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Your life just reached a turning point, it’s the time where you are gradually venturing into your own world and THAT classic question hits you: “Who am I?”. All it takes is this one question to drive you into an existential crisis. These are times where you probably feel confused and isolated as you struggle to find your place in this big and rapidly changing world.
You could be experiencing what is called an “identity crisis”, as suggested by Verywell Mind. The idea of an identity crisis was coined by developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. He defines the concept as the analysis of one’s self-image through varying methods, which often happens but is not confined to adolescents. This essentially means that what you’re going through is a completely normal stage and you’re not alone.
Feeling confused about your identity can be detrimental to your mental health and self-esteem, but fret not as there are ways for you to get to know yourself.
The importance of knowing yourself
You may already know from media and pop culture that knowing yourself is important. Discovering your self-identity is helpful in gaining a clearer vision of what you want to achieve in life. Sexual orientations, religious beliefs, career choices, and many more aspects all shape and form who you are and how you interact with the space around you.
By understanding your identity, you can also recognise the goals and destinations that suit you most. However, do keep in mind that not everyone needs to recognise their goals to live happily. Some people are comfortable going with the flow and that is completely fine!
With that being said, self-exploration is also crucial for creating a better environment for your mental health. The feeling of not knowing yourself can often put you into bad moods and self-doubt. Going through an identity crisis is hard as your faith may begin to crumble, and sometimes you might feel like there is no meaning in life. This is a phase many people go through and you will eventually figure things out.
Look for accessible guides
The internet is an enormous place, so start there. Personality tests can help you know parts of yourself, even if they are not as accurate as they are marketed to be, as claimed by BetterHelp. These tests can be helpful in giving you direction (and entertainment). You can think of personality tests as the road signs on your journey of self-exploration, providing you insights into your psychological traits such as introversion vs. extraversion.
However, the most helpful part of these tests can be the process of answering the list of questions, as you have to constantly reflect on your past behaviours throughout the test. Do take the results with a grain of salt, as many personality tests are flawed or downright inaccurate. Besides, your personality cannot be truly defined through a few questionnaires on the web.
Communicate with yourself
The person who’s probably going to know you best is, well, yourself. Communicate with yourself to learn about your emotions, values and boundaries. Avoid engaging in negative self-talk and being overly optimistic. Reflecting on your own actions without bias is a great way to know who you are, but as humans, it is easy for us to overthink our behaviour at times. This would then be the perfect time to stop, meditate, or do something else to distract yourself until you are in a better emotional and mental space to continue. Of course, you could also express your thoughts through art, journaling or anything you love to be more aware of your thought patterns. Alternatively, talking to someone who is trustworthy and compassionate is also a good way to calm your thoughts.
The professionals are here to help
When faced with difficulties, seek help! Talking to psychologists and therapists is a great way to gain insights about yourself. This is especially important when your struggles with identity are seriously affecting your mental health. As suggested by Zencare, severe identity crises may lead to anxiety, depression, social challenges, and struggles in professional life.
In the treatment guide published by Keck School of Medicine of USC, it is said that psychologists and therapists help by providing you with a safe space to raise questions about yourself and supporting you through your journey of self-exploration. A trusted and reliable environment helps greatly when you experience identity confusion that leads to the plummeting of your self-esteem and self-image.
The bottom line
If you are prompted to find out who you are right now, here are some reminders: you won’t find yourself in one go, and who you were five years ago could be completely different from who you are today. We are influenced by our surroundings all the time, and that causes us to change in the process. Some people find out who they are at the age of 18, some identify their “true self” at the age of 40. After all, self-discovery is a personal journey and it is not a one-size-fits-all process. Do what makes you genuinely happy.
By Loh Qiao Qing