Are you questioning who you are? Maybe what your purpose is, or what your values are? If so, you may be going through what some call an identity crisis. The term “identity crisis” first came from developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. He introduced the ideas of adolescent identity crises as well as midlife crises, believing that personalities developed by resolving crises in life. If you’re experiencing an identity crisis, you may be questioning your sense of self or identity. This can often occur due to big changes or stressors in life, or due to factors such as age or advancement from a certain stage; for example, school, work, or childhood.
Having an identity crisis isn’t a diagnosable condition, so there aren’t typical “symptoms,” as with a cold or flu. Instead, here are the signs you may be experiencing an identity crisis:
You’re questioning who you are — overall or with regards to a certain life aspect such as relationships, age, or career.
You’re experiencing great personal conflict due to the questioning of who you are or your role in society.
Big changes have recently occurred that have affected your sense of self, such as a divorce.
You’re questioning things such as your values, spirituality, beliefs, interests, or career path that have a major impact on how you see yourself.
You’re searching for more meaning, reason, or passion in your life.
It’s completely normal to question who you are, especially since we change throughout our lives. However, when it begins to affect your daily thinking or functioning, you may be having a crisis of identity.
Questioning yourself and your thinking can be a positive thing in the long term but can also be extremely stressful especially during your adolescence years as you are still forming your personality and beliefs and these can be swayed easily. Knowing who you are can improve you as a person and help you adapt to changes in a better manner. Take some time out to really look within yourself and ask yourself some questions about what you like and don’t like anymore.
Ask yourself questions and see if you can answer them over time and if the answers help you figure things out. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers — and they may change from year to year, or decade to decade.
Questions might include:
What qualities and characteristics define you? How has this changed over the years?
If you’re experiencing a major life change: How have things changed for you? Are you content with these changes? How can you cope with these new things occurring?
What are your values? Is anything working in opposition to them?
What are your interests, passions, and hobbies? Are you doing what you like to do, and if not, why not? (If you love to play tennis and haven’t for several years, what factors are preventing it?)
What grounds you? What helps you cope when you’re struggling?
What’s important to you regarding your values, purpose in life, or sense of identity? Is there anything you feel you can do to improve your sense of self?
Other people’s expectations as well as our own can have a big effect on how we’re feeling. But don’t let society’s standards dictate who you are and what you should like.
Just because you’re of a certain age, gender, or cultural group, doesn’t mean that you need to follow along if you no longer believe in what you’re following.
Your self-perception is important to your overall well-being, and spending time and energy on judgemental thinking can get you nowhere. It may take time for the people you love to understand any changes you make, but you’ll be happier in the long term if you’re true to yourself.