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Self-Identity Crisis: My Battle and Victory

By Rachel Burt

"Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself."-Anonymous. 

An identity "crisis" may occur at any time in your adult years, and it is often brought on by sudden life changes. It was about six years ago, I was hanging around places and with people with whom I could no longer relate. I sat in a world I no longer recognized. I remember one day, it was like time had stopped: I was listening to some gossip and the jabbering of what seemed like thousand words per minute. The chatter continued from across the room; I looked around, and  I thought to myself: this is not who I want to be anymore. I made a decision to leave my comfort zone, and much to my surprise, I found myself again.  Maybe losing your identity is what brings you to find your core. Below, I will discuss my life's journey, my struggle with self-identity, and 8 steps through which I coped with my self-identity crisis. 

As the world changes and the people you know change,  you can actually go through an identity crisis several times. I remember the first time I went through an identity crisis was after I arrived home from a four month volunteer program abroad. This was for a humanitarian non-profit organization, for which I had spent three months in Hawaii and one month in China. The humanitarian program incorporated religion into its mission; I was aware that religion played some role in the program but was not aware of the extent of its role until I arrived.  I was completely shocked and uncomfortable the first week, and called my mother crying and begging to come home. With some pep-talk and thinking that  I am here already, I decided to stick it out and go through the four month program. 

After the humanitarian program was over, it ended up being one of the best life learning, spiritual and heart warming experiences of my life. I developed stronger personal believes, my values and morals changed, and I had a whole new outlook on life. I thought arriving home would be so easy: hanging out with my friends, and showing them what I learned. Much to my dismay, I found that it was a lot harder to readjust. Everything was exactly the same as I left it--except for me. I was expected to act the same way as before. Suddenly, I found that I had no interest in my old beliefs, friends, and hangout spots anymore. I began doubting myself: "Who am I? Is this the real me? Or is the old me the real me? This is exactly how I felt...

After slowly overcoming this stage in my life, I went through my second identity crisis after moving abroad to Spain and Portugal. Meeting people from all over the world, learning the language and falling in love with a different lifestyle, I arrived back to America after being away for a long time and found myself a bit out of place. I wasn't used to the way of life here, I felt everyone was a workaholic, self-indorsed, and worrying about the silliest things. I started to notice myself not knowing how to start a conversation with people because not only did I think differently now but people were starting to ask me if I had an accent. I swear at least three people a day at work would ask: Where are you from? Instead of laughing it off, after a while, I started to get insecure about it. So, how did I overcome this repeated self-identity crisis?

I deleted my social media accounts, detached myself from many of the social hangouts and old friends, and started to plan how I was going to get away again...

The thing is... you cannot hide from the world. You are exactly where you are suppose to be at this very moment: whether it is because of a life lesson you need to learn; or because you need to help someone who may need it. Understanding that there is some sort of purpose to existing in this time and place made me content.

So lets get this straight, you are not the only one feeling this way. Everyday there are millions of people who go through the same thing. We leave our home to embark on some journey, whatever it may be, and we return home changed with a completely different mindset. In many cases, people go back to their old lives because of expectations and self-doubt. The truth is that many people might look at you differently; people may think you are weird. In my case, I was called a "religious freak" at times and a foreigner with an accent.  However, at the same time, many people are not judging you at all, they think you are unique, and maybe they are just interested. What I slowly started to realize is that this was a chance to help people as well. 

I am the lucky one, who was able to see the world with different eyes; some people never have the chance to embark upon a journey and leave their homes, their comfort zones. So instead of running from the world, why not take all that you discover and bring it home with you? Inspire those who may need it.  And if people do make fun of you, well then they are not supposed to be in your life anyway.

Here are the ways in which I coped with my identity crisis:

(1) Don't Compare yourself to Others.

As human as it is to compare yourself to another or another's life circumstances,  it will never be helpful. Everyone has their own victories and battles. My sister had actually been through a similar life situation as me, and I remember I would look at her and think: "How come she does not think like this or act like that?" Comparing yourself to others when trying to resolve your own issues will never help you. The only person you should compare yourself is to yourself because the combination of your personal struggles, desires and needs are unlike that of anyone else.

(2) Self-Awareness.

The enslavement to an identity-crisis comes from our refusal to face ourselves. We are sometimes our own worst enemies. Sometimes, it is only your own thoughts and your ego you  must learn to control.

(3) Find What Makes YOU Happy.

The best way to do so is to find what you are passionate about.  Find what gives you that spark in your life.  What fuels your propeller so to speak? Find what awakens you before dusk and keeps you up until late at night.  Being able to do what you love will give you a sense of worth and empowerment.

(4) By Letting Go of the Old, You Can Move Onto the New.

Let it go: it is as simple as that. Old habits are old habits for a reason, old friends are old friends for a reason, and old thought patterns are old thought patterns for a reason. People will leave your life so that new people can enter. If you keep clinging onto the old, how are you ever supposed to move onto the new opportunities that await?

(5) Stay Close to Those Who Love You.

Understand that friends come and go, but that there are those precious few you should hold on to. Some people are so caught-up in trying to gain attention from all the wrong people. Yearning for acceptance, they try to tag along and pretend to be something they are not. Remember,  family will always be by your side, as well as those few friends, so keep them close.  It is family and a few close friends, who no matter how much time passes, will always be the same when you meet again.  When going through life's challenging storms, sometimes it is the people who raised you and have supported you since you were young that will help you remember who you really are inside.

(6) Know: You Are Not Alone.

Like I said, you are not the only person going through this. When you feel isolated and start pitying yourself, you can come to a really dark place. There is no reason for pity, you have many elders that have probably been through a similar situation in which you can seek advice. Moreover, by reading stories by authors from around the world, you will find many others you can easily relate to.

(7) Gain Confidence.

This is, by far, the most important element in finding yourself.  Everything comes down to confidence, i.e. how can you positively project yourself, inside and out? Think about it, if you don't believe in yourself, then who will? Not loving who you are, especially when no one is around, is just as harmful as hating yourself and pretending to be perfect for others. You have to find a balance. When you begin to accept yourself for who you are, others will have no choice but to do so as well.

(8) Bring Inspiration Into Other People's Lives by Being Different.

Often, we try to hide our differences by acting shy, bored or feeling insecure. If this is the case, what is the point of changing, growing and learning?  There was a poem I read on a wall while I was away:

This is what I try to live by. It is time to look into yourself and use your different mindset and outlook on life for the better. You never know who may need to hear something, whether it be a tiny small word or phrase, which could help uplift this person forever. Like I said, you are where you are suppose to be for a reason, so embrace it.

Like my grandma always said:


1 comment:

Jacque Lloyd said...

Ray, I am simply in awe!! I am so proud of you, and so encouraged and inspired! I have been here myself, many times, and continue on the search for who God truly created me to be. You are going to help so many people by sharing your journey and your heart. I love you so much!!! You Are such a bright light in this crazy beautiful mixed-up world!


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