In my three decades of life, I’ve had my fair share of identity crises.
The first one hit me at the ripe old age of twelve when I had an overnight transformation from being a bubbly Justin Timberlake fan to a moody mall goth who wore way too much eyeliner.
Then, in college, I went full-blown hippie (and got a little too much into philosophy) before circling back around to having more mainstream interests.
Jokes aside, the older I got, the more intense the identity crises became. They didn’t just include my outward appearance and interests but also my spiritual and emotional side as well. I’d find myself questioning my career path, friendships, and life goals.
My latest (and most serious) identity crisis came after I became a mother. My goals and priorities changed completely, and I no longer had any clue who I was and what I was supposed to be doing outside of caring for my little girl.
Although it made me miserable at first, the crisis actually opened my eyes to opportunities I had never considered before and ended up changing my life for the better.
If you’re currently in the midst of an identity crisis and feel as though there could be no possible benefit to your predicament, here are 3 reasons you might want to reconsider your stance:
1. It means you’re growing
If you’re experiencing an identity crisis, this means you’re changing and a natural consequence of change is growth.
You have two options – either you’ll embrace the growth and keep your mind open to all the opportunities it brings, or you’ll dig your feet in and spend a lot of energy trying to push back against a natural process.
While the many changes brought about by an identity crisis are uncomfortable, they do pay off in the long run as long as you try to make the best out of your present circumstances.
2. It allows you to change directions
Chances are that the life goals you had at 25 will be completely different from those you have at 35. Nevertheless, we often delude ourselves into chasing after goals we’re no longer passionate about simply because it feels comfortable and familiar. In this case, an identity crisis gives us an opportunity to course-correct.
If you now want to go into software development after spending ten years trying to build a writing career, go for it! Or if you suddenly want to quit your corporate job to start an Etsy shop, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Yes, some might see it as an unconventional choice but your life is not a dress rehearsal, so don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path.
One of my wishes for my husband’s birthday this year was to “Be brave to do something that terrifies and excites you at the same time.” To my great surprise, he took up skateboarding, a hobby many people would say isn’t age-appropriate for a 40-year-old man. But he enjoys it so much that he doesn’t care what strangers think, and this is precisely the kind of attitude we should all adopt.
3. It’s an opportunity to look inward
A defining characteristic of an identity crisis in adulthood is questioning everything you thought you knew about yourself. Although this sounds intimidating, I’m here to tell you that it’s a good thing.
We all have parts of our identity that only hold us back. Perhaps you unknowingly sabotage yourself, or you’re too afraid to step outside your comfort zone, or you avoid conflict even when it’s much-needed.
Whatever the specific issue might be, an identity crisis gives you the opportunity to examine aspects of your personality that are no longer in alignment with where you are right now and where you want to be.
Even though letting them go feels scary, you can rest assured that it’s for your own good in the long term. More often than not, we carry patterns adopted in childhood well into adulthood. So do you really want to let your childhood self run your adult life?
Don’t forget to find support
Just because having a crisis regarding your sense of self is a deeply personal thing, doesn’t mean that you should face it on your own.
Whether it was caused by parenthood, a big move, or divorce, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a loved one and share how you feel.
We’re social creatures, and even though your identity crisis might make you extra irritable around other people, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of expressing your inner turmoil.
Lastly, I encourage you to avoid overthinking during this time. Although staying in your head, surrounded by your mental chatter is tempting, it can only increase your anxiety.
Instead of worrying about where your life is headed, try to focus on the present moment and what you can do right now to better understand who you actually are and what you need to do to make the most out of this crisis.