Saturday, January 26, 2019

How to Survive an Identity Crisis

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By Lime Green Giraffe Webmaster, Meghan K.

identity crisis n. a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person's sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society 
The definition above is the first thing that pops up when you Google “identity crisis.” And it’s a pretty solid definition: having been through at least four identity crises in my life, “a period of uncertainty and confusion…typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society,” is a pretty accurate description of what I go through every time something shakes my self-image. But even though the experience of an identity crisis is familiar enough to be well-defined on Google, so many people don’t know how to handle them, or even how to recognize them. The truth of the matter is that we don’t really talk about the times when our sense of self gets a little wobbly, and because we don’t talk about it, we don’t really know what to do when it happens. 
Identity crises are inevitable, especially as teens and tweens. As you’re growing up, how you see yourself changes sometimes as often as you change your clothes. And they can be brought on by the weirdest things—they can come on as a result of something as minor as trying to figure out if you’re actually Hufflepuff like you thought or really more of a Gryffindor, or the cause can be as major as a completely world-shattering revelation in your life. But regardless of what sets it off, when your sense of self changes, it can be pretty scary, because I think we as humans tend to see ourselves as fixed entities that don’t ever need to be anything different. But, even though we don’t want to, sometimes we need to change. 
However, just because we need to change and identity crises are inevitabledoesn’t mean that they aren’t uncomfortable sometimes. It’s often hard to recognize if that weird restless thing in your brain is an identity crisis or just a weird restless thing, and watching yourself change, especially very quickly, can be very jarring. After all, you thought you were one thing and now you’re realizing you’re not; what are you supposed to do when you realize that the you from yesterday and the you from now are so different? 
You feel lost. You question yourself. You wonder why all of this is happening in the first place. And that’s completely okay. The world tends to move so quickly and keeping up sometimes means changing, but changing sometimes means discomfort. And discomfort isn’t fun. 
The way I’ve always coped with identity crises is to throw myself into exploring them. By that, I mean that when I get to a point where I don’t know who I am anymore, I have to ask myself, “Well, if I’m not this version of me anymore, then who am I?” and chase down everything that seems right. It’s how I got into musical theatre. It’s why I cut my hair. It’s why I got new glasses and it’s why my style changes faster than the seasons. It’s okay to change yourself, because you’re not going to be the same person forever. 
When you’re looking change in the face, oftentimes it’s best to go with it. Change the way you dress, dye your hair if you’re allowed to, try a different method of interacting with people, take a new hobby—don’t be afraid to explore whatever this new shade of being yourself is. What if it takes you somewhere new? 
The other thing that’s important as your world seems to change is to remember that it’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes, the changes you make won’t fit you, and it’s up to you to learn from that and figure out what does work for you. Walking up to people and simply shouting “Muffins!” as a means of making friends didn’t work for me in seventh grade in fact, it made me feel ten times worse, because I saw it driving people away. But it’s something that I did. Trying to pretend that I don’t feel things super intensely didn’t work for me in ninth grade and still doesn’t. But it’s something that I did. It’s okay, because I’ve grown from those experiences and they’ve taught me a lot about myself. 
You also don’t have to go through a complete self-overhaul just because something in you needs to change. If you don’t like the way you interact with people, you don’t have to change the way you do your hair unless that feels right to you; if you want to try out a new hobby, you don’t have to change the way you dress. In other words, you don’t have to change the rest of your outfit just because you’re changing your hat. 
Identity crises are difficult to go through. Watching yourself change can be alarming and intimidating, and sometimes it feels like you’ve lost a part of yourself—or maybe even all of yourself. But you can do it. You can get through this, you can find yourself again, and you can come out of all of this a confident and awesome person. Good luck! I believe in you! 

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