Searching For Identity
By Jamie Prisco -Rudolph, M.A.,-LPC-C
Edmond Family Counseling
Have you ever stared out of the car window on a long drive and thought to yourself: “Who am I?” If you have, you are certainly not alone! Establishing a true sense of self is an important process to achieve personal goals and feel secure in personal values and ideals. Individuals with a strong sense of self typically feel more confident when making decisions, whether that be deciding what to cook for dinner or deciding to move across the country to a new state. A strong sense of self aids in identifying core beliefs and values and people who feel sure of their beliefs are often more assertive when explaining them to others. Individuals who lack a sense of self-worth may often feel disengaged or uncertain about making decisions or struggle identifying their beliefs and values. Lacking a sense of self may lead to feelings of confusion, misalignment, and unhappiness. With some insight and introspection, finding your true sense of self is possible.
To begin identifying a true sense of self, ask some clarifying questions.
- On a scale of 1-10, how sure of myself do I feel?
- What are my strengths and abilities?
- What are my values? Do I behave in a way that demonstrates these values?
- What brings me happiness?
- Do my choices and decisions reflect the person I want to be?
Once these questions are answered, take some time to consider where a true sense of identity comes from.
There are several factors that contribute to finding a true sense of self. These factors include individuation, family of origin, and societal expectations. The process of developing a sense of self begins in childhood. Erik Erikson, an ego psychologist, created a theory that highlighted stages of psychosocial development from infancy and mature adulthood. The 5th stage in his theory, called Identity versus Role Confusion, highlighted a child’s desire to be more independent and unique. If a child is provided the opportunity to learn and express their own thoughts and desires, this will help them feel more individualized from their peers, increase their level of self-confidence, and help them to feel more independent. Early childhood development also plays a role in defining a sense of self. As we grow up, we are taught values and beliefs by parents, caregivers, and family members. These initial beliefs that we are taught help build ideas about the world around us. Throughout development, we decide if these values still make sense or if we need to identify new values to replace old ones. Societal standards and influences also play a role in how we see ourselves. Social media, gender roles, and cultural traditions can impact feelings of identity and must be considered as a true sense of self is formed.
Developing a strong sense of self takes time and a dedicated effort to self-reflect and evaluate. Some tools to help develop a strong sense of self include:
- Determine interests, likes/dislikes, and hobbies: Reflecting on personal likes, dislikes, and hobbies can help to find common themes and preferences in areas of interest. Defining these interests can assist in trying new hobbies or finding social groups with similar interests and ideas.
- Identify personal values, goals, and beliefs: One place to start when defining personal values is to consider what values were taught in childhood. If these values still apply, determine how to make them an integral part of setting and completing personal goals. If not, discover new values to replace old ones. Completing a value assessment is one way to discover personal values and beliefs.
- Try new things and embrace alone time: Occasionally, societal pressure and influences can make it difficult to understand individual ideas and values. Use alone time to complete self-exploration by journaling or note-taking. Reflect on personal strengths and abilities and how past experiences have shaped your personality.
- Practice decision-making skills: Being able to trust your instincts and make decisions is another way of defining your sense of self. Start with making small choices to make your day more successful to build up confidence in decision-making skills. Take time to reflect on these choices and the results of them. Over time, you may begin to feel more confident in being assertive and voicing your choices with others.
Feeling like you are unsure of yourself can make it difficult to set goals and feel successful. Spending some time to reflect on who you are and where you want to be will help develop a strong sense of self and confidence in personal strengths and abilities.
Jamie Prisco-Rudolph, M.A., LPC-C is a staff therapist and Intern Coordinator at Edmond Family Counseling. We may be reached at 405-341-3554 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professional counselors.