As we mature into adults and become independent from our parents, we develop a sense of self. This refers to the individual identity, values, and self-image that define who we are. This process often takes time and involves learning and accepting yourself by first discovering the way you organize your thoughts, how those thoughts affect the way you feel, and ultimately their impact on your behavior.
Having a strong sense of self means being able to take in information about others’ opinions and thoughts about us but separating that from the things we think and believe about ourselves. It also involves being able to separate yourself from the various roles you play as a person; being able to detach yourself from your role as a mother or father, a romantic partner, a child, etc., is important to help maintain your identity, even in the most intimate of relationships.
People will often become immersed in their roles and relationships with others and can find that they have lost sight of their own wishes, dreams, and desires. This can leave them questioning their purpose in life and cause them to feel unfulfilled and sometimes resentful of their lives. This is often referred to as losing your identity or experiencing an identity crisis.
Here are some signs that you may be struggling with maintaining your identity:
1. You Have No “Me” Time
Often when a person loses their sense of self-worth, they begin to surround themselves with others and do not give themselves time and space to be alone. Having alone time can be helpful, as it gives a person room for introspection and the ability to dwell on their feelings without interruption. Having separate interests, activities, and time apart from loved ones also enriches the quality of time that is spent with those you love.
2.You Transform Yourself in Various Settings
People losing their sense of self and their own identity are often malleable in their preferences, likes, interests, and many other parts of their lives depending on who they are engaging or interacting with. We see this often with intimate relationships, where a person will emulate the interests of their partner and almost transform into someone else based on the partner they are with. This lack of solid identity can make it hard to be truly intimate and vulnerable with others and can complicate a person’s ability to truly love and accept themselves.
3.You’ve Lost Passion for Things You Used to Value
When a person begins to feel a sense of worthlessness or decreased ability to feel confident in themselves, it is common that they decrease pleasurable activities or disengage in things that make them happy and give them a sense of purpose. People will often notice that they become more socially withdrawn or decrease their participation in activities that they enjoy, thus increasing their feelings of discomfort about themselves and who they are.
4. You’re Constantly Seeking Approval From Others
A person who struggles with feeling confident in themselves may often seek out approval from others, thus surrounding themselves with people who reassure them that they are good and worthy of attention or love. The problem with this is when one is unable to internalize this approval and cannot approve of themselves separately from the approval of others. When a person is unable to accept and love themselves, their constant approval-seeking can strain their relationships with others; people can become resentful of someone who is always needing approval and appreciation and not returning the favor or seeming to accept it as well.
5. Your Self-Care Is Minimal
Self-care is often the first thing to go when a person feels stressed and can cause them to neglect all of the needs that their body and mind may have. Prioritizing physical and mental health is important and acknowledging the signs the body gives of stress is an important component of learning to love yourself. Addressing your physical and emotional needs can help you love and accept yourself, thus improving your ability to develop and sustain a positive and solid identity.
6. Your Thoughts Are Filled With Negative Self-Talk
Struggling with negative self-talk and self-doubt and your worth is common. While it is normal and natural to question your abilities, if your thoughts are constantly critical and self-defeating, this can create a cycle where you begin to feel hopeless and worthless. This can deteriorate your ability to have a healthy identity or solid sense of self.
If you feel like you are struggling with any or all of these things, getting help from a mental health professional could help. A therapist can help unpack the various patterns that you have developed that are decreasing your ability to feel connected to yourself and help you to develop a solid sense of who you are.