Who am I? What makes me me?
How do I know this persona is really me and not an imitation of someone else?
Growing up is hard when you’re figuring out who you are.
I had a huge identity crisis once I hit puberty until I turned 18.
In retrospect, a lot of it stemmed from the stress of having to fit in (and failing terribly at it).
Why are some people more popular than others?
Am I less of a person if no one cares about me, or even worse, if everyone despises and avoids me?
Being a teenager, we can be overly affected by what people think about us.
We base our self-worth on our likeability and being included in popular groups. Once we lack these, we may question our life’s worth.
Should we create fake fronts to pursue the dream of being included?
Should we mimic the traits of popular people even if deep down inside we know this is really not who we are? What if people see through our pretence?
What if we just want to discover who we really are, and hopefully find our niche where we feel comfortable being ourselves authentically, and feel safe for our true voices to come out, without having to put on a mask?
When I struggled with my 6-odd teenage years of identity crisis (and sometimes still do as an adult), these are some things I thought about.
1. Decide what your non-negotiable values are.
What do you care about? What really makes you stay up at night?
What would you suffer for? Fight tooth and nail for?
Love, friendship, freedom, independence, honesty, compassion, empathy, equality?
2. Define your life’s vision and mission.
What kind of person do you want to be remembered as?
What is your vision of your future self 1, 5, 10, 20, 40, 60 years down the road?
What missions do you hope to achieve before you die?
If it helps, write these down on a post-it and stick it on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself why you wake up every day.
3. Make up your own mind.
It’s ok to be flexible at times, but when you are too wishy-washy about too many things, (e.g. what you like, what you want and what side of the fence you sit on), this makes you unnecessarily influenced by others and easy to manipulate.
Live by your rules, not by what others dictate for you.
What preferences do you have that you won’t change even in the face of peer pressure? Stay firm on these.
When you are faced with a decision, do you take the effort to research and think through what to choose?
Or do you endlessly seek validation for all your options and then choose the most popular choice?
Before you run to others for their opinions, try to read up and decide for yourself first.
4. Unlimit your identity.
Humans are ever-changing, so why limit our identity to what we had at 16, 21, 40, 60? Life is a journey, and so is our identity.
At the start of your adulthood, you may have had very different values, beliefs, preferences and mindsets compared to today.
Just as you need to update your skills and mobile phone operating system, it’s ok to update your identity to sync with changes in your life.
5. What you think about yourself is more important than what others think about you.
You may worry so much about what other people think of us, what if they didn’t really notice you in the first place?
However the tricky part comes when what you want clashes with what your loved ones want you to do, or become.
Then you’ll have to go back to the very first question and ask yourself, which values are non-negotiable for you?
Are you willing to curtail one part of your dreams for a non-negotiable value? Or is your dream non-negotiable and a priority over all else?
Only you can decide.
There is no rush to decide your identity, because discovering yourself is a journey with multiple destinations.
Enjoy the process of exploring the world at large, and you’ll discover more about your identity when you release the baggage and expectations of your everyday life.
Featured photo: tinybuddha.com