Help! I’ve lost my sense of identity

Are you questioning who you are? Maybe what your purpose is, or what your values are? If so, you may be going through what some call a loss of identity. 

 

Developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson introduced the term ‘Identity Crisis’ and noted the association with different life transitions. Before we get too negative about this, however, it’s interesting to note that he believed that our personalities develop further when we manage to resolve such crises in life. Maybe it’s the foundation for the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”?

So what might be the signs?

– You’re questioning who you are, or your role in society

– Big changes have recently occurred that have affected your sense of self

– You’re questioning things such as your values, spirituality, beliefs, interests, or career path and these have a major impact on how you see yourself.

– You’re searching for more meaning, reason, or passion in your life.

 

As you go through life and experience change, it’s completely normal to question who you are and what is your role. You may even start to contemplate whether it’s enough anymore or whether you need to change things, aim higher, or do things differently. However, when it begins to affect your daily thinking or functioning, you may be having a crisis of identity. Having a sense of self is so important to our human nature, it’s understandable that you may be feeling lost and frustrated. 

What are the possible triggers?

– Getting married or divorced

– Changing job, redundancy or retirement

– Health issues

– Moving house

– Children leaving home (empty nest syndrome)

Today I want to focus on the grief-like effect many parents experience when children leave home. Although mostly felt by mothers, fathers are affected too of course. Celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey, stunned a studio audience when he confessed during the James Corden show, to feeling ‘gutted’ when his son left for university, moping about in his son’s bedroom and reminiscing.

It can be a real physical wrench. You feel there is something missing. What was essentially the centre of your life for 18 years or more, and for some parents the main reason for their existence, isn’t there anymore. 

This was something that I experienced myself when my elder daughter left for university and it came like a bolt from the blue! I truly had not expected to feel that way.  As far as I was concerned, my duty was to bring up my children to be independent and fly the nest. In my case, it coincided with peri-menopause and so one life transition was accentuated by another. Despite still having a younger daughter at home, I felt a sense of emptiness and a grief reaction. In addition to tearfulness and a feeling of futility, I was particularly taken aback by the very physical emptiness – almost as if there was a hole in my heart.

Soon after this, when I was introduced to a coaching methodology using feminine archetypes, I discovered that my Mother energy was much, much higher than the others. I had been a stay at home mum for a number of years, having relinquished my medical career to bring up my children. They had become the main focus of my life and I realised my identity was now tightly connected with my role as a Mother. Whilst I don’t believe I was the hovering ‘helicopter’ parent portrayed in the media, I definitely set out to be the best mum I could be. In fact operating mainly in the Mother energy had often tipped over into a state of ‘martyr’ where I would sacrifice everyone else’s needs before my own… and ultimately start to feel a little resentful. Not a great place to be!

So, to the ‘empty nest’. What was I now, if no longer needed in that mother role? How could I feel needed? What was my purpose in life? 

That was a challenging time but thankfully I restored a sense of balance when I began to understand the other archetypal feminine energies, which we refer to as the Women’s PowerTypes™ . When I had my PowerType™ profile measured I noticed that not only was my Mother score very high, but the Queen and Lover scores were pretty low. These highlighted why I had trouble setting boundaries, making time for myself, pursuing any kind of self-care or having any sense of purpose and fulfilment. Working with a coach to enhance scores in these areas and do some personal development work resulted in me getting clarity on what my next steps would be and who I was and how I would show up in the world – not just as someone’s mum. 

A couple of years later, waving off my younger daughter as she started her university life filled me with joy instead of grief, pride instead of despair and satisfaction in a job well done. It’s your turn to fly now little one! 

And so to the most recent challenge. My elder daughter has grabbed an amazing career opportunity and moved to New York for a year! She has flown far from the nest and whilst it will always tug at the maternal heartstrings when they go, my identity is now not so caught up with being ‘Mum’. I came through my identity crisis. It is resolved. My development has resulted in a multi-faceted woman with a sense of purpose, aligned with my values and a vision for my future. Not perfect, not always totally self-assured but with identity intact. 

I’m now a coach, also I’m a wife, a mum, a sister, daughter and really great friend. I’m a golfer, a pianist, a singer, and a really good cook. I’m a curious traveller, an avid reader, an empathetic confidante. I’m intuitive, I’m introverted yet sociable. I’m fun-loving yet reflective and thoughtful. 

If you want to feel this way instead of feeling like you’ve lost your identity, reach out to find out how coaching can support you. You can book a free, no-obligation call HERE to chat through what is involved when you work with me. 

OR

If you’re interested to find out YOUR scores for the feminine archetypes take the PowerType™ profile quiz HERE.

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    © Dr Jo Baldwin   |   Website by The Good Alliance