Most people suffer an identity crisis at some time in their life, though some unfortunate ones suffer it all their lives! As humans there are identifiable stages we go through from birth till death. We are first babies, then toddlers, young children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged and then seniors. Some of these stages have more significant effect on us than others. Adolescence and midlife are often tumultuous life transitions because of the substantial changes both physically and emotionally. Other significant events are serious illness, relationship breakdowns and career changes.
The way we experience these transitions is often affected by the beliefs we have about ourselves, often adopted at an early age. People with healthy self esteem are able to ride through challenges relatively unscathed as they see these are external events they go through but do not base their identity on them. For example, someone who enters midlife but has high self esteem would most likely embrace the changes he or she is going through, draw on their strengths, re-examine their values and plan for the second half of their life. Someone with low self esteem would be more prone to having a mid-life crisis.
Self esteem also plays an important role in relationships. People with low opinions of themselves often have a hard time. They are more susceptible to being hurt as they will take comments and feedback very personally. Unfortunately when relationships fail for these people, it only serves to reinforce their feelings of unworthiness. That’s why we often see people in abusive relationships continue the cycle. They attract abusive partners to them through their belief, albeit unconsciously, that they not worthy of anything better.
So how do we go about establishing a positive self identity? The first step is to separate events from our interpretation of them. Events are actually neutral, neither good or bad, it’s the way we view them that affects our personality. To give a simple example, if you make a mistake in your work, something everyone is prone to at sometime or another, you can look at it two ways. You can feel condemned about it and use it as evidence that you are no good. Or you can view it objectively and say to yourself, even verbally if appropriate to do so, ” Everyone makes mistakes, I usually do this job without any issues. My mistakes do not determine who I am”.
The fact is, we create who we are through our perceptions. You may have had parents or teachers or peers that put you down and made you feel incapable of succeeding or achieving things for yourself. That is something that has a profound effect on children as they are so easily influenced. Many people carry those beliefs formed at an early age around with them into adulthood. Then as they have other experiences, these events are interpreted through the filter of their beliefs to reinforce who they think they are. An unsuccessful job interview will make the person of low self esteem more convinced he is no good. A failed relationship will put a further dent in their self image.
Everybody experiences feeling inferior to some degree, in more serious cases it becomes quite debilitating. What is necessary to overcome these self limiting beliefs is to have a reboot of yourself. Start challenging the way you look at yourself and use new filters to look at everyday events. Be more alert about the thoughts that pass through your mind, vigilantly guard against negative ones and toss them out. You may find this is hard at first, but if you can sustain it for 30 days, you’ll be well on the way to forming a new habit and genuinely changing the person you are just through having a more positive attitude towards yourself.
Who are you? You are a person of infinite value, it’s time to act like it!