We all go through phases where we think we’ve got it all figured out—and we also have phases that make us believe we don’t have anything figured out. This can be very confusing as we navigate career, relationships—and our relationship to ourselves. Change is never comfortable, but the fact is that your identity will shift many times throughout your life, even if you think you know who you are. Getting comfortable with your shifting identity will make these transitions much easier—but making personal progress is always going to be challenging.
Is an Identity “Crisis” Really a Crisis?
You wake up one day and head into the office. Everything is normal, you’ve had your coffee, and you’re sitting at your desk—then the next minute, you’re wondering how you got there. Was this what you wanted from your career?
An identity crisis may be something you think you go through during your teens, but they can strike at different points in life (mid-life crisis anyone?). They typically occur when your sense of self is challenged, which can happen due to your career, when you become a parent, or deal with other changes in your life. While these crises may have you questioning your sense of self, an identity crisis can actually be a good thing. If it helps you reassess what’s important to you or gets you out of a rut, your shifting identity can be healthy.
External Influences in the Digital Age
These days, we’re encouraged to look within ourselves more than ever. With the increasing changes to how we share and consume information, we’re online much of the day, and we’re constantly being exposed to stories of change and personal growth. We’re becoming aware of how important emotional intelligence is, both in the workplace and in personal relationships. It’s becoming easier than ever to go through personal and professional growth, but there’s a downside to all these external influences in the digital age. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed, pigeonholed, or have difficulty forming one’s own opinions and convictions when surrounded by feedback from strangers all over the world. Sharing of information has made us more open-minded as a whole, but shutting out the noise and finding our own identities is sometimes harder than ever. That’s why it’s essential to find a hobby or practice that helps bring silence. Massage therapy can be great for calming down and relaxing, as well as yoga, taking walks in nature or reading books. Whatever you choose, just be sure to find a practice of some kind!
Your Foundation: Slow to Change
The (probably) good news is that even though you will probably go through many different identities during your lifetime, the foundations you built as a young person are usually slow to change. Your core values, though they may shift somewhat over time, tend to be more static than your overall identity. It will take a lot to change one of these foundational pillars of your personality, and you’ll know when it happens. Other changes may be fleeting and of the moment—necessary, but not changing who you are at your core.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
Even though shifting through identities is a normal part of life, it can be scary to navigate alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need it—everyone has been there. If you’re looking for career guidance, seek out a mentor who can help you make the changes you need to create a satisfying career. If you have personal identity concerns or wonder whether your online persona is really you, a counselor can help with these new-found struggles of the Digital Age. No matter what your concerns are, there is someone out there ready and willing to help!
Buckle Up—But Sit in the Driver’s Seat
Though many of the shifts in your identity will be driven by the people you meet and the circumstances you’re in, it’s important to remember that ultimately, you’re in charge. You can expect some major changes in your life, of course, but you don’t have to let those changes happen to you every time. Not happy with an aspect of your life? Change it! Make it part of your identity. In order to get comfortable with your shifting identity, you need to be willing to both give up control and take the wheel when needed. And the best part? It’s your story, and only you can tell it.