Sometimes we find that we have centered who we are around one of the roles we play (ie: child, parent, spouse/significant other, bank teller/doctor/vet tech..) or what we do for a living. When we define ourselves by something that is not an intrinsic trait, such as being kind, daring, or being a good leader. We tend to feel highly uncomfortable (cognitive dissonance) if/when that role or position changes or is no longer available to us. We experience cognitive dissonance when our beliefs don’t aline with our actions. This sauces a mental conflict that is so intolerable that we must either change our beliefs or our actions. The third option is to numb ourselves, but that is another conversation.
This can happen if we define ourselves primarily as a good spouse, bad spouse, good parent, good provider, or good manager. We “know” we are what we believe because we get validated. They tell us we are. But, what happens to our sense of who we are if our spouse/significant other dies, leaves us, or we leave them? Then who are we?
If we define ourselves, to ourselves, as a good parent. What happens when that child goes to college? Moves out? Gets married? Or perhaps things don’t go as well. Maybe they get arrested, can’t get a job, or are making choices you wouldn’t make. It will be hard to BE the ‘good parent’ you see yourself as on a regular, several times a day, basis. This is where people start to question if they know who they are.
We don’t just discover who we are in adolescence because hopefully, we don’t stay the same person that we were when we were young. Therefore “finding ourselves” is something we engage in over and over throughout our life. As we move through life we enter into new life phases we’ve never experienced before.
New experiences, such as getting married, getting divorced, having a child, having another child, becoming an empty nester, burying a child, losing your parents, no longer speaking to siblings, etcetera, cause us to either be walked on or create and maintain new personal rules about how you will accept being treated by other people (ie: boundaries). Our boundaries say more about who we are as people than most of us realize.
Remember, the path to self-discovery is unique for each individual, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to listen to your own intuition, take the time you need, and be kind to yourself as you explore and embrace your identity.