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#32 Sharpness of our identity

Reveal the authentic self. Shape your trajectory.

There’s a fascinating theory published by Erik Erikson in 1950, discussing eight stages of human development. At the center of that work is identity. Which spans a life-cycle.

Within each stage of a life-span, we’re challenged with a conflict or crisis. We face each stage so that we can successfully handle it. And develop and grow.

It’s strange to contemplate, that for us to understand the true meaning of peace, we have to experience a level of conflict and heartache.

Our life cycle continues to roll forward. The pendulum swings and onto the next stage.

A third layer arises from our perception of where we stand. The relationship between our transition into each experience. And which way we’ll ultimately put our final foot down.

All of this for the sake of self-transcendence and growth.

There are three factors Erickson lays out that shape our identity.

  1. Biological characteristics

  2. Individual psychological needs, interests and defenses

  3. Cultural surroundings

It’s important to know ourselves. Instead of letting others do it for us.

What has shaped us? What has molded us into a setting? What has been bestowed on us at birth? Out of it all, what do we want to keep or discard?

And if it were to be stripped away, who is left remaining?

Identity Shifts

We’ve all experienced a shift in identity due to force of change or initiating it.

Transitioning jobs or positions, graduating, getting married, moving, becoming a parent. Life changes us in ways we didn’t expect. Identities in context to social and cultural environments fluctuate over time.

We don’t anticipate changes that are on the horizon. We may not always know how to prepare or approach it. And studies have shown that a tangled identity leads to a crisis.

By examining ourselves, the benefits of self-awareness become the bedrock of a healthy self-esteem.

At certain moments, it seems we’re being nudged to make sharp decisions. What do we absolutely love spending time on? And what will we never do again?

Our identities get wrapped up in those decisions. Specifically when those decisions are centered around our work.

When we align ourselves too much to our work identity and unexpected change happens, we can crumble under the pressure of “now what?”.

This happens after retirement when that life-long title is gone. Who are we after that? Who were we all along?

During these stages, we’ll have experiences that call us to strip down to our bareness. They beg us to answer questions like:

“What is the core of myself? What ways of thinking have I been cloaking myself in? And how do I want to continue?”

We can use these identities to deflect and defend, barricading us from situations that we don’t want to bother with.

If we’re able to look at our identity by disassociating from our given status, we see our truest self.

We choose what to come back to and how we want to rebuild ourselves.

We listen to that inner wisdom that allows us to transcend back into our genuine essence.

4 Questions to contemplate a deeper self-identity.

  1. In three words, what do I need to have in my life?

  2. Who am I without my titles?

  3. Who am I without my past?

  4. Who am I without my future?

The core of this exercise is to strip away the ideas of self and sit in the presence of being.

When everything is removed. What’s left?

By revealing our authentic self, we automatically get on the right path. The one that leads us by purpose and meaning.

The one self that we sink more into each moment of each day of each year.

Having a strong sense of identity helps us navigate the world. While finding our place within it.


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