IDENTITY & SELF-EXPLORATION
NOTHING IS "WRONG" BUT I DON'T FEEL RIGHT
Sometimes it is hard to know how you exactly you feel the way you feel. Everything can be going well in life, but something still seems off. Therapy is a great place to explore exactly what is happening. Perhaps it's something from the past, dissatisfaction in an area of your life, or general worries about the future. Maybe it's all of those things.
When we encounter moments where we are forced to make choices about who we are, it is wonderful to have support. Many things contribute to identity: morality, beliefs, religion, sexuality, gender identity, culture, race, ethnicity, career, family, and the list goes on. Identity is inescapable, and it seems that every decision we make continues to shape us. When you come to a crossroads, it can be hard to know what direction to go. Or maybe you've been resisting an inevitable change in your identity.
As humans, we're always growing. Therapy can help you feel supported while you make important decisions about who you are and how you want to exist in this world. Things often change for us including how we feel about ourselves, others, and our environment. We are living in a unique time where we are constantly bombarded with information about news and the way others live their lives. We compare ourselves to the "norm" while also making decisions about how to be different. It's tough, to say the least. In therapy, you can explore these pressures in a non-judgmental setting.
IDENTITY IN RELATIONSHIPS
Brother, sister, friend, mother, co-worker, father, daughter, son... We often define ourselves in relationships. Some of these relationship identities are permanent. Some ebb and flow. Did you recently become a partner? Spouse? Step-sibling or parent? Mother? It can be a challenge to integrate new relationship identities into our daily life. In therapy, you can focus on how you want to integrate these various roles into who you are and who you want to be.
Sexual identity can be understand as how we choose to define ourselves to others in regards to who we are as sexual beings. This includes aspects of sexual orientation (hetero-, homo-, bi-, a-, pan- sexual, etc.), sexual interests, gender identity, attraction, and how you choose to present yourself in the world. Sexual identity can feel complicated, and it often carries shame. The reality is that sexuality and attraction exist on a spectrum. Like many things in life, it's not just black and white. Addressing sexual identity in therapy can help free you from the shackles of shame and live a life that feels true to who you are and who you love.
Gender identity is your own sense of your gender. It can correlate with your gender at birth, or it can be different. One's own gender identity often interacts with gender roles and social expectations based on your assigned gender and simply how you look. Gender exists on a spectrum, and like mentioned before it is rarely a 'black and white' situation. In therapy, you can explore your gender identity and the messages you've carried with you from childhood about who you should be.
We all have cultural identity. Culture exists on a small scale (i.e. family culture) and a large scale (i.e. national culture, "Western culture", Mexican culture, etc.). We are often confronted with many different cultures, but culture helps us define ourselves within a context. Culture is beautiful, but sometimes it can be hard to understand exactly how you fit. It can be challenging to integrate many different cultural influences into your person. Maybe your family came from a country other than the United States, but you grew up here - I imagine it can be challenging to integrate both 'mainstream' US culture with the culture of your family. There are pressures on all sides! Discussing this in therapy can help you identify the pressures, shame, and guilt that can arise from trying to exist in many cultural contexts. From there, you can decide how you want to be situated in this world while integrating the most important parts of yourself.
There is so much to say here! Have you ever felt that your co-workers or boss will suddenly discover that you're not qualified for what you're doing? (Even though you totally are). Or maybe you feel that you have to overcompensate to prove yourself? Imposter syndrome is a wild phenomenon many of us experience in our work environments. Women, people of color, younger folks, and many others experience this daily. It is not necessarily because you're under-qualified, under-performing, or secretly terrible at your job. It's more likely that you're internalizing messages that you've received your whole life about your role in the workplace. For example, young women watching movies where women are only portrayed as secretaries and the men are all engineers. Or people of color in service positions, and not in tech spaces. When you're not represented in media, it is hard to feel like you fit in. And upper-management can play a HUGE role in this too! Off-handed comments, insulting requests, or ignoring your ideas are products of a culture that does not equally represent us. We often internalize this to mean that we're not qualified and soon we'll be discovered as an imposter in their midst. You are not alone! This is a wonderful topic to address in therapy so you can boost your confidence and gain perspective on the messages you carry about your career identity.
In general, it's tough to know what to do next in your career. While therapy is different than career coaching, it can help you identify the difference between what you really want to do and what are pressures influencing your decisions. If you're hoping to rid yourself of outside pressure and tap into who you want to be in your career, therapy might be a good option for you!
This one has to be mentioned. We are living in a divided country. Being in relationships with people who have different political opinions than you can feel very stressful and threatening. There is a national anxiety that is bubbling throughout the United States, and it needs to be addressed. Maybe you're feeling isolated for your beliefs, or feeling afraid to open your mouth in certain settings. Maybe you're friends with someone who believes something that hurts you to your core. Well, you're not alone. When you're feeling overwhelmed by political discourse and recent events, therapy is a great option to help you sort through your thoughts and feelings.
Do you find yourself feeling that something is just not right, but you have no clue why? Sometimes, this is referred to as "diffused identity". This simply defined as the process of figuring out who you are and why you're here. This process happens every day, but sometimes it just feels overwhelming to go through it alone. You're not alone. There is support for you. This is rarely a permanent process. Together, you and a therapist can explore the nooks and crannies of who you are, why you exist, and what direction you would like to take now.