Identity Crises


Photo taken by Anthony Tran

Almost everyone has gone through an identity crisis. Most identity crises’ come during our stage of adolescence. As teenagers, we are exposed to the idea of identity and are often asked, “What do you want to do in the future?” Questions like this can lead to an identity crisis, as one might not yet know what their path in life is. They may start to question their role in society and their sense of self. You can’t experience everything the world has to offer, so it’s difficult to make one decision that you’ll have to endure for the rest of your life.


Psychologist Erik Erikson has defined eight different stages of an identity crisis that we go through: trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. doubt, initiative vs guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair. Erikson believes that each stage builds from the previous one and comes with conflict and development. Along with these stages, there are four identity statuses established by James Marcia, a clinical and developmental psychologist. The four statuses are divided into two dimensions: identity commitment and identity exploration. People with high commitment have a strong sense of who they are, and hardly doubt the decisions that they make. People who are low on identity commitment don’t have a certain sense of self. People with identity exploration, however, have an equal sense of self and uncertainty. In the article, “Identity Crisis: How Our Identity Forms Out of Conflict” by Author and Psychology Expert Kendra Cherry, it is found that people with strong commitments are happier with themselves and healthier than people with low identity commitment.


The four statues are known as Identity Achievement, Identity Moratorium, Identity Foreclosure, and Identity Diffusion. Identity Achievement is when one contemplates their identity, goes through multiple identities, and finds a resolution. Identity Moratorium is when one devises different identities, but doesn’t commit to one. Identity Foreclosure occurs when one’s identity is surrounded by society’s outlook. More specifically, someone with Identity Foreclosure doesn’t necessarily explore themselves. Instead, they may follow the path that their family has chosen for them or identify as whatever may be appealing to society. Lastly, Identity Diffusion is when one has no interest in searching for their identity.


As teenagers are known to be master procrastinators, having an identity crisis is actually related to procrastination. In a Psychology Today article called, “Teenagers, Identity Crises & Procrastination” by psychology professor of Carleton University, Timothy A. Pychyl, it is stated that teenagers are more likely to procrastinate due to constantly exploring themselves. The main problem that procrastinators face is the lack of motivation; teenagers often can’t find anything to commit to strongly and become prone to procrastination. On the other hand, people who have more priorities and have somewhat of an idea of their life’s passions are more motivated to meet their goals. Questions such as, “What kind of career path do I want to take?” or “What kind of life do I want to live?” continually dwell in the minds of teenagers. Finally finding the answers to those questions can make one feel as if their identity has been fulfilled, but if those questions are left unanswered during adolescence, the crisis follows you into adulthood.


Marriage, divorce, break-ups, moving out, getting a job, getting fired, death… All of these events have one thing in common: they can cause someone to have an identity crisis. Essentially, the cause of an identity crisis has one culprit: a life-changing event. Marriage, for example, can cause one to have an identity crisis. One may ask, “What now?” after a marriage or, “What is my role in this marriage? What do I want now that I am married?” With life-changing events comes more tough decisions to think about, and that is difficult to deal with, especially when these questions often can not be answered.


The main symptom of having an identity crisis is struggling with self-actualization. Self-actualization is when one realizes their potential, which is difficult to achieve during an identity crisis. Other than that, what other symptoms are there? During an identity crisis, one may experience conflict from questioning their identity. Questioning things such as their values, spirituality, beliefs, interests, or career path can leave someone feeling overwhelmed, which can impact their mental health. Another symptom is endlessly searching for purpose in life. Someone experiencing an identity crisis may think about what they want to do and obsess too much about the future, which can lead to questions such as “Do I really have a purpose in life?” which are related to existential crises.


Having an identity crisis is a long and tough journey that most people experience in life. If you are having trouble dealing with an identity crisis, consider exploring who you are. Exploring what defines you can give you a better sense of self. To start off, you can make a list of your priorities, passions, interests, values, beliefs, and find what makes you happy. Something else you can do is consider how different the present may be from your past to reflect on. Reflecting can help you get in better touch of your true feelings. One thing that is important to have is support, especially when one is going through an identity crisis. Make sure to tell someone about your self doubts and worries-- it’s a healthy way to creates a stronge bond between you and that person. One last thing to consider is to seek help. Seeking help is not open to everyone, but if it is open to you, you should get the help that you deserve. Always remember that having an identity crisis is completely normal, and at the end of the day, it will be okay.


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