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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 30-Jan-06


Monday 30-Jan-06

Identity crises

We all have a fundamental need for a sense of identity and tend to go through stages where we question and reformulate who we are.

A friend recently asked me to help her get back on track after she had lost her way and had been stumbling about in the dark, not knowing who she really is.

That happens, doesn't it? You receive sudden news that shakes you to the core. Or your life turns a corner you knew was coming, and suddenly you no longer know where you are. And sometimes it's a long, slow slide until you wake up one day and look in the mirror and don't recognize the person staring back.

It can be a thunderous shock, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Rather than seeing only a negative side, you can take the opportunity to make new choices that redirect and reinvigorate. You can be happy being who you are, no matter the circumstances -- and the good news is that there are many ways you can do this.

One approach, that worked for my friend, was to use 'you are...' and 'I am...' statements to uncover the fundamental beliefs she held about people in general and herself in particular. In this, she found that she had come to believe other people to be basically right and herself to be somehow bad, and to blame for most ills. After some reframing and revising of beliefs she found 'I am...' statements that made more sense and was soon talking about ways to make them happen.

You can stop and take stock at any time -- you don't have to wait for a crisis. And you can, if you do choose, make a new start to be the person you want to be.

Your comments

i am really leading a very dull life. i feel that every one and evry thing is against me, all circumstances are HORRIBLE, Even my personal life, I love some one who only respects me, Could any one offer me help?

I am so sensitive and I wish 2 get rid of this bad trait but I cant, I dont know if u suppose i'm gonna write some positive stuff here, I dont think I can, my life speaks the opposite.

-- mimi

Dave replies:

First, everybody is not against you -- mostly other people don't notice us and think about us as much as we believe -- in fact they are more likely to be worried about what we think about them!!

Secondly, know this: every person is of equal value and has equal rights. This is embedded in law as well as being always true. You are equal to others.

Thirdly, seek support from others, but do not be too great a drain on them. Friends give support as well as receiving it. Respond to help with simple gratitude and seek to help others. It is amazing how helping others can make you feel good -- perhaps you could do voluntary work somewhere -- there are always many places looking for help.

Read this: It has brought hope to me when I am down and encompasses many universal truths.

Love has to be a two-way thing. It can be very distressing when someone you love does not return the feeling, but you cannot make anyone love you, and chasing them will only make things worse. The best thing is often not to see them for a while and engross yourself in other things. Time is a great healer.

I found this a very interesting page. I used to have a very clear sense of identity which I lost once I began puberty and have never fully recovered it. Instead, I seem to have many 'faces' none of which work into a cohesive whole. I don't feel I have a very sure sense of identity at all. The problem with stating "I am" is that I recognise "I am" many things, but only sometimes. They don't define me. I wonder what other people do to find themselves, or find an identity/identities with which they are comfortable?

-- tasha

Dave replies:

Hello Tasha. We always do have a sense of identity though, as you say, it can be fragmented and unclear. It is normal to have multiple selves -- I am a different person in some ways when I am at work, with old friends and at home.

One of the enduring questions to ask is 'Who am I'. The trick is to do this with curiosity and openness rather than any fear. It can be a lifetime's fascinating exploration as you discover more and different facets of yourself. I'm not young and am comfortable in my own skin, but still find internal journeys very helpful.

You might find reading the pages on Psychoanalysis helpful. Also check out The Johari Window and anything in Explanations.

 I too have been having problems to define who i really am. I feel so lost, having lost a friend and a partner at the same time and starting to re-build my life again. I feel totally silly when i copy others all the time (automatically) it seems to give me a sense of self. Do you think i am mad? I question myself this. It is nice to know that at least i am not the only one going through this!

-- cristine

Dave replies:
You are not mad at all, Cristine. Many, many people have been through that you are experiencing. Although it seems like a dark hole at the time, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will feel much better.

hello reader, i feel v fortunate in that i found my real "self" on a beach in scarborough. north yorks. england,2005. whilst in a treatment centre for alcohol addiction. believe me or not, but i was a thousand different people to a thousand different people. wearing many different masks. which was simply exausting. i used to say i had more personalities than a mini-bus full of schitzophrenics...haha. i was always acting like this or like that...the point being i was just acting, mostly in ways i thought people expected me to be. i had very low self esteem due to being so afraid of rejection coz i didnt think people would like the real me.(who ever that was) as i didnt like me (the person i believed i was) up til that time i was put thru a 12 step programme which is simply a pathway to find self acceptance. im not perfect never will be, & thats ok, i dont have the looks of brad pitt, & thats ok,..i make mistakes..& yes, thats just me & that is deffinately human.
im not yet the person i want to be, but thank god i am not the person i used to be. you dont have to be a drunk to work a 12 step program. gud luk xx

-- colin w

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