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Identity Crisis : Don't know who I am


Carnatic

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I'm having another identity crisis, and wanted to use ENA as a handy place to let off steam without letting on to those who know me personally that I have such petty issues. I just feel better to know that I’ve managed to articulate my thoughts into something and other people are now able to read that.

 

Right now I just feel like I know nothing about myself. I’ve chosen a life I’d like to lead and identified with that and used it as a source of pride in who I am, without actually leading that life. And now I just feel like I’ve created a character for myself to avoid confronting the person I really am.

 

This feeling has always simmered away under the surface, and from time to time I’ve been forced to question my own identity, but somehow it just seems more encompassing, more devastating now, like my whole world has just collapsed and I’m a 26 year old having to start over again.

 

I always identified myself as a very experiential person someone who always wanted to get the most out of life. I saw myself as being imaginative, a free-spirit, open-minded, and frivolous… even a bit of a libertine. I liked this about myself, but some little thing (which I won’t go into here as it’s the thing that got me thinking, not the crux of my problem and it will sound so silly and petty if I mention it) set me looking back at my life and really digging deep and realising that I can’t really point to anything where I fit in with that identity.

 

I suppose I’ll admit I used pigeonholes a bit as part of my identity… things like ‘hippy’ and ‘bohemian’ I always identified with. I’m aware you can’t completely define someone just by pigeonholing them, I guess the fact I identified with pigeonholes should ring alarm bells that my whole concept of who I am is faked. But I was at least happy to identify with that.

 

I never had the character-shaping experiences you generally associate with how I identify myself. I’ve never gone travelling off my own back. I only smoked pot a few times in my early university years and have never experimented with other drugs. I’m a virgin, I’ve never attended a music festival, or gone on a road-trip. I’ve never been involved in any form of political activism, I’ve never been in trouble with the police or offended the establishment in any form.

 

I’m not saying that I admire people who break the law, or that I think I need to have sex, drugs and rock and roll to be a fully rounded person. But we are built up from our experiences and I have no vivid experiences, I’ve never done anything outrageous… basically I’m just a lot more innocent, naïve and dull than I think I am.

 

Other things keep telling me that I'm much more straight-laced, neurotic, and parochial than I admit… even to myself. These are things I can’t bear to identify with, but they may be true, I’ve never had the experiences I do identify with. But I’ve been to university and been the well-behaved student, I used to work in an office until I felt so stifled and flew off the handle and quit… now I’m unemployed and for the past few years my only connection with the ‘me’ I wanted to identify with has been through alcohol. I’ve been lying to myself and now that happy lie has been shattered and suddenly I realise I’m not the person I thought I was, and I don’t even know who I am anymore.

 

Like I said, this has always simmered away under the surface. When I was in high school I had hardly any identity at all. I was just the person my parents wanted me to be… stayed out of trouble, worked hard at school. I cannot think of a single character-shaping experience from before I was 19. When I went to university I think it was actually my first time away from supervision. I think it was then that I started to identify with this ‘fake identity’… I smoked some pot, but not very much certainly not enough to be able to talk about it as a major experience. Then I stopped, I didn’t have access to drugs, but I held on to that ‘I have smoked pot at one time in the past’ and cherished it as a lynchpin of my chosen identity and it is just so pathetic, there is no foundation there for being a libertine at all. It’s been 6 years since then and every now and again I either find out that friends who used to smoke but now say they have stopped are still having the occasional one and think to myself that I must really be such a prudish innocent.

 

Now I feel like, at 26, I haven’t even started to explore myself yet and I feel like there’s no hope for me. The way I want to be requires me to have had experiences as an adolescent and a young adult, experiences that will never match up if you have them in your late twenties and thirties. Even if I start now, I’ll always be someone who didn’t cast off the shackles of conformity and become their own person until they were well past it. I’ll always be a Johnny-come-lately; something about who I am will just be so fake. Alternatively I could accept who I am and identify with this straight-laced, naïve prude… which to me would seem a fate worse than death.

 

I just feel so torn up inside. I don’t know who I am, I don’t know whether I should be caring what others think of me, whether I want to fit in or stand out. I don’t even know what identity is or what makes it so important. I just feel lost, isolated and debilitated and I’m starting to question every little thing about myself.

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I do understand what it feels like to be at a certain age and realize you haven't made any mistakes in life. I spent most of my life always trying to do the 'right thing' and now that I'm older, I wish I had done more stupid/wild/fun things when I had the chance. However, I don't think it's too late to discover who you are.

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You are in a perfect position to become whomsoever you wish to be. Take some time and decide what's important to you. Accept yourself for who you are rather than who you think you should be. You were made to be you, not anyone else. It is entirely up to you to define yourself any way you see fit. You have absolute freedom, so why not use it? It is an exciting journey to embark upon once you get rolling. Don't do what I did and postpone the discovery process until you are 42. Just think of all the happiness and peace and joy and love you can experience if you are willing to dare to be yourself. I am very grateful I didn't wait until I was even older to begin. You can do it, we can help.

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Thanks... it's nice to know other people also share my guilty secret of wishing they had gotten up to no good when they were younger.

 

And reading your post R2H I think that even though at the moment it isn't getting any easier, there's hope it could be a wake-up call... not to accept that I am the innocent prude but to actually start living the free-spirited life I've been aspirint to for so long.

 

I suppose there's just that shame that even if I start living it now, I'll always stand out as being that bit more naive, that I won't truly fit in with my peers because I'll be a johnny-come-lately.

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Well you can take it from me that the sex, drug, rock n roll thing doesn't mean that you wouldn't be feeling the way you are. I've had some pretty crazy times in the past, been in trouble with the law etc when I was younger, lacked real direction and it lead me to the exact same place you have described.

 

One thing to bear in mind is that you are describing what a high percentage of people in the western world go through in these here modern times. Our societies play a large part, but as others have said, you are in a prime position to do something about it. You've noted it in black and white, I would now suggest you write out a plan of action for say the next 5 years - make sure you keep true to yourself.

 

As an example: If money has never been that important to you and you end up taking a job primarily because of the money (even on a subconcious level) you will, in time become disillusioned with the path you have chosen, resentment will grow in one form or another and you end up feeling a little lost. You can apply this to various aspects of life - it's when you follow what is true to yourself that you will walk towards contentmet on a broader scale.

 

Hope that helps, even if only a little

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I never had the character-shaping experiences you generally associate with how I identify myself. I’ve never gone travelling off my own back. I only smoked pot a few times in my early university years and have never experimented with other drugs. I’m a virgin, I’ve never attended a music festival, or gone on a road-trip. I’ve never been involved in any form of political activism, I’ve never been in trouble with the police or offended the establishment in any form.

 

Me either. I think the media plays these things up tbh.

 

Being free spirited by fitting in, isn't really being free. It's just buying into more of the same.

 

Check out the Nin quote in my sig.

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Me either. I think the media plays these things up tbh.

 

Being free spirited by fitting in, isn't really being free. It's just buying into more of the same.

 

Check out the Nin quote in my sig.

 

Yes I did check the quote... I don't mean to present an exhaustive list of the things that I wish I had done... just things that have been important to friends and the kinds of things that reject the social conformity which I guess I accepted.

 

So as for the quote... it's a good one, I wish I had experimented more with my life.

 

I wish I hadn't assumed I could just pick a label and make it stick. You adopt a lifestyle and then someone labels you for that, and probably you don't like being labelled... I had it all wrong, I picked a label I wanted first, that was the first thing I did wrong... the second thing was that I didn't even bother to do much to justify the label I had given myself.

 

and now I realise my life has just been a facade.

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Well Agent... in a way it's as though the old me is dead... now I need to reinvent myself.

 

Thanks for all your responses... I just wanted to clarify something that's been playing on my mind.

 

It's the thing about drugs. The fact that I smoked some pot on a few occasions back in first year has been the one thing that I have done that fits in with the identity I want... but I've been worried that talking to friends about my issues, it's been coming accross as 'I'm not happy because I haven't taken enough drugs'.

 

It's not the drugs themselves I identified with... I never identified myself as a stoner. It was that fact that, as I saw it, I was open-minded enough not to get all prudish whenever drugs were mentioned and I had no hang-ups about searching for new experiences through drug-taking.

 

And pot was the 'little thing' that set all this in motion. Talking about it with a friend I opened my eyes to the fact that just because I'd taken it a few times 6 years ago, didn't mean I could call myself experiential. And that I actually had been very prudish and very innocent in this regard. It wasn't the fact that I hadn't taken drugs, it was the fact that I'd had the opportunity to and rejected it... and that got me opening my eyes to other things and realising that in most respects I had remained very innocent and prudish.

 

So I don't think that taking some drugs will be the solution... being less prudish is the solution, and that would naturally lead to some drug-taking, but the emphasis is on being less of an innocent prude, not on whatever I get up to as a result of that. Some friends have suggested that I do pot with them to help me get over it, but I don't know, this just seems like accepting someone else as my mentor, which doesn't really make me seem any less innocent and pathetic. If someone offers me drugs not knowing that in the past I have been prudish I would accept, but I don't want a 'pity experience'.

 

I hope this clarifies things somewhat... and makes me seem less drug-obsessed. When I talk about experiences I've lacked I mean the whole range of 'taboo-breaking' experiences, not just taking drugs.

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To me, being open minded is the ability to willingly accept another person's lifestyle regardless of whether you yourself would engage in the same activities.

If we were all open minded in the way it's generally defined [ almost being a "yes man" of sorts ] where would our morals be?

 

Growing up, I had never tried drugs. But, by the time I was in college, I met a crowd of people who smoked pot, dropped acid and ate ecstasy and ketamine on a regular basis.

After much pressure [ and I too felt quite prudish and innocent ] I decided to try a few things.

I still regret it to this day. I really do. I wound up in hospital because of it.

And I'm so embarrassed. Not about the drugs themselves but because I compromised my own values just because I wanted to fit into this "open minded" stereotype.

 

I get some strange reactions from people when I say I do not smoke, drink or do any drugs [ pot included ]. And to me, THEY are the ones being close minded. Because, I can go without judging someone for doing drugs. But I get judged constantly for not doing it. I get strange looks, eye rolls etc. etc.

It's a personal choice. I have no need for drugs in my life. And that aside, they really just don't react well with me for some reason.

 

If somebody is pressuring you to do what they believe is "right" and "normal" it doesn't make them any more open minded than you are.

 

If I understand correctly, it's not the actual drugs that you're interested in. Just the experiences? You HAVE experienced pot because you have tried it. Discontinuing it does not make you close minded. You don't have to like and agree with everything.

 

I understand how crappy it is to feel like you are close minded. My ex used to tell me all the time that I was because I was not interested in a threesome with him. He used to guilt me all the time. Do your friends make you feel guilty/under pressure?

 

How I got over it was learning to accept his lifestyle. I never did engage in it and I never will. If that makes me close minded, so be it. But the ex is no better for putting pressure on me and forcing me to accept his lifestyle and rejecting mine.

This thing goes both ways, you know.

 

If you are just honestly not interested in doing drugs, don't do them. You spend time around people who do drugs, have sex etc. and you don't judge them for it, I'm sure. I believe that is what makes a person open minded.

 

Now, accept yourself as you are. Be open minded to your own way of life...the one you feel most comfortable with.

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If I understand correctly, it's not the actual drugs that you're interested in. Just the experiences? You HAVE experienced pot because you have tried it. Discontinuing it does not make you close minded. You don't have to like and agree with everything.

 

Well it's not even so much that, it's just that I feel like I've been living a shell all my life and that I've only done things for society's approval... not for my own experiences. I didn't do things that I felt we're taboo and that was the end of it... and I hate taboos.

 

It's not even whether I had this experience or that experience that matters, it's the fact that given the chance to have an experience (and this doesn't just include drugs, it could include travel, music festivals anything really) I've cowered away and chose not to have any experience at all.

 

And then the identity crisis comes in because all the time I was cowering away not having experiences... I was defining myself as this experiential, free spirited person.

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Well it's not even so much that, it's just that I feel like I've been living a shell all my life and that I've only done things for society's approval... not for my own experiences. I didn't do things that I felt we're taboo and that was the end of it... and I hate taboos.

 

It's not even whether I had this experience or that experience that matters, it's the fact that given the chance to have an experience (and this doesn't just include drugs, it could include travel, music festivals anything really) I've cowered away and chose not to have any experience at all.

 

And then the identity crisis comes in because all the time I was cowering away not having experiences... I was defining myself as this experiential, free spirited person.

 

 

Do you think you may have a fear of success and/or happiness?

For example, I've wanted to travel to England since I was 6 years old. I've put it off for 14 years and now I'm finally going in two weeks. As much as I'm excited, I'm also very sad. And I think this because once I do it, then what will I have to look forward to? The problem with accomplishing all your goals and having so many experiences is sometimes you end up feeling like after that...then what?

Do you think you may feel this way too? I know it keeps me from doing/trying a lot of things I really would like.

The only way I can think to word it properly is to quote Marilyn Manson in saying that when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.

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Do you think you may have a fear of success and/or happiness?

For example, I've wanted to travel to England since I was 6 years old. I've put it off for 14 years and now I'm finally going in two weeks. As much as I'm excited, I'm also very sad. And I think this because once I do it, then what will I have to look forward to? The problem with accomplishing all your goals and having so many experiences is sometimes you end up feeling like after that...then what?

Do you think you may feel this way too? I know it keeps me from doing/trying a lot of things I really would like.

The only way I can think to word it properly is to quote Marilyn Manson in saying that when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.

 

I don't know... I don't know if it's so much scared of success, as scared of any experience. Good on you for achieving an ambition... you just have to look ahead to whatyou want to achieve off the back of that. I mean it doesn't end with coming to England, you don't want to do anything while you're here.

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I feel so isolated right now.

 

I feel torn up with regret for my life up to this point. Sure there are plenty of things I've done that I don't regret... but everything I've been I do regret. I feel trapped with my past as a burden around me. I feel I can never cast it off, I can never change my past and even if I change my future, my past will always be a source of great shame... A reminder that all my formative experiences (such as they are) have been those of someone I'm ashamed of. An indicator that no matter who I choose to be I'll only ever be a bad person pretending to be a good person.I feel a massive inferiority complex when I stand next to anyone else, anyone who is truly a good person.

 

I feel this knot of shame, regret and irredeemability and I just feel that there's nothing I can do, no way out. I'll be this way forever and I feel isolated as these terrible thoughts will only ever be known to me and me alone. I can never hope to articulate them, I feel hopeless.

 

I feel stressed and physically tense as I try to deal with my shameful past, my tortured present and my hopeless future. I feel nauseous, my stomach in a tight, dense ball within me. I get cold sweats and start shaking. I start crying and I can't sleep. I want to scream at the top of my voice or run away from here never to return or do something crazy. I just want to express myself in a way that articulates my thoughts in a way that words never can.

 

And I don't know who I can reach out to... I feel like people who are close to me are a million miles away, my outer shell is so thick.

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Honestly, I think that feeling of regret for things not done in the past is really due to present unhappiness. When one is truly happy with present life, the past isn't so relevant. So, I think if you work on being happy right now, this feeling will go away.

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Hi carny,

Im sorry you're going through this..

You just have to think, you can be what ever and who ever you want to be. There's no right or wrong when it comes to that.. You're still young. Dont waste this time. There are people in their 40's going through the same thing right now. You need to sort this thing out before you are 40, because then it will feel ALOT worse. Imagine what it must feel like to be in their position. Doesnt it make you feel a little better that, although you feel like a late comer, you are lucky you are still young and going through this, not alot older and going through it. It should give you some hope back, and some encouragement.i hope.

 

You cant change the past. Please dont feel ashamed or upset because you didnt experience much in the past. It can be really exciting and motivational to cut off from you past, and start again. You can experience all those things you didnt, with in a year or less. Its better now than never. Thats all you can do.

 

Start a 'new you' plan. Buy some nice new things (clothes,cologne etc) to feel refreshed and to begin living again. To initiate you into the 'new you'. As i said, all is not lost. You CAN make up for lost time/experiences. Trust me, all is not lost. You musnt beat your self up because of the past. Just let it be, just let it go. It doesnt matter. It doesnt make them better because they have done these things, and it doesnt make you less. Its just different.

 

You CAN be this character you have created. You can be whoever you want. Its never too late. There's nothing wrong with not feeling so great about how you are now and wanting to be this character. It is just you aspiring to better yourself, and being the person you'd love to be. Whats so wrong with that?

 

You should start now. Are you confident enough within yourself to really commit and start doing these character shaping experiences?

 

I know you feel like a late comer. And fake, that you'll never truly fit in with your peers. But this is not true. You do not know this, as you havent starting having these experiences yet, to determine whether or not this is true at the other end. It doesnt matter if they experienced it all before you, you CAN and WILL catch up..

 

Its not as bad as you think. You need to start self empowering yourself, by being positive and experiencing these new things. You'll start to feel wiser and more secure in who you are.

 

Dont doubt yourself. Become the character you want to be..

 

Hope this helps, at least a little..

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I too feel like some of what youve mentioned here, from time to time. I dont even know where to start, when reaching out to people. Because no body will ever ever understand me. And i can never explain my thoughts and what im feeling. Its incredibly difficult, and there is not even enough words in any language to articulate what im feeling. Its sooooooo frustrating. And i end up feeling really hopeless and lost..Thats why Im learning to break down the main reasons as to why im feeling a certain way, by really studying myself and thinking hard. Then I tell people the basic/main things bothering me, without going into much detail. That part (details,complications etc) is for me to figure out myself. As i said before, no one will ever understand or know whats going on inside my head. So get help and advice on the main reasons troubling you, from a number of different people you feel comfortable with. Piece everything together, with some of your own beliefs and thoughts about it. Dont worry, things DO and WILL start falling into place once the main issues are dealt with.

 

I know it seems this way now, but its all in your head. Its a trick of the mind.

You dont have a hopeless future. Please please start thinking more positive and good things about yourself.

 

Do you feel like this all the time? Often, sometimes,rarely?

You shoud talk to p3rf3ctsp3cim3n. He may be able to really help you with this. Trust me.

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Thats why Im learning to break down the main reasons as to why im feeling a certain way, by really studying myself and thinking hard

That's what I've been doing too... I feel things will get harder for us before they get better. I hate being introspective. It isolates me even more, it becomes an addiction, it forces me to dwell on things I am soo tempted to just sweep under the carpet and it uncovers new truths which I was quite happy not knowing.

 

I see it as akin to going on a quest to discover happiness, but as part of the quest you have to venture into the darkest depths of your own psyche... nobody can accompany you on this part of the quest so you have to go alone and it's a scary place with many pitfalls that you might get stuck in forever and many obstacles which will delay you until you can overcome them. However you must complete this part of your quest before you can continue because at the end of the journey through your psyche, at the lowest point you will ever find yourself, you will find self-knowledge... a priceless artefact without with you cannot embark on the rest of your quest. Armed with self-knowledge you will be able to start the second part of your quest... climbing the mountain of self-fulfilment... this will also be difficult but you won't be alone in this part of the quest and every step you make along it will make you happier.

 

I'm going back into therapy, but my therapist... and my friends won't be able to help me much until I have self-knowledge.

 

Do you feel like this all the time? Often, sometimes,rarely?

 

Well I've been in therapy before in the past. I had a psychiatrist when I was 9 and I was suicidal at one point in school... so it's a long lasting problem.

 

It comes and goes. I will have spells of depression regularly, maybe once a week or so... but they only last a few hours. These deeper introspective spells which are completely debilitating only come about roughly once every year but can last from a week to a month. I've never been able to get proper help while in one of these low points before.

 

In the intervening time, I feel I am rarely truly happy... Satisfied or unworried by life at the best (especially when not sober), but I can't remember any specific points in life where I've been ecstatic. Maybe... if there are any at all, there are no more than a few.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm turning 26 this year and I also feel unhappy and unfulfilled in my life and with who I am. Often I wake up and don't know who 'me' is. And i think back on missed opportunities and things i did to be a "good girl" and instead of feeling proud and happy I just REGRET REGRET REGRET.

 

I also like to think I'm like a free spirit, and I have smoked pot a little bit here and there, and I love going to music festivals.. but then I hate people, I hate feeling like I'm so out of control and paranoid (on weed) and yeah. I also feel like a fraud sometimes.

 

It's depressing. Every year you get older, more and more branches of opportunities are closed off to you. And I think abt all the hopes and dreams I had when I was little.. and where am I? NOWHERE.

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