Life is nothing but a summary of thoughts and actions and your identity is nothing but a classification of an idealistically pre-determined category of being. In my interactions with the beings that populate the Earth, I am often faced with the dilemma of identity. Not mine but the identification of others. I do not quite often meet a persona that is aware of what is on the inside of their existence. If today you go out and ask a person what they are, you would probably receive a response detailing their dim professional or academic life. The notion of identifying yourself by your profession is widespread in modern society but it is the one that is hurting.
Depression By False Identity
If statistics are to be believed, one in every five young individuals will be clinically depressed by 2023 that means 20% of our young population will be on some level of anti-depressant dosage. The sight of this would cripple the soul of everyone around but they will be rendered helpless then. However, we can start by fixing it today. A lot of depression stems from a false sense of identity and entitlement. People look on the outside to find themselves, to associate themselves with certain ideologies that define them. On being asked, “Who Are You?” if you have ever answered with statements like “I am ABC and I am an Engineer” or “I am a Manchester United Fan” or “A Modi Bhakt” or anything else for that matter then you have already identified yourself with a certain ideology. Is it wrong? No, as long as you know what you are from the inside, it is not wrong, but do you? Ever have an answer like “I’m ABC and I am a naive yet happy human” struck to you? Have you ever identified yourself by what you are on the inside? If no then you are setting yourself up for a tedious future.
Despite criticisms from certain ideological groups, the notion of identifying yourself by what constitutes your being is convincingly beneficial in leading a meaningful life. There is a certain level of nihilism in everybody but that is no reason to not understand and face yourself. As Carl Jung would put it:
A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them. As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.Carl Jung, Swiss Psychiatrist
What Jung is trying to say is that there is darkness all around you and inside you as well. Things that irritate you about others are in some way a reflection of yourself. It is unhumanly to expect happiness to be a homeostatic process. The purpose of our existence is to find happiness in the darkest of the times and this is very important to understand if you are facing an identity crisis.
Identity crisis comes when you identify yourself by the ideologies or metrics that are determined by others. It is the association with a pertaining social order that hurts your chances of experiencing a deeper sense of yourself.
Know WHAT You Are
Banking on the philosophy of Carl Jung, you will have to go through an evolutionary process of discovering yourself. You will have to be aware of your activities and the underlying causes of them. To recommend this level of consciousness and self-awareness is not quite pragmatic but is also, simultaneously, attainable with deliberate and careful practice. You have to be sure that in the process of finding your identity, you are not overthinking it. In most cases, the very cause of identity crisis is the repetition of an utterly mindless question, “WHO AM I?” You keep repeating it over and over again until you find a satisfying answer which again in most cases is NOTHING. The question you should be asking is WHAT ARE YOU? This is not about what job you do or which team you follow or how many cats you have. It is about awareness of emotions and thoughts. Knowing what you are will not only solve your identity crisis but also help you steer your life and take control of what happens with you next. The way to discover yourself is to understand what you are. It is to go through a rigorous evolutionary process of discovering the real you via small, incremental and conscious steps. It will not happen in a day or a month but it will happen someday. The pace of self-discovery is a byproduct of the consciousness you practice on a day-to-day basis. Let us now understand how to answer the mentally staggering question of what you are.
The ‘WHAT+WHY’ Formula
If you are facing the crisis of identity then you should instantly apply the WHAT+WHY formula. It is a very simple thing to do. All you have to do is think about everything and note it down. The first question you have to ask yourself is WHAT are you doing? It could be anything, waking up on the wrong side of the bed, killing mosquitoes or even something as trivial as brushing your teeth. Pay attention to everything you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you sleep. Make a note on your phone or on a paper about every movement of your body. Now, while you are noting down what you are doing, also think about WHY. This is the most crucial part. The moment you start understanding why you are doing what you are doing, you will create a sense of awareness in you. Apply the WHAT+WHY formula on everything and introspect on your reasons for it. Some reasons would be really simple like you brush your teeth because you want to be hygienic. While some reasons would be difficult to find like why you said certain things to your girlfriend or why you did something even when you didn’t intend to and the answer is not because you were angry/hurt. Suffering is again a derivative of underlying drivers of the emotional and mental systems. You have to delve deeper into yourself to find a discernible cause-effect relationship.
Establishing the WHY not only helps you understand yourself but also helps you develop empathy and become a better human. Simon Sinek advises all leaders to do so but I say we all should do so because ultimately, we are the leaders of our lives. This exercise will exhaust you, it will take time, the solution might be simple but the implementation is not.
Once you have started practicing the what-why formula, you will understand what makes you the way you are. It will solve the problem of a hopeless interaction with the examination of who you are. The idea of solving your identity crisis is not to get you to come in terms with reality or your order of existence. You read Kafka and you shall question it all again. The idea of this exercise is to drive life-long action. To set the premise for a fulfilling and meaningful life that makes you happy while being accustomed to all the darkness. In the end, you are what you do. That is your IDENTITY.
Comment below with your feedback on how this made you feel.