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identity crisis

What is an identity crisis?

An identity crisis is an event where we begin to question our place in the world and ourselves. This can stem from significant changes or losses in life such as leaving school; a relationship ending; or a career change. Our understanding of identity comes from many theories of personality, with Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, being one of them. Erikson describes adolescents (12-19) as going through an identity vs role-confusion stage. Erikson writes that this is where a person searches for a sense of self through exploring their personal values, beliefs, and the people in their lives. Although our sense of identity does develop andidentity crisis begin to solidify during our teen years, a person’s sense of identity can feel insecure and confusing at any age, as our identity evolves over time.

We hear the words “midlife crisis” often to describe a certain demographic. This is a type of identity crisis that happens typically between the ages of 40 and 60. The subject of midlife crises is often used as plot devices in many movies and can often be portrayed as age-anxiety in men. Cue the red sports car! This may be part of the crisis, but not necessarily the whole story. Other factors involving a midlife crisis can include feeling unfulfilled; rumination of the past; confusion over decisions; and lack of self-confidence or low self-worth. More recently the quarter-life crisis has come to the fore. This involves a period of uncertainty in a person’s mid 20s and early 30s. Similarly to the midlife, this age group may feel confused about their goals both professionally and personally, which can lead to distress.

Signs of an identity crisis

Most people wrestle with their identity at some point in their lives. Even the most steadfast will question their choices and the path they are taking at some stage. Signs you may be dealing with a crisis during life transitions may include the following:

  • Feeling uncertain about your relationships, career, and life goals
  • Questioning your values and interests
  • Significant changes that are affecting your sense of self
  • Questioning your role in society and your purpose
  • Searching for answers about who you as a person

How to work with an identity crisis?

Experiencing an identity crisis is quite common and may not be as life altering as the books and films portray. People can experience it differently and it can even be beneficial in some cases. In fact, an identity crisis can be a natural occurrence that promotes growth and development at any age. It can encourage you to embrace new values and understand the world around you more. Use this time of change to:

  • Reflect and look inward: It’s important to ask questions about oneself as this can lead to growth in personal development. Spend time reflecting on what is important to you. It is ok that what was important to you several years ago may not be as meaningful to you now. Similarly, what is important to you now may not be as meaningful ten years from now. You will grow and change throughout various stages of your life.
  • Find fulfilment: During an identity crisis, you may question your sense of purpose frequently. For example if your career is not providing that sense ofidentity crisis fulfilment you are seeking, you can start exploring outside of your work. Finding new hobbies, connecting with others, or volunteering are all examples of ways to explore your sense of purpose in life.
  • Let go of expectations: The standards of society and the expectations that others or you might place on yourself can have a large impact on your mental health. Although your age, culture, and gender identity are significant parts of who you are as a person, you do not necessarily need to abide by the expectations that are set out for them. You get to set the standards of who you are and any changes you may make. The other people in your life may not be as understanding, but they are not you.
  • Talk to someone: Although experiencing an identity crisis can be quite common, remember that you do not need to go through it alone. Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional to help you through this time of exploration.

Talk To Us

If you would like to avail of therapy to cope through an identity crisis or take time to understand the importance of who you are as a person, you can book an appointment with Centric Mental Health by calling 01 611 1719 or by emailing [email protected].

Written by: Lorna Breen, MIACP

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