An Article by Ryan Grey
Your identity is your sense of your self image, your self esteem and your individuality. When you don’t have a strong sense of who you are, it can cause anxiety and insecurity. It can also cause you to find it difficult to assert your rights and to protect your personal boundaries.
Many factors can impact on your sense of identity. Gender, race, sexuality and religion are a few factors that can massively affect your sense of who you are and how you relate to the world around you. Your parenting and upbringing will have a huge effect on your sense of identity.
Emotional abuse often causes you to lose your sense of identity. An abuser will often use manipulative tactics to deliberately cause you to disconnect from who you are, in order to undermine and control you.
To have a good sense of identity is to feel that you are generally the same sort of person that you have always been. You will feel reasonably confident in this and generally assured that you will continue to be the same type of person. Although how you behave will differ depending on where you are and whose company you are in, you will have a fairly stable sense of your character being constant throughout.
Without a good sense of identity, you will feel like a different person from who you feel you should be or from who you know you have been. You may look in the mirror and not recognize who is looking back at you. You may find that your opinions change constantly. You may adapt very easily to suit others and even change your looks and your interests to those of a partner or a friend. You may feel that you aren’t able to trust yourself.
So how do you start to build up your sense of identity? How do you start to feel more like yourself?
Remind yourself of the things that you do know about yourself. List your favourite things. Start with the easy stuff. What’s your favourite colour? Animal? City? Food? Movie? TV Show? If you get stuck just explore online for inspiration. Make lists and review them. Remind yourself that you do have a fixed opinion on certain things and you do have favourite things.
Practice mindfulness. By practicing being fully in the moment and recognizing your feelings as you feel them, you are starting to connect with your sense of identity. Mindfulness can be in the form of meditation, yoga, body scans and breathing exercises. However, it can be easily practiced anywhere by just focusing on the sights, smells, sounds and feelings around you and trying to be in the moment.
You can expand on this through reflective journalling. Explore your feelings. How are you feeling right now? Be honest with yourself. recognize how it feels in your body when you express that feeling and recall whereabouts in your body you are feeling it.
There is no correct way for doing a reflective journal. You could doodle, draw and scribble. You could swear your heart out, you could write bullet points, lists or poetry. Whatever feels right for you, do that.
If you are not comfortable with writing, you can express your feelings through other creative means such as art, music, pottery or dance. Creativity can be wonderful for reminding you of who you are. When being creative, you actually connect to a different part of the brain, which can help to open up self awareness.
Counselling is very effective for helping you to build your sense of identity. Counselling builds your self awareness and helps you to process what has caused you to disconnect from your identity.
Having a lack of identity can be devastating to your mental health. It is your right to live your life from a place of knowing exactly who you are, how unique you are and what you deserve.