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  • Carlien Serfontein

Who am I?

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

An individual who has a consistency of self; a well-developed identity; is someone who has goals, values and beliefs to which they are openly committed (Erikson, 1963).


So, what are the stages and what should you achieve during each of them?

The development of an identity continues across your lifespan (Cherry, 2020). This development is both very personal and based on social and societal interactions. The theory is that during each stage, we experience a conflict. If we successfully overcome this conflict we emerge with psychological strength that will be beneficial for the rest of our lives. But, if we fail to develop the skills in each stage, we will not develop a strong sense of self (Cherry, 2020). To master each stage leads to “ego strength”. A person’s ego refers to the rational part of our mind that makes us act socially appropriate and logical (Cherry, 2020).


The most important stage for development is, however, adolescence.

During this phase, when our cognitive development allows for it, we construct a sense of self based on the events that we are exposed to, the role models in our lives and the options we see in terms of identities (Zencare, 2020). This stage is very accurately called an “identity crisis” (Fadjukoff, 2016). Through exploration, an adolescent uses trial and error to grow and differentiate between what they like and don’t like (Cherry, 2019). When this process fails, individuals will get stuck during the identity crisis phase, which means, that no well-developed identity can form and this will result in confusion during early adulthood (Eriksson, P.L., et al., 2020). Someone, who experiences identity confusion, does not know who they are or what role they have in society .


This process is vital as it not only speaks to your own understanding of who you are, but also how you function in social systems - family relationships, working environments, group projects, as a parent or as a partner. Mastering the self will allow you to have a sense of consistency, a coherence of beliefs, self-knowledge, a continuity for your past, present and future and most importantly a sense of control over your choices and their outcomes.


Some tips for dealing with identity development at any stage:

  1. Ask yourself some hard questions about past experiences and your success or failure in the development process.

  2. Find opportunities to connect with others. This will prevent feelings of rejection or loneliness. Connecting with others will also give you a clear idea of yourself.

  3. Be willing to talk about your discomfort with those closest to you. Be honest about figuring out who you are.

  4. Full disclosure to your significant other is intimidating but absolutely rewarding.

  5. Be willing to discuss their (your immediate family) experience of your process.

  6. Be patient with yourself. Your development is a slow and confusing process. Show self-care by having patience and understanding.

If you are feeling uncomfortable or certain situations are rubbing you the wrong way, maybe ask yourself where that feeling is coming from. What is the basis for that feeling. If it is something that you should have developed during earlier stages, put in some hard work and become a master of your own development.


Resources


Cherry, K., 2020. Ego as the Rational Part of Personality. Retrieved from verwellmind: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-ego-2795167

Cherry, K., 2020. Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved from verywellmind: https://www.verywellmind.com/erik-eriksons-stages-of-psychosocial-development-2795740


Erikson, E., 1963. Childhood And Society. New York: Norton.


Eriksson, P. L., Wängqvist, M., Carlsson, J., & Frisén, A. (2020). Identity development in early adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 56(10), 1968–1983. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001093


Fadjukoff, P., & Kroger, J., (2016). Identity development in adulthood: Introduction. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis online: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15283488.2015.1121821?journalCode=hidn20


Zencare., 2020. Identity development. Retrieved from zencare: https://zencare.co/mental-health/identity-development


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