Hope you all had as much fun reading my first post as I had writing it! Here are the rest of some my six epiphanies that I had about identity..
If you would like to read the introduction and the first and second epiphanies I had, please click here.
3. Come out of your closets — ALL your closets — to at least one person in the world!
We all have multiple closets we live in; sometimes, our closets even change depending on the situation we are in. It may be our sexual orientation, it may be our deepest darkest fears, our dreams, or our addictions. Most of us are so adept at avoiding this particular identity crisis, that we don’t even realize we are stuck in a closet!
Pick a good, non-judgmental person that you trust completely. It could be your sibling, your partner, your parent, your cousin, a therapist, a priest, a teacher, a coach, a counselor or even a support group. Come out to them, completely. Let them see who you truly are, with ALL your baggage.
Every single one of us has a powerful, dynamic energy (soul, psyche, mind, “the force”… call it whatever you want) within us that we keep hidden in the back of all of our closets. This is our identity! Let that identity out, let it breathe, let it thrive, nurture it, even if it is just with one other person. Otherwise, after a while, when you look for “yourself”, you may find that you don’t even know what that means. So, find your identity and be yourself with at least one person. You may find out that you are pretty cool after all!
4. Remind yourself that not all your problems in life have to be resolved immediately!
A lot of us, especially in our late teens and twenties, take on the burdens of the entire world. We feel like we have to prove ourselves to EVERYONE immediately, that we have to gain social status, recognition, employment, and validation from the whole world. Of course the best way we know how to do that is to try to be a problem solver, to be a tireless go-getter and to be that “it” guy or gal that our friends are always envious of. We let this race define our very identity!
We try to resolve every “problem” we encounter as swiftly and as expeditiously as possible. We let it insidiously consume our very identity until we get to the proverbial bottom of things. Here’s the problem with that: Sometimes, problems don’t have resolutions – immediate or otherwise; other times, the solutions to problems will naturally or logically occur in due time. I go so far as to remind myself once a day that regardless of whether my problems have resolutions or not, they are NOT a part of my identity.
Ultimately, not everything that we think is a “problem” really is a “problem”. Our perceptions colored by previous experiences make situations more potent and volatile for us to be able to handle immediately. So, if you are stuck in the middle of a conflict or crisis, walk away for a while. Take some time focusing on other things in your life – on other parts of your identity. You may find that the solution for your conflict was in front of you all along!
5. Never be afraid to have a voice; just remember to have a TACTFUL one!
This crisis happened to me right after I got my doctorate. I walked out of my hooding ceremony ready to blow the whole world away with my brilliance, only to realize that no one was listening! I felt thoroughly disheartened, like I was speaking a language that others did not know or didn’t care enough to know. There were times when I even felt invisible! Then over time I realized, it wasn’t them, it was ME. I was so hell-bent on proving my “brilliance” and “expertise” that I ended up turning into a pushy, obnoxious problem-solver, and that was definitely not something I wanted to describe me! So now, I listen more, learn more, and speak less. I let the strength of my voice and not the volume of my speech get the message across.
6. Never forget that if you feel completely overwhelmed and you feel like you are going through an identity crisis, it is completely acceptable to ask for help!
For a lot of people coming from immigrant families, this may be an especially tough identity crisis to overcome. But, trust me, you will save yourself years of grief (and possibly therapy) if you ask for help if you get overwhelmed. You may feel like your problems are very unique because of your particular circumstances in life, and they definitely are! While that is true, there definitely are other people out there (including me) who consistently fight with internal struggles that may be similar to yours. Reach out to us!
So there they are… Six issues about my identity that I wish I had worked through sooner. Of course, these aren’t the only conflicts I dealt with or resolved in my life (again, I wish!), but more on my other adventures in future posts.
Thanks for reading!
– Dr. AJ