It happens to a lot of us. A stressful time rolls around and suddenly we lose sight of ourselves. We forget what we love to do and who we are at our core. It’s normal. We get lost in the roles we play and our perspective gets altered. In those situations, you take some time to “regroup” and reunite with yourself. For me, it’s about three days of alone time.
But, what about a real identity crisis? The kind when we don’t actually have a sense of who we are at all? Turns out, this is a real thing! I just had a really intriguing conversation with a very credible person regarding beliefs and identity. I used to joke about this when deciding to cut my hair or get highlights or start wearing toe rings. “I’m having an identity crisis!”
For some, there is a real crisis going on and it turns our that it stems from the adolescent age and you can actually point out these behaviors in adults.
I was given an example of what a person looks like when challenged by their own identity. It looks like this (a girl in this situation):
-The girl who changes with each environment. For example, she has a job for a year surrounded by conservatives. At the office, she’s conservative all the way. Out for drinks with you and your liberal friends, she is anything but.
-This girl feels completely devoid unless she is in a relationship. But, when she is in one, she changes all hobbies, taste in music and clothing style to match that of her partner. Last year she was the rockstar’s girl with leather pants and a new tattoo. Three months after that breakup she had cowboy boots, torn jeans and both she and her new beau had matching Garth Brooks ringtones. Today she’s sporting cargo pants and a sweater, cheering her soccer coach boyfriend on the sidelines. Each time, she convinces herself that this is who she has been all along and this fellow just brought it out in her.
-Last month this girl claimed to be utterly annoyed by people that eat healthy and she thinks organic is a waste of time. She seems pretty firm on her standpoint that organizing your living space must mean that you have nothing better to do and puts way to much pressure on everyone. But then today she suddenly boasts how important it is to read your food labels as she posts pictures of her “healthy” meals on Instagram and announces that you can’t possibly have a good day if you leave your home with the bed unmade and dishes in the sink. Three weeks later, she’s back to poptarts and sticky countertops.
-She gets really uncomfortable when people ask her questions about herself and is really clever about turning the conversation back to someone else to hear their opinions, just in case hers don’t match up or are not approved.
-She gets bored and restless. She has a new hobby or business she’s going to start every other month. You notice she can’t settle with anything for too long because she fears she might commit to the wrong thing. She makes quick decisions and then ultimately regrets them and questions herself for the choices she’s made.
Know anyone like that?
Often as adults, we joke about how easy it is to be a kid compared to the responsibilities we have as an adult. Of course, we all know it’s relative. But, in my mind, it’s so hard to be a kid – happy childhood or not. We all have experiences – some good and some not so good and if we experience them properly then we can have a positive outcome, but if we don’t… we struggle later on.
I think about this a lot as I watch our children grow and learn. What needs to happen so that they remain true to themselves and firm in their beliefs? I say it comes down to learning critical lessons as painful as they might be. Learn right from wrong, even if it’s you as the parent who has done wrong, let them understand why. If they don’t learn these values and the opportunity passes, these same children can grow to have confusion about who they are and what’s true to them and their core.
Perhaps the girl I described above does want to know more about herself and perhaps the only barrier is the fear of that discovery.