Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Issues with “identity”

I’ve seen more and more folks recently with struggles around their “identity”.

If “identity” is like one’s “clothes/uniform”, and one “sense of self” is like the bare body/essence underneath that “uniform”, then the folks I tend to see may struggle in the following patterns.

1. They may struggle to differentiate their true sense of self from their identity/role/“uniform”, and this may create confusion and significant struggles for them.

2. They may put on the “uniform” that is accepted or fashionable for the season/time, accepted by society, accepted by people around them/their tribe, accepted by their family etc. , but then deep inside, they actually don’t like it. It doesn’t feel comfortable. It doesn’t feel right or feel authentic for them. They struggle a lot to reconcile this and it’s confusing for them.

3. They may have a very “fixed sense of identity” and wear the same ”uniform” everywhere they go. In some places, they are accepted and in some places, they are not. This can unfortunately pose a very difficult challenge for them because their “identity/uniform” may not be accepted as the “dress code” for the context. It may be less adaptable or workable in the real world.

4. They may be confused and don’t really know which “identity/uniform” to wear at times. It’s a hit and miss.

5. Or some other patterns that create a mismatch between their identity/“uniform” and what is accepted or workable in the outside environment or context.

So how can we improve this?

It’s certainly is very very difficult.
Having a more flexible sense of ”identity” and at the same time, authentic and workable, is not easy.

One strategy is to first learn to differentiate the true sense of self from “identity/thoughts/feelings”. They are not necessarily the same thing. This will require a lot of “inner work”, emotional literacy, defusion and mindfulness work. This is consistent with mindfulness training, DBT and ACT.

Then we try to use a diverse set of “identity/uniforms/values” that is authentic to self and still make it workable in the real world.

Again not easy, but that’s one way to move forward.

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