Do you know what you truly want to do in life? Do you know what your passions are? Is the life you’re living now actually making you happy?
If you’re constantly searching for the answers to these questions, then you might be undergoing an identity crisis.
Maybe you lost or quit a job, realized you didn’t want to do something you were working towards, or gone through some life change that made you reassess everything.
If you’re feeling confused and lost on who you are, what you want to do, and why, then you’re not alone.
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing what an identity crisis is, my experience with having one, and 7 signs that hint you’re having an identity crisis.
What is an Identity Crisis?
Our identity is the way we see ourselves.
What makes up our identities are our beliefs, values, aspirations, personality, physical traits, and abilities.
Other people and institutions, such as your family, peers, society, school, also plays a big role in shaping your identity.
But when an event challenges your identity, that’s when you start to question everything.
An example of this is a football player who can no longer play the sport due to a devastating injury.
Other examples include losing a a job, entering or ending a relationship, and realizing you don’t like your major in your senior year of college.
An identity crisis takes on many forms and shapes. It might not be as straightforward as the examples I gave.
For a better understanding, let me tell you about my identity crisis.
My Identity Crisis
I remember feeling lost and confused after a few months of working my first corporate job.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted a high-paying job.
My parents told me that I’d be successful if I got a stable corporate job.
And in order to get one, I’d have to study hard, listen to the authorities, go to college, and sacrifice many things along the way.
I followed that path because I truly thought it would lead me to happiness. It was all I knew for a while.
Because of my efforts, I got the “dream job” everyone wanted for me.
However, while everyone was happy for me, I felt miserable and empty.
It felt like my life was a lie. I felt duped for working so hard and sacrificing so much for nothing.
For my whole life, I clung onto the identity of being a hard-working student who was going to work a corporate job.
But now, I didn’t want anything to do with the fancy corporate job.
This is when I realized I was having an identity crisis.
After realizing I didn’t enjoy corporate or being in the city, I had to reassess everything.
My identity crisis was the catalyst to finding my true values and beliefs.
After reflecting, I realized that I wasn’t living a life aligned to my true values. Instead, I was living a life aligned to my parent’s and teachers’ values.
Because of that period of self-discovery, I now live a more meaningful life.
Going through an identity crisis is not a bad thing. If you see it as a chance to reinvent yourself, you’ll see great changes in your life.
To figure out if you’re undergoing an identity crisis, here are 7 big signs to look out for.
1. You realize you don’t like your life now
Most people distract themselves so they can avoid confronting their true feelings.
It’s no surprise as we’re taught to push away our emotions rather than acknowledging them.
If you realize you don’t like the life you’re living now, that means you’re self-aware. This is a good thing.
For a while, I was pretending everything was fine for the first few months of my job.
I pushed down any feelings of discomfort, dissatisfaction, and distress.
I told myself I didn’t have the right to be upset because I had everything I dreamed of.
But the sooner you realize your true feelings, the sooner you can work towards a living a life you love.
2. You start to doubt societal norms
Society has this blueprint to success. You see it on TV, in movies, books, and more.
The blueprint often goes like this:
- You study hard in school
- Get into a good college (and accumulate debt)
- Gather experience through internships (often unpaid)
- Find a stable corporate job to stay at for decades
- Get married and start a family
- Work until you’re old
This blueprint works for some people, but for many, this is restricting and limiting.
I kept telling myself, “I’ll be happy after I do this.” I’ll be happy after I finish school, after I find a job, after I retire.
I kept pushing off my happiness.
At some point, I started to feel doubtful. Is this the only blueprint to happiness? What if I wanted to deviate from these guidelines?
3. You feel uncomfortable when people ask you about your life
Do you like your job? What do you do for work? How is your life? Are you in a relationship yet?
During my identity crisis, I was uncomfortable with people asking these questions.
I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to answer.
I wasn’t secure with my identity and who I was. Because of my identity crisis, I didn’t know if I enjoyed my job or even my life.
Now that I found my sense of self, I can answer those questions confidently.
Even if someone doesn’t agree with my answer or have negative things to say, I am secure enough in my identity and myself to know that it’s not a problem with me.
4. You question who you truly are
I remember questioning who I was apart from the values and choices my parents and society pressured me into.
When my identity fell apart, I didn’t know if any part of my identity came from my own values.
I didn’t know if my identity really my own or if it something others imposed onto me.
5. You don’t feel secure in your life choices
When you aren’t secure in your identity, it’s much harder to make decisions.
You’re constantly second guessing your decisions because you fear making the wrong ones.
I was stuck between the me who wanted a fancy corporate job and the me who wanted something more.
I knew working in the big city wasn’t for me, but at the same time, I struggled with letting go of this identity.
When you’re confident with who you are, you can make decisions more confidently.
6. You feel anxious
When I didn’t have a clear sense of self, I was constantly antsy. I found myself jumping around from one “passion” to another.
I was desperate to cling onto an identity and to find any semblance of security, stability, and clarity.
As a result, I tried many different things from a place of scarcity, not because I was curious or interested.
I was in a state on panic and anxiousness. I was just throwing spaghetti on the walling, trying to see what sticks.
Because of that, I couldn’t enjoy any of the things I tried.
When you’re secure in your identity, you try new things from a place of excitement and discovery, not from a place of scarcity and desperation.
7. You resort to Netflix or other vices to escape your problems
Going through an identity shift is hard.
Rebuilding your self and getting back on your feet takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
To cope, many people, including myself in the past, found escape through Netflix, eating, sleeping, playing video games, reading comics, and more.
It make me feel good in the moment. All the pain and frustrations would temporarily go away.
However, I would feel awful about myself later and regret everything. This cycle would continue until I acknowledged my identity crisis.
In this process, I learned that pushing away my feelings would not make my situation any better.
How do you find yourself, who you are, and your identity?
In order to find clarity and direction, you need to practice the art of self-reflection.
The best way to do so is to start a journaling practice.
Through journaling, you’ll gain a clearer sense of self: your thoughts, beliefs, and what you truly value in life.
To get started, I created a free journaling guide that will help you find clarity and guide you through the first steps of building a life you love.
Going through an identity crisis is hard, but with patience, care, and reflection, you’ll get through them and come out with even more direction and clarity.
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