Identity Crisis: Who Am I?
If you had to compress my question to a few words - I would say, "I am really confused. Who am I, really?"
Here's how it all started. I am from a well to do family and grew up in many different cities of India. I first studied in Jabalpur ( a small city) where I went to a convent school during my teenage years. This was the school that shaped my personality - I became a person who was not shy but who was also not too "showy" or flashy.
Things changed, when we shifted to the capital of India - Delhi. Here again, I was admitted to a high class convent school but the enviroment was so different from Jabalpur! While I had been part of the "cool gang" in Jabalpur, in Delhi I found myself more attracted to nerds and geeks because I found the rest of the class to be really showy, haughty and proud. I didn't have a boyfriend, I didn't go to beauty parlours, I was the teacher's pet and I was petrified at thought of bunking. I farthered myself from the "cool bunch" because I felt uncomfortable with them. I liked the more studious and "boring group".
When I was in grade 12, we again shifted to a small city in Punjab. Here the tables turned and I was treated like a "cool" and too smart a girl. Here I again became a part of the cool gang - but these people were a bit of my type - they wanted to have fun within limits.
Then I went to college in Chandigarh where I again found showy and haughty people and yet again became a part of the "nerdy" group! I was very comfortable with them and overall, I had a happy college life where I was accepted by my "normal" friends and I accepted them.
Now, after college, I am back in Delhi living with my parents but I am again harrowed because my parents are not happy with me at all! They think I have turned out to be really nerdy and "un-cool". They compare me with the kids of their friends who are extremely fashion conscious, artificial and showy. My parents feel sad as they feel all my schooling has been wasted as they wanted me to incorporate the very "classy" things that they see in other girls. I feel like the black sheep of my whole family as I don't fit in my immediate family and my extended family as well.
My parents tell me that the "small city life" was just a phase of our life and my reality is this and I have to live here with these kind of people around me and I agree with this fact too. I don't know what is lacking in me - my confidence or my mindset. I want to change and become like those others but I also feel intimidated. I am really confused about what to do.
Can you help?Answer
I thought about your problem for a while. In fact, I also imagined myself being in your situation.
I think this is what you could do:
You could take some time alone - around 4-5 hours and sit in a place where no one will disturb you. Then, you can ask yourself, "Who am I really?" Imagine the kind of person your parents want you to be and ask yourself - "if there was no restriction, would you really be like this?" If no
one on this earth was forcing you to behave in a certain way and you were free - how would you be? What would you do? Clearly imagine yourself in different social situations, imagine yourself going about your daily life as you would ideally want to if there was no pressure from anyone at all.
To further strengthen this picture of who you really are and who you really want to be, write down the details of this image. For example, you may write, "I dress simply and don't get ready wearing lots of jewellery" (if that is true for you) or write I talk naturally and freely with others not caring much about impressing them or attracting them to me, I don't talk when I don't feel like talking but talk genuinely when I feel like it etc. Basically, write down how you really want to be.
When you think in detail about how you want to behave and live, I am sure you will feel lighter. Whenever we stop thinking about what others think about us and think about what we want, we feel very good.
I feel, this - the person you really feel good about - the person you see in your imagination when you do this exercise - is who you really are. This is the kind of person you can move towards.
I know this might sound weird because your parents and family members may criticize you for being this way. Or some friends might. Or whoever might. When that happens - stand up and tell them that you feel comfortable being this way - it is uniquely you. Be assertive and happy about the way you are - and slowly they will start seeing you as you are and not criticize.
What if you don't sit alone for 4-5 hours and try to change yourself according to what your family members think you should be? In that case, you will feel stifled! Even years after changing yourself (if you are able to change yourself that is), you might still feel unhappy and weird - like you are "acting out" your life. Why would anyone want to live a life like that? How can you be happy living such a life? And if you are not happy - how can you anyway help your family members or friends?
I am not saying that what your family members are wishing for you is wrong or that you shouldn't be showy. What I am saying is - make that decision yourself - without being influenced by others. If you want to be "flashy", be flashy and if you want to be non-flashy be like that - but ask yourself how you want to be instead of being influenced by people around you.
In the short term, you might face a lot of criticism and problems when you choose who you want to be but in the long term, there is no doubt that you will feel more contented, peaceful and sure of yourself. And even when others criticize you, you will still be able to stand strong because you chose your identity.
All this might still seem weird to you. :) But I do feel that spending 4-5 hours alone and asking yourself who you truly are can help.
By the way here's a related article about how I was initially confused about how I "should choose a career" and how I finally chose one I wanted: How to be Happier
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