Quit Having an Identity Crisis and Get Some Identity Capital
So No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way
Twenty-three years old, married, mom to a toddler and expecting another baby in a few months, I sat on the couch watching Friends for the third time. (Side note: do you realize how long that series is? Ten seasons with a total of 235 episodes averaging around 22 minutes each… and I was watching it for the third time!) I graduated from college a few months earlier with a bachelors in Advertising and a minor in Women’s Studies. I was working as a remote copywriter, which let me watch our toddler while being employed, but they downsized my department and I was let go. At this point I rarely changed out of my pajamas, never did my makeup, always wore my hair in a bun, and I could go days without leaving the house.
It was this moment, when I started watching Friends for the third time, that my husband, Alexis, decided to have an intervention. He told me how for the past few months he had been watching me deteriorate and that we needed to fix it. He was right, and through a lot of tears we discussed everything I felt was a problem.
The One With The Identity Crisis
At the root of it all I decided I had no personality. I lost my sense of self and I didn’t have any reason to get ready for my day. I was having an identity crisis.
One of my favorite books is The Defining Decade by Meg Jay. Jay is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with twenty-somethings. The Defining Decade explores the main problems her twenty-something clients experience and how she helps them navigate through life. I highly recommend it for anyone in their twenties. It’s like Friends, but with the scientific method and researched advice.
In her book, Jay explains a concept sociologists call identity capital. Identity capital is all the personal assets we have collected over time. “Most important,” Jay says, “Identity capital is what we bring to the adult marketplace. It is the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships and other things we want.”
Jay’s answer to breaking free from an identity crisis is to start getting identity capital.
It took a few months after Alexis’s intervention to get started (postpartum depression is no joke), but I eventually started washing my hair more and going to the gym. I signed up for a half marathon. I started taking a dance class. I found another remote copywriting job. I read books like I ate candy (pretty enthusiastically). I slowly pivoted my life towards gaining identity capital and began to experience its positive effects.
Are you experiencing an identity crisis?
If so, here are three action steps that helped me out of mine:
Start actively consuming content: I’m not gonna sit here and tell you social media is bad or whatever. But I will tell you that you need to be more proactive in deciding what content you consume. Don’t just passively take in whatever your newsfeed shows you. Take control of the content you consume. Additionally, strive to have your content become more educational (not necessarily academic but centered on increasing your knowledge and helping you grow. For example: learning things such as how to write a better sales pitch, style your hair, break bad habits, meditate, file your taxes, be a better parent, get more sleep, etc. are very beneficial).
Sign up for something: Whether you want to learn a new skill or help others, sign up for a new activity that switches up your schedule. Join a soccer team, register for a race, volunteer at the soup kitchen, join the PTA, become a member of a book club: whatever! Do anything that will challenge you and give you new experiences.
Draw on what you know: Who were you before you lost yourself? If you enjoyed traveling maybe you should try it again. If you were a painter but haven’t picked up a brush in ages, dust off your supplies and start painting again. Odds are if you liked it before you’ll still like it now.