When you hear the word ‘identity’ what comes to your mind? How do you identify yourself or what do you identify yourself with? Is it the brand of clothing that you wear or the car that you drive? Is it the kind of cell phone that you own that defines you or the fragrance of your expensive perfume that you spray before you head out of your home? Is it tied to the career that you are pursuing which literally owns you? Or perhaps you gain your personal identity by mimicking some movie star on screen?
Debilitating identity crisis
Today, about 50% of the Indian population is below the age of 30, making India one of the youngest nations in the world. But there seems to be a subtle crisis existing among the next generation. They are secretly suffering from a debilitating identity crisis.
Eminent psychologist and professor at Harvard University, Dr Erik Erikson was the first to come up with the concept of identity crisis. According to him, identity crisis is the ‘failure to achieve the ego identity during adolescence’.
More than ever, young people seem to be confused between their ‘who’ and their ‘do’. Their value and worth are strongly knotted to their accomplishments and the world’s standards rather than having a healthy image of themselves on the inside.
Some of it stems from ‘performance mentality’ which was inculcated by poor parenting. When the child did well at school, he was appreciated and made to feel good. But when it went the other way round, he was ripped apart and made to feel worthless. So the end product is his identity linked to phenomenal success in everything he may do in the future.
Conflict within the inner self can also lead to utter commotion and not knowing one’s value and identity. Teenagers, mostly, tend to experiment and explore in the form of desires, wants, thrills and some harmful vices. They think it is a way to identify one’s personality and character. But again, their personality and identity is closely related to the external experiments and outside actions rather than accepting themselves.
Rejection is the most painful emotion known to mankind. People go to extremes to alter everything in their life to be well accepted and well thought-of among their friends and social circles. In their mind, their identity is formed based on what others think of them. This forms bondage in their minds, shackling and cheating them out of the freedom that they were born to live in. Sadly, not too many people realize this.
The social media has further accelerated the problem of one’s identity. A girl I know, who is in college, would change her WhatsApp display picture four or five times a day. When asked why, “I wasn’t satisfied,” she uttered. How many pictures are the youngsters going to change on Facebook or Twitter? Their insatiable hunger to earn maximum ‘Likes’ or ‘Comments’ only enhances their inner turmoil of defining their own identity. Constantly posting their statuses, parading selfies, random pictures with friends and at party houses, updating their locations – all speak loudly of the current problem of identity crisis. In other words, can a person determine their identity and worth or value depending on the ‘Likes’ that they earn on some social networking site? If they don’t, they act like they have been licensed to feel worthless endlessly. Where does all this lead to? No wonder psychiatry clinics are filled with youngsters and everyone alike with all kinds of disorders from approval addiction syndromes and paranoia, to obsession and eating disorders.
When we were born in to this world, we all came with an inbuilt personality. This inbuilt personality has the potential to be altered to a certain degree depending on the environment in which we grow up, like things that are said or done to us, or whatever we are made to feel back then. What we see, hear, feel and experience all have the power to shape our adult personality. As we mature into adults, we look for things with which we can identify ourselves with. We even look for role models among movie stars, politicians and even among school or college teachers. Deep down inside youngsters want to be who they were created to be. But they fear not being accepted for who they are if they be their true self. This inner conflict brings in a plethora of alterations to one’s identity and personality, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. And all the worldly ‘stuff’ can’t seem to satisfy one’s inner void and emptiness.
Accept who you are
When God made us, he made us as whole beings. We all need to feel accepted, and that we belong, and to be thought competent. It is like the three legs of a tripod. All the three legs need to be in place. Even if one is missing, then it triggers a chain reaction of unpleasant habits, cracking and degrading the core of the identity of a person. And parents most of the time do not understand why their children act the way they act. In most cases, they fuel the problem by worsening it rather than alleviating it.
Now it is up to us to reach out and help the staggering youth of our country. Instead of getting judgmental, we ought to lend our hands and figure out exactly what their root issues are and do our bit to rectify it. This issue needs to be addressed at a very early stage in the life of a child. Because you see, as the popular saying goes, if we can raise healthy kids now, then we do not have to repair adults later.