Updated: May 13, 2022
An identity crisis, quarter life crisis or midlife crisis.
According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, if you haven't explored your identity as a teenager and come to enough of a resolution so that the path you embark on in adulthood is one that you have consciously chosen you will not arrive at a firm identity as an adult, your "identity diffusion" will not prepare you for the developmental tasks that lie ahead (reference Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D). Identity diffusion is a lack of stability or focus in the view of the self or in any of the elements of an individual's identity.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family environment that lacked emotional intelligence, empathy, encouragement to be yourself could result in you going through an identity crisis as an adult. If your parents did not foster your own personality through supporting you and giving you opportunities to be your own person, than you may find yourself asking, who am I as an adult.
This is a question that I've noticed a lot of people ask themselves (including myself), and here is when this question can come up for you:
After having children
Your children have got to an age where they're more independent and they no longer need you as much.
You have not been able to have children and it’s what you thought would bring you purpose in your life, having children and a family to care for
You have worked towards a career and life you thought would make you happy and you get to your 30s, 40s and feel like you’re having a quarter life crisis or midlife crisis. “Is this it?”
Feeling like you're in the wrong body
We lose a sense of who we are when we live by other people's values, by society's values and by our family values. Depending on what experiencers hurt us as children will determine how we choose to live our life as adults. Until we become consciously aware of our choices we are driven by our unconscious and making decisions that are motivated from a place of avoiding certain situations rather than to move towards what we want in life.
We can go from one extreme to the other, so we can either live by our parent’s values where we follow what they seem to think is the most important thing to do in life. Or we can go to the other extreme where we go completely opposite to what they believe is important, “I will never be like my parents”. Now, both ways might not be completely authentic to you. When we follow our parent’s values, we can be doing this to be accepted and loved by them (on an unconscious level). When we go to the opposite end of the scale, we might be rebelling, it might have an energy of rebelling against what our parents did. So there's this energy of I'm not doing what they did. I won't ever be like them, rather than following what it is that makes you happy you’re making decisions to avoid a situation you don't want? For example, “I will never be poor like my parents” and as a result you become a workaholic and you're driven by fear of being poor rather than by creating a life that is healthy and makes you happy.
The reason why we do what we do in life is the most important question to ask yourself.
Why do you have that job?
Why are you in the relationship with that person?
Why do you parent like that?
The reason behind why we do things in life is the biggest, most important thing to look at when you're asking yourself, “Who am I?”
Are you moving towards a life that lights you up or are you putting spot fires out and just surviving? Are you making decisions so that you don’t …. or are you making decisions towards a life you want, that will light you up?
I have met many people who have made it looking from the outside. Expensive cars, holiday homes, financially secure, they have children and a life partner. Everything from the outside looks amazing. The reality is the husband has a drinking problem, the wife is holding everything together and in survival mode and the children have their own challenges as they are mirroring their parents emotions that they have been suppressing. If this sounds familiar to you it’s because it’s a very common situation. In 2020-21, 1 in 4 adults exceeded the Australian alcohol guidelines and men are more likely to exceed the alcohol consumption guidelines (34% compared to 19%) than women. This is not to say it’s just a male problem. This situation can be flipped too and other substances or activities (such as being a workaholic) can be used as a coping mechanism.
When rediscovering who you are and what you want in life the people around you play a huge role, do they support you and encourage you? How are your relationships in life? having a secure relationship is key to finding yourself again. Feeling safe to explore who you are and step out of your comfort zone needs to come from a regulated place. What this means is if your home life, work life or relationships are making you feel insecure you are likely to be in survival mode and exploring who you are will be a challenge. Who we are comes from an intuitive, playful and creative place? It does not come from trying hard to find yourself. It is hard to be any of these things when we’re in survival mode.
Finding your own true identity requires an identity crisis. It is only ever the byproduct of either being void of identity or feeling as if you do not identify with your identity.
If we let ourselves sink onto the blackness of the dark night of the soul, what we will find is that the pure, unpolluted true self (which is the direct manifestation of your soul) will arise on its own with no help whatsoever. You cannot DO anything to become your true self. Rather, you must simply step out of the way of your true self. Stop restricting it. All that has to happen for something real to surface is for that which is false to be taken away. But do not worry, the only things you can lose, are things that are meant to be lost. The only things you can lose are things that you have to lose in order to find something infinitely more valuable. By Teal Swan
What can you do to start your rediscovery process of who you are?
Assess and notice your home environment, does it make you feel secure and calm or anxious and stressed? Is your partner supportive?
Start putting yourself first wherever you can. Give yourself space to breath, reflect, relax and care for yourself.
Notice when you’re restricting yourself and stopping yourself from doing something that brings you joy.
Identify what brings you joy and do more of that.
Notice what you tell yourself when you care for yourself, for example, it’s selfish to put myself first, I should not indulge… I can’t invest in myself I have bills to pay, life isn’t fun, I should be grateful for what I have already…
Notice when you restrict yourself. You may feel guilty for doing things for yourself, so you stop having fun.
Ask for help and seek support from a therapist. This is important for anyone that is asking who they are and feel lost in life. When we’re at this stage of our life we have been following other peoples advice and beliefs. It’s time to follow your own path and it takes some exploring and inner work to understand what is deeply important to you in life.
Are you ready to take the next step for yourself and to invest in rediscovering who you are and what lights you up?
I have a program for anyone going through an identify crisis called:
Get Aligned Program. Who am I? What gives me purpose? Find what gives you purpose, gain motivation and connect with your higher self in the next 90 days 12 x 1:1 sessions 1 of those will be a 2 hr clarity session (plan, goals, values and strengths) 1 of those will be a 3 hr adventure workshop