Whenever I hear friends discussing their children growing up (especially when it comes to the teenage years) their experiences always seem to be tumultuous. It’s no secret that the teenage years tend to be hard on everyone involved: parents, siblings and other family members, teachers, friends, and even the teens themselves. Teens seem to be searching to identity, trying to answer the one looming question: “Who am I?”
Asking this question will doubtlessly cause some anxiety if someone does not have any idea who he or she is: “Who am I? What do I like? What do I stand for?” Similarly, if a person feels that they are made up of many different “pieces,” they may also feel dismay: “I am American, but I am also Asian. I am a football player, but I also liked to read. I like to listen to music but hate to sing. I am a good listener, yet I have to be tough around my friends. I like being by myself, but I want people to like me.”
Identity v. Confusion
Erikson’s fifth state of development, “identity versus confusion,” typically occurs between the ages of 12 and 18. During this state, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self.
It is the time during which children and adolescents determine what they are like, what their abilities and inabilities are, what their leaning are toward profession, what their relationship is, or should be, with God . . . Other important decisions, such as gender identity, are usually formulated during this time period. (Rockey, 2018)
While Erikson believed that each stage of psychosocial development was important, he placed a particular emphasis on the development of ego identity. Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction and becomes a central focus during the identity versus confusion stage of psychosocial development.
During this stage, social relationships are of the utmost importance. Friends, social groups, schoolmates, societal trends, and even pop culture play a role in shaping and forming one’s identity. Additionally, the major conflict in this stage is centered around the adolescent discovering his or her own personal identity–a conflict which can spill outward and impact those within the teen’s sphere of influence.
According to Erikson, our ego identity constantly changes due to new experiences and information we acquire in our daily interactions with others. As we have new experiences, we also take on challenges that can help or hinder the development of identity. This, of course, shows the importance of the relationships we develop.
A Lifelong Impact
Successfully completing the identity versus confusion stage will lead young people to a strong sense of self–a feeling that will last their lifetime. However, unsuccessful completion of this stage can result in a life-long search for an answer to that big question, “Who am I?”
Identity development is extremely important as teens move on to adulthood, careers, intimate relationships, and parenting–preparing your children for adulthood. Without a clear identity, it is easy to get into codependent relationships, take on jobs you don’t enjoy and for which you are poorly suited, and easily be swayed by the opinions and desires of others. Additionally, you can easily pass this baggage on to your own children, thus perpetuating a cycle of dysfunction.
“Who Am I?”
Have you recently evaluated the answer to that question, “Who am I?” Did you successfully and satisfactorily answer this question when you were a teen, resulting in a confident sense of self now, or have you continued to struggling with your concept of self throughout your life?
If you are struggling with your self-identity, Nancy Rockey (2018) of Life Renewal recommends asking “Who am I?” in different areas of your life. By answering each of these questions, you can clarify your idea of who you are now–today!–and who you want to become.
– Your character – Do you tend to be attached to friends and family, or do you keep your distance? Are you generally kind to others, or are you snarky? Do you prefer facts over feelings?
– Your career – Is your career the thing you look forward to doing when you open your eyes each morning, or do you dread getting out of bed and going to work? How do you find your identity in your job? Does your job take precedence over other parts of your life–even if you don’t want it to?
– Your relationships – Are friends and family important to you? Do you reach out to these important people on a regular basis? Are you super-sensitive to the treatment by others toward you? Are you concerned for the feelings of others?
– Your faith – Is God non-existent to you, or do you have a vital faith, relying on God’s Word for your life’s path?
– Your routines – Do you keep more to yourself and spend your life in a routine of organizing and calculating?
Doing such a self-analysis will benefit every area of your life. It will help you clarify your understanding of who you are, where you come from, and where you stand in many different aspects. If you still are unsure of how to proceed, consider doing the MindPrint Inventory. It will answer many questions about your God-given self, and no doubt bring you great peace in the long run. It’s definitely worth the cost and the effort.
Who are you? One thing I can tell you–even though I don’t know you–is this: You are a precious child of God. You are valued, and you are loved. I hope and pray that this truth sets a solid foundation for who you are, and who you are yet to become.
Cherry, K., & Morin, A. (2019). Identity vs. role confusion in psychosocial stage 5. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/identity-versus-confusion-2795735
Rockey, N. (2018). Who are you? Life Renewal. Retrieved from https://fixablelife.andrews.edu/2018/03/07/who-are-you/