Awakening To Authenticity

I invite you to think back on your earliest memories and ask yourself, are you the same person you were then as you are now? How did you think, what interested you, how did you move through the world? How did you think and feel about yourself? Who did you think you were and how did the world see you?

For most of us, our earliest memories are in childhood, and as children we spoke and understood as children and as we grew, we put away childish things. But how has our self-perception grown and changed? How has our identity, those qualities that make us unique and make us us changed? And how do we tackle those changes as we grow older?

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Corninthians 13:11

This is a subject of considerable study as it effects all of us that have the privilege of growing older. While the transition from childhood to adolescence, and adolescence into adulthood, is one of discovering who we are, the transitions we face as adults can be more complicated, often shaking the foundations of who we thought were and challenging our own ideas and views of ourselves and our place in the world. Our self-perception can become muddled as we try to navigate these changes, resulting in an identity crisis.

What is an identity crisis?

An identity crises may occur at various stages in our adult life, usually when we experience intense shifts within our life that disrupt our goals or role in society. These shifts can be anything from experiencing a traumatic event, losing a partner or loved one, becoming seriously ill, or undergoing a major life transition like changing our career or a long-distance move. Some identity crises can be anticipated, such as at midlife.

Midlife is a time when we find ourselves to be fully formed, but also taking stock of the life we have already lived and wondering what we really want and who we really are. Throughout much of our childhood and adolescence we are shaped by parents, teachers, and peers and are told by well-meaning adults who we are and what we ought to be, so we follow along and shape our lives accordingly. But at midlife we shake off those external influences and connect with who we really are and what we really want.

When we are trapped by social convention, people pleasing, and perfectionism, we will struggle greatly during an identity crisis as we try to break free from the societal expectations and external influences that led us away from our authentic selves. We may regress, appearing to try to recapture our youth, but in reality are reverting back to a point where we could explore our options and expand our boundaries. Generally, during an identity crisis we experience anxiety, depression, and feeling lost, aimless, or like a stranger to ourselves.

Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.

Alan Watts

Resolving an identity crisis is fundamentally about rediscovering and realigning with one’s true self, a process eloquently captured by Alan Watts: “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” This journey entails a deep reevaluation of personal goals and values, necessitating a critical examination of what genuinely matters to us versus what we have been conditioned to value. It’s an invitation to explore and possibly redefine our beliefs, stripping away the layers of imposed identity to reveal our authentic selves. This critical process requires taking a step back to reflect on what is truly important to us, distinguishing between values and goals that have been externally imposed and those that genuinely resonate with our authentic self. Exploring and potentially revising your beliefs is also key as it allows for a deeper understanding of your motivations and desires, leading to more meaningful and fulfilling life choices.

Engaging in activities that foster self-discovery, such as journaling, meditation, or creative pursuits like dancing, knitting, or drawing, can provide valuable insights into our true nature. Additionally, getting support plays a vital role in navigating an identity crisis. While some within our social and professional circles might resist the changes they will see in us, finding support is crucial. This support can come from various sources like friends, family, mentors, or mental health professionals. These individuals can offer different perspectives, encouragement, and guidance, helping us to explore new possibilities and make decisions that align with our rediscovered sense of self. They can also provide a supportive environment where we can openly discuss our doubts and fears.

As Watts suggests, waking up to our true selves is a process of release and discovery, a shedding of outdated images to embrace a more authentic and fulfilling existence. The resolution of an identity crisis, therefore, is not just about finding oneself but about actively creating and embracing the person we are meant to be.

An identity crisis, while initially disconcerting, can offer us profound benefits in our journey towards self-discovery and authenticity. It acts as a catalyst for introspection, pushing us to delve deeper into our psyche and question the values and beliefs that we’ve previously taken for granted. This period of self-examination leads to a more authentic understanding of our true desires, aspirations, and values, often hidden beneath the layers of societal expectations and external influences.

As we navigate through this crisis, we gain clarity about what genuinely matters to us, which in turn guides us in aligning our life choices more closely with our true selves. The process of reevaluating and reconstructing our identity empowers us to live more authentically, making decisions that resonate deeply with our core being. Furthermore, this journey towards authenticity often brings a sense of liberation and fulfillment, as we start to live in a way that is more congruent with our innermost selves. By embracing the tumultuous journey of an identity crisis, we pave the way for a life that is not only more aligned with our true nature but also rich with personal growth and self-acceptance.

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