The time and effort which we take to invest in ourselves never, ever goes to waste. In fact, it’s the most valuable thing a person can do for their well-being and betterment. The process of personal evolution begins with a conscious awakening and when this happens you will never be the same. Many people don’t know who they are because of the abounding distractions which inundate them. A person with a limited awareness of their identity is unable to define their strengths, weaknesses and does not have a well-articulated sense of self.
There is a price to pay and it comes in the form of an identity crisis which can wreak havoc on all parts of one’s life. The word ‘crisis’ has a bad rap but in the study of psychology it is deemed as a period of active exploration. It’s a time of re-evaluation where old values and/or choices are scrutinized. Ultimately, the end goal of any crisis is to clear the fog and happily commit to new, improved ways of being.
James Marcia, a Developmental Psychologist, introduced a theory regarding the formation of identity in adolescents. It gauges the extent of exploration and commitment when an individual is developing views about beliefs, politics, livelihood, sexuality and so on. Our values will determine the roles we will play in society and within our family. I’d like to think that this theory can be applied to people in all stages of life as we are constantly ebbing and flowing. It’s unreal for each person to hit proposed developmental markers of growth in a linear and timely sequence.
Through extensive research, James distinguished four identity formations.
Diffusion: Low Exploration and Low Commitment
This status is akin to infancy which means there is no established identity. A person blindly follows and accepts whatever is taught by those closest to them such as family members. They are unfocused and unconcerned about committing to any goals or values.
Example: Sam and Tom are discussing their views on life after death. While Sam has given a lot of thought to the matter, Tom is unsure and prefers not to think about it.
Foreclosure: Low Exploration and High Commitment
This formation occurs when a person settles on a sense of self too soon. At this point, there is no questioning as there is an eagerness to please others and fit in.
Example: Sue’s parents are Democrats and she supports the same political party without questioning why or exploring other options.
Moratorium: High Exploration and Low Commitment
Of the four statuses, this is generally considered the longest period of development. At this stage, an identity crisis is experienced whereby a person recognizes their lack of authenticity. There is an acknowledgement of copying and blindly following which leads to questioning. The exploration of choices begins but there is little commitment and depth which still results in endless searching for the next thing. Most are stuck in perpetual crisis mode with no clue as to who they really are.
Example: Mary has been in university for 3 years and has changed her major 5 times.
Achievement: High Exploration and High Commitment
An individual has braved through the crisis and is committed to a particular identity such as an ideology or occupation. There is a continuation to explore but it’s grounded on foundational beliefs which have already taken root. There is clarity of who you are and what your direction is in life.
Example: After living in several parts of the world, John finally decided to settle down in Toronto.
There is immense power in knowing who you are (not) and what you (don’t) want. We make choices and those choices make us which means the better acquainted we are with ourselves, the better life becomes. Our identity is a shifting and uncertain concept which is comprised of many layers. A strong identity can be extremely helpful as it drives our decisions and behaviours. On the flipside, an unhealthy emphasis on identity can be dangerous and limiting. In an effort to protect it, we can easily neglect things like open-mindedness and being kind.
A wonderful appreciation for peace and purpose presents itself when we know our priorities. A spirit which is increased with confidence isn’t afraid to make a move. To a degree, this results in a feeling of control because we choose to no longer point a finger at external factors. We are not a victim of circumstance because we have the capacity to assert ourselves and that’s empowering in itself.
When we filter through the confusion and uncertainty, life becomes much simpler. The objective of slowing down and being present is to liberate us from pointless interferences. Go out of your way each day to ponder and meditate on the things that truly matter. Be super selective in how you choose to spend your time as you’ll never get it back. When we stop participating in the fruitless race, we give ourselves a chance to develop a sensitivity to a higher purpose.
The bottom line is to cut through the crap ASAP.