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Who are you really?

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Janine Do Cabo  | Sustainability & Leadership Development  |  JHB, SA

Oct 2020

The most successful and charismatic individuals who live and have lived are the ones who were comfortable in their skin because they knew who they were (identity) and why they were born (purpose). It is sad to note that, in today’s society more than ever before, the truth of the matter is that a vast majority of us don’t know who we are – a malady that leads to what is known as having an identity crisis.


In psychology, an identity crisis is described as a questioning of self or identity which could be brought about by stress, age, or advancement from a certain stage in life a career change, or school. 

While the Merriam dictionary defines it as personal psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one’s social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one’s personality. 

If it could be out into one word, that word would be confused. 


In today’s blog, we will have a look at the areas that cause an identity crisis from a psychological standpoint in order to identify and understand what it is.


Stress and identity


Stress – when not handled in a healthy way can create a mess as discussed in my previous blog post and, any and everyone will encounter a stressful situation sometime or other making its avoidance near impossible. What was not discussed is the correlation between stress and identity. 


There are 2 kinds of stress.  The first is the kind that motivates you and improves performance because it’s perceived as exciting – eustress.  While its negative counterpart, distress, brings about feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and a decrease in performance. 


When we are distressed, we step into a personality that isn’t who we really are.  Whether it shows up in angry outbursts or seclusion when you would normally be a peace-loving or social person – it tends to negatively impact our sense of self.


Age and identity


Our lives naturally ebb and flow from one stage of life to another, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, and if we’re blessed enough the golden years.  With each new beginning bringing with it sometimes daunting hurdles to overcome that may be coupled with the expectations of others on how and who to be when that new stage is entered into. 


Psychology suggests that a child’s personality has already developed by age 7.  That means that the way they view the world as well as how they see themselves is already almost cemented forming either a positive or negative identity for the future life stages they must go through. 


As we navigate through the change of schools, primary to secondary education, varsity to the work-life, each transition brings with it trials we have never encountered before, challenging who we thought we were and thus affecting our identity which much adapts and grows as the stage demands.


Advancement and identity


Advancement is a good thing as it implies growth, however, just like age, it would require a certain part of us grows into the role of what is now required.  In essence, affecting our identity in a more positive way but altering it none the less. 


When talking about why people struggle to wake up in the morning when they need to, Eric Thomas said,

“When you know your why, you won’t hit the snooze button anymore.  You find a way to make it happen.” 

For most, knowing what their why is, is what they spend their entire lives doing while some unfortunately never get to find out. 


To find your why, commit to finding out your who, so that everything else can fall into place much easier.

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