a parent
- Changes in job duties or career path
- Losing or getting a job
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- New health issues
Coping and management strategies
Stop anchoring yourself to material things
Capitalist society is structured in a way that makes people define themselves by extrinsic material things like their wealth, jobs, possessions, appearance, and more. You are more than a prestigious job and possessions or lack thereof. Define yourself through things like how kind and generous you are with your friends and loved ones or a personality trait like being funny and quick to forgive. Things that are not quantifiable but have real-world impact. Material things are ephemeral, here today and gone tomorrow.
Be open to change
Change can be good. The uncertainty can be frightening, but a lot of good can come from embracing change. The fact that you don’t hold as firmly to all the beliefs you had as a teenager in your 30s is a good thing. Be open to evaluating your values and beliefs while making sure you hold on to the core ideas of the kind of person you want to be. Embracing the crisis can also give you a chance to develop an even stronger more meaningful sense of identity and purpose.
Explore and be curious
Learn about different ways of being. Interact with different people and be curious about their experiences and how they live their lives. It’s easy to assume that there’s only one way of living and doing things just based on your background when that’s not the case. Try new things, new hobbies, new music and more. You could easily be caging yourself in when there are many ways of being if you’d just allow yourself to explore and follow your curiosity.
Search for joy
Even as you deal with the confusion that is an identity crisis, you don’t have to be unhappy. Keep doing the things that make you happy.
Observe your thoughts
Observe the thoughts that play in your mind on repeat. What insecurities and self-judgment statements continuously make an appearance? This awareness is useful as you navigate this crisis, showing you some hidden thoughts and feelings, you may not have been conscious of. Plus, being conscious of the thoughts allows you to counter and deal with them.
People change, that’s life. You are not this singular fixed thing. Embrace a flexible self-identity so that you don’t go into a tailspin when you have questions about one belief or the other.
Society places numerous expectations on us about how we should be. This is often accompanied by judgment when we’re not what we’re told to be. Push back on this judgment as you explore who you are, and who you could be. Don’t judge yourself, you’ll likely get enough of that from society at large. Be kind to yourself.
You can seek support from a trained medical person if you:
- Experience intense dissatisfaction with or confusion about your identity
- Develop intense anxiety or depression
- Have thoughts of self-harm
- Would like mental health support to navigate an identity crisis
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