17 Examples of Identity Crisis
John Spacey, February 15, 2022
An identity crisis is a period of time where you feel significant uncertainty regarding your identity. Your identity is who you are and can include your personality, characteristics, roles, social status, relationships, memberships, positions, intentions, goals and accomplishments. An identity crisis is considered a developmental stage that can eventually result in positive change. This being said, they can be a period of confusion, disruption and turbulence. The following are illustrative examples of an identity crisis.
Internal ChangeAn identity crisis can be caused by internal change such as shifting drives and interests. For example, a teenager who has always been a "good" student who is suddenly driven to rebellious behavior to test out independence, freedom and rejection of authority.
ExpectationsAn identity crisis is often driven by social expectations and new roles placed on an individual. For example, the expectation that a recent graduate will find a job or otherwise do something with their life.
External ChangeAn external change that challenges your identity. For example, a star athlete with a bright future in sports who suddenly has their career ended by an injury.
Freedom & IndependenceIt is common for people to struggle with freedom and independence if they previously had much of their time and purpose planned for them. For example, a student who suddenly has freedom after years of schooling that provided social inclusion, shared experience, roles and goals. It's not easy being free where you have to find all these things for yourself.
Roles & InclusionStruggling with new social memberships, roles and expectations. For example, transitioning into married life whereby you are suddenly part of a large close-knit family.
HopeLost hopes or new hopes that change your expectations for your future identity. For example, a small business owner who realizes that their business is going to fail. This may spark a period of intense introspection designed to learn from failure and establish a new direction.
Quarter-life CrisisA quarter-life crisis may occur between the ages of 25 and 30. This can be a realization that you're an adult such that if you are going to do the things that you always thought you would do -- now is the time. This can be viewed as a process of acceptance of adulthood.
Mid-life CrisisA mid-life crisis is the painful process of letting go of one's youth. This takes many forms but is typically depicted with the cliche that an individual begins to act younger than their age in an attempt to reclaim youth or fully experience their last glimmers of youth.
Nostalgia & SentimentalityA crisis whereby you try to accept that the past that is so vivid in your mind is gone. This may result in attempts to recreate, reexperience and revisit the past. Ultimately, this may result in acceptance of the arrow of time and a renewed appreciation of the importance of capturing each day and each moment.
AwakeningsAn identity crisis can be sparked by new realizations or capacities within an individual. For example, suddenly realizing, in a strong way, that you desperately need to transcend worrying what others think to pursue coolness.
Existential AngstExistential angst is a fear that life is meaningless or otherwise dark that sparks philosophical explorations whereby you try to understand the nature and purpose of existence.
Identity ApathyA brooding reaction to identity crisis whereby you don't know who you are and you don't much care.
Identity ExplorationAn active reaction to identity crisis whereby you adopt an open mind and experiment with potential new versions of yourself.
Identity TransformationAn identity crisis that results in a successful transition to a stable new identity.
Identity StabilizationA possible outcome of an identity crisis is that you simply accept your existing identity. For example, an engineer who has an identity crisis when they are laid off who is promptly rehired. This may end the crisis without without much of a transformation.
Empty Nest SyndromeParents who have greatly dedicated themselves to raising children who struggle when their children become far more independent and move out.
RetirementRetirement is often a painful transition whereby an individual is suddenly cast into completely freedom at an advanced age after decades of membership in a group with a productive role. Even for those who have looked forward to retirement for many years, this can be a difficult transition.
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