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:
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.
Any type of crisis can also result in a decline in your mental health.
Viewing yourself or your life negatively has been shown
to be a marker for vulnerability to depression.
If you have any signs of depression, consider seeking help. You should seek help immediately if they’re accompanied by suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms of depression can include:
Although often thought of as happening at certain ages (for instance, in teens or during “midlife crises”), an identity crisis can happen to anyone, of any age, at any point in one’s life.
Oftentimes, identity crises or other mental health issues can arise due to major life stressors.
These stressors don’t have to be inherently bad, but they can still cause a lot of stress, which makes you question who you are and what you value.
Stressors can include:
These and other stressors can certainly have an impact on your daily life and how you see yourself.
One recent study found that factors such as social support, stress levels, and health issues could all influence the development of an often-called midlife crisis.
Stress is our body’s response to pressure. This is exactly why it can tell us plenty about ourselves.
It can be triggered when you are dealing with something new, something unforeseen, when you’re feeling out of control or when something threatens your sense of self.
Even the way we handle stress says a lot about us. According to the Yale School of Medicine, stress dates back to the origins of humanity but we all experience it differently:“
In general, women are more likely to think and talk about what is causing stress. Women also are more likely to reach out to others for support and seek to understand the sources of their stress.
Men typically respond to stress using distraction. And men often engage in physical activities that can offer an escape from thinking about a stressful situation.”
Questioning your sense of self may be stressful, but it can actually be a good thing in the long term. Knowing who you are better and adapting to changes can help you grow as a person.
Here are some things you can do to get through an identity crisis:
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 makes you happy? What gives your life a sense of purpose and joy?
You don’t necessarily have to have the perfect job, but if you aren’t doing anything fulfilling in your life, then this might be why you feel like you’re in crisis.
You may find fulfillment in volunteering, taking up a new hobby, connecting with others, or any number of other things outside of your employment. Or, you may find that a new job will be a more appropriate match for who you are.
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 judgmental 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.
Asking yourself what really means the most to you helps you figure out your values.
Sometimes it’s not until you take the time to clarify what matters most to you that you see where your words and actions aren’t matching up.
A lot of the time what we say is important isn’t reflected in where we put our time and effort.
Your values should determine your priorities, which then become a measure of whether life is turning out the way you want it to.
A lot of the time when we’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or unhappy we discover we’re not living by our values.
One of the biggest mirrors we have in life is the relationships we create. Who you are is to a certain extent a collaborative effort between you and the countless people you meet.
It’s been shaped by the parents that raised you, the people who have loved you, and those who have hurt you too.
Relationships mold who we are, where we belong, and what we will leave behind