When I were much younger, I often heard some of the adults were said about me “searching for identity”. I weren’t understand about what they means, so I never thought anything about that. I even thought that even though other teenagers going through crisis of identity, I wouldn’t be one of them. A bold statement, that often coming from a young person. But of course, lacked-of-experience young Martin proven out to be false.
But, after all of those wonder years of my life has passed, now I can reflect on all those years and try to comprehend, what self-identity is all about.
In short, self identity can be described as something that you truly feel safe to become as.
The keyword here is “feel safe”, because as I do a little digging, “want” is not the most correct feeling as human desire is changing over time. But safe feeling is encoded inside our consciousness, and will emerge automatically as the situation becomes difficult in our life.
Self identity can act as like a shield and filter around us, like body-immune that accept whatever material that our surrounding environment impose on us, and deflect anything that not. That’s why, self identity is very important.
Let’s take a look about a cow. A cow eats, and only eats, fresh green grass. It wouldn’t eat meat. Why? Because its body isn’t designed for eating meat. If a cow force itself eats meat, it could create stomachache, vomiting, and maybe even death. Its stomach and intestines act like a filter that detect if there is something in that area that isn’t compatible with the way a cow supposed to be. It will deflect hard and harder, to the point to death if necessary, if those incompatible things keep pushed in.
That will also apply to a strong self identity. A man with a strong identity will defends his identity to the point of death, if his identity is attacked. Why? Because self identity is also can act like pride, how much we value ourselves. If we value ourselves very high, we won’t sold ourselves into something that’s not worth the price exchange. As we won’t sold our good name to something as cheap as bribery, or we won’t sold our education and good marks to laziness.
Identity can push us to go further and further into stages of lives, driving us to ultimate success in life by acquired what we striving about, or succumb to massive failure by fail to shaping a solid, shock-proof, corrosive-proof self identity.
Managing through different stages of identity searching
There are different stages in our life that indicate how stable our self identity is. Those stages are:
- No identity at all.
This is a stage of our childhood, where we easily impressed by anything because we simply know nothing. At this stage, we easily identify ourselves with whatever we found cool. For example, we often found little children using Superman’s costume, or mimicking Spongebob’s cool phrase. This is an effort to boasted himself over his friends, using his models as his image. But they’re not attaching their heart to only one model; if in the next day the found new better role model, they will easily switch to the latter. Usually in this stage, the model is extravagant, extraordinary (and often have “extraterrestrial attributes” 🙂 ) person that almost impossible to achieve.
- Lack of identity.
This is a pre-teen stage. At this stage, we start to look upon our friends as a mean to comparing ourselves with each other. We start to know what’s good for us and what’s not. And we start to looking for a “more achievable model”, but right now, the purpose is to impress our friend, not to boasting. We start try to “fit in”. Usually the model used is not something of the high value, but rather a popular one, like try to mimicking Michael Jackson’s moves, or Michael Jordan’s airwalk move. We become obsessive with what our friends says “cool” and “normal”.
To success in this stage, someone needs of: a feeling of being accepted within the community, a proof of early success.
- Common identity.
This is a teenager stage. At this stage, he strive hard to be feel “fit in” within our community. This is also a test whether role model he cling on in the past can be received or not in the community. Therefore, we will be even more obsessive with the terms “normal”, as we usually don’t want to be too standing out at this stage, because we afraid that our friend won’t accept us easily. We are afraid of failure, and the first failure that we think important of is the failure to be accepted.
- Identity crisis.
This is after a teenager stage, before entering young adult. This is a stage where a teenager is striving for a new fixed identity for him to use for his entire life, but he don’t want that the identity to be disapproved by the community. Usually this is caused after living a “normal life” after having common identity, and he is bored because his life is moving just as like anybody did. His desire for something to be achieved in his life is emerged, more than his need to be accepted by the community. This is the time where the person is shaping his identity, as he will more than willing to hear sermon in church or presentation seminar about which identity to embrace from the seasoned veterans of life.
- Proof-test the identity.
This is a young adult stage. In this stage, he tried to prove whatever the identity he tries to embrace, that the identity can lead him to success or bring him down to dust. He will watching whether he can survive problems in his life or not by stand down with his soon-to-be permanent identity. If it proven to be a failure, he will be fall back to the stage 4, identity crisis. If in so many times he fail to finally embrace any strong identity, he will fall back permanently to stage 3, by only trying just to be barely “fit in”, without any strong identity.
- Stable identity.
Over time, the identity will be proven to still standing after being hit by so many storms in life, and he will be more and more comfortable and feel safe about embracing this identity, because this identity keeping him safe all these hard times. This stage is going in the adult stage at 25-35 years old. This is the time where the person is smoothing the identity.
- Mature identity.
In this stage, the identity is already mature and becomes one with the character of the person. He now capable to his identity spontaneously. This is the time where the identity turns back to shape the person. The stage is going on the later adult stage at 35-50 years old.
- Evaluate the result.
In the later stage of life, he will doing more of thinking than doing, as his workload will be more decreased time by time to be succeeded by new young freshmen, up to the time he will retired. He will evaluate whether the identity, or the “he” that he is turning into right now, is something that he’s proud of, or not.
- Impartation identity.
This is stage where he will become a such wise man that will be able to sum up what is his lifetime identity in such a clear words to inspire and driving young people toward the same identity style. He will be able to say what is the strong and weak point, and what advice he could give to the ones who finally tries to embrace the same identity as he is. He has already become a seasoned veteran.
To be noted though, the stage 8 and stage 9 can happen at anytime in our lives, if the condition is sees fit.
There are many identity to be embraced, but at least there are some categories that cover most of it.
- Copycat identity. This is identity that mimic another persons or entity. A person with copycat identity will walk and talk just exactly like the person or entity he mimics, but this indicates that the person is in fact not proud of who he really is. This hides the person’s true nature. But this is the most easiest identity to obtain.
- Adoptive identity. This is where most of the people fall of. He has already tried mimicking a person, and he’s not really feel comfortable. Then he mixed it with another person’s identity or with his own, then finally make it his own identity that he’s feel comfortable and safe for.
- Original identity. This is usually obtained accidentally. Usually this person is viewed as a little weird and out of place because he has a very different way of thinking and acting than the people around them from the very start, but people not hate him. That’s why he still cling on the identity.
The journey searching for identity is a journey that has to be done, just like a test that’s still around on some ancient tribes. In that tribe, for a teenager to be acknowledged as an adult, he has to going through a journey across a wild woods full with wild animals, to obtain a special token at a specific location, whether it’s a specific animal’s fur or ivory or blood, or maybe something else. After he obtained it, he has to return, and after that, the ritual will be held, and he will be acknowledged as an full grown-up adult.
We are, in some ways, are like a teenager on those tribe, which has to searching for an identity to embrace in our lives, only which after we obtain that, that the community around us will be able to accept us as a grown up adult. The question is, have we gone through that journey successfully? Let’s do a soul searching and take a look inside ourselves whether we have acquired the right token to grants us strength to face the terrible storms that constantly crashing over us, before it’s too late.
How about you? What do think of after reading this article? Feel free to share. 🙂