Maintaining identity in times of major change or crisis
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Once established, your identity is probably the most precious thing you could ever have. I’m not talking about “identity” as an aesthetic, throw-away term that today’s social media has many millennials claiming as their “brand,” but a true and honest security in who you are, what you’re capable of, and what your limits are. I have worked hard to find my identity, and to be comfortable with it. Everything from my fashion choices, how I speak, and how I interact with the world around me—all of this is part of my identity, and it is something I maintain with pride by refusing to let insecurities get the better of me. However, that doesn’t mean that your established identity will never be tested.
In times of major change or trauma, it becomes very easy to lose yourself—to essentially lose your identity—and revert back to a childlike state of being unsure and frightened; especially in emotionally fraught situations. Sometimes this is okay, but when people are depending on you to be strong, having a breakdown will often make everything worse.
Recently I have found myself in situations where I have had my self-assurance tested, and I have struggled to situate myself in a way that neither ignores the situation at hand, nor allows me to fall into a sobbing mess of anxiety and depression. However, I do have two tips for dealing with all of this:
Develop a mask.
Usually I would advise against this, as it is essentially “fake it till you make it.” In hard times, it can become necessary to give the illusion that you’re okay—even if you’re not. You do this so you don’t worry those around you, and so that the situation doesn’t become all about you and your problems. We all know that one person, the one that can never be a shoulder to lean on because they’re too self-absorbed to see the hurt or fear in anyone else. Don’t be that person. Be yourself, or rather, the you you were before the triggering event. You don’t have to maintain this all the time—which brings me to my next point.
Use your mask to separate when it’s appropriate to express your own emotions and when it is not. This is especially important when you have situations that involve other people, such as after the loss of a loved one, when dealing with news of a terminal illness, or when you need to maintain a job and still have classes to attend. Knowing who you can break down in front of and when you can have a nice cry will prevent you from bottling everything up and lashing out. This is especially important for people who define themselves as introverted, or dislike being at the center of overly emotional public displays.
The phrase “times are tough,” was obviously created by someone that never experienced any hard times—especially if its creator intended it to sound as dismissive as it does. Times of major change or trauma aren’t “tough”—they’re destabilizing, confusing, emotional, and just plain shitty. However, being able to maintain your identity during these times will help you recover faster from whatever events caused you to question yourself and who you have worked so hard to become.