When Was the Last Time You Explored Your Identity?
If you are an adult living in the midst of career and family obligations, you probably dismiss the notion of reviewing your own identity. Wasn’t that step over back in those rocky teenage years?
The truth is, a great deal of identity formation likely happened right on through your twenties. Research and respected theorists explain that we often soak up the value system of our family and those we most admire while exploring options for activity and productivity based on what is available.
What we overlook is that movement through life that brings new and varied opportunities, changes in society, and adjustments we make in response to experience. I am a fan of positive change throughout the lifetime and believe those incremental changes may need occasional focus and intentional review.
To give your identity some attention – ask this question: How do I define myself to myself?
When you think this through you can begin to get a general sense of your core self and objectively describe how you see yourself based on your place in the community, family, and other social forces at play. The definition you come up with now most likely includes a thread of your young self, but a host of new priorities, roles, and values.
Are you living out your values and pursuing goals that line up with your current core identity?
It’s entirely possible you are not living in tune with your authentic self if you did little or no exploration to find your path in life early on. Taking on the directions and belief systems of those around you can result in a lack of fulfillment. Searching for that fulfillment can lead us down shadowy paths that drive us to destructive behaviors and an ever present search for meaning.
Although we aren’t expected to have an unwavering confidence and perfectly aligned goals throughout life, attending to an identity we are proud of is a destination worth holding out our compass for. In fact, it can be a relief to know that our identity will and should change throughout our lifetime.
One initial step to take to clarify your identity formation is to search for potential sources of expression. Exploring your interests and talents even as a hobby can boost your self-esteem and help you discover new parts of your identity.
Making choices and taking firm steps toward growth and further development of who you aspire to be is another positive way to feel in charge of your life and identity. Often, we feel overwhelmed and frustrated with our identity because we have not exercised our volition. Volition is that control over our path and the freedom to choose what happens to us. It’s easy to forget our own role in the formation of our identity. Gaining knowledge and pursuing a path that lines up with our vision is part of staying true to the real you.
If you have regrets and have made some wrong turns in your path to identity achievement, consider yourself in good company. We naturally aspire to improve and grow toward the best version of ourselves possible while learning from the sideswipes and bumps along the way. Knowing who you are, what you stand for, and where you are headed is the takeaway here. There may be work in teasing out who you are from who you want others to believe you are.
In the end, true fulfillment blooms when we can feel comfortable in our own skin.