At last, there’s a name to describe the emotions I have been experiencing over the past few weeks since leaving my corporate job but just couldn’t quite explain. Google strikes again!
Since returning to full-time study, I have often found myself (whilst at home alone at my desk) questioning my decisions and sense of self, and worrying about the perceived external judgement others may have about my choices. I have felt lonely at times, and I have missed my old routine, the engagement with my colleagues and the sense of meaning, purpose and fulfilment that work accountability used to bring. I guess my job positively contributed to my wellbeing more than I thought at the time.
I didn’t know there was a phrase to describe what I was feeling but a few days in I stumbled across an article in The Age that spoke about Identity Crisis.
The term was first coined by German psychologist Erik Erikson, who used it to describe the period of transition during the teenage years when kids try to work out what their values are and what they will do as adults.
Today identity crises are more common and occur during times of big change, transition or stress. It can happen when starting or leaving a job or relationship, retiring, having a child, reaching a certain age or when your parental role starts to dissipate, to name a few examples.
But as I have realised this crisis is not one to be feared. It can be a great opportunity to take time to explore yourself and what’s important to you, and can help build your identity in all the other aspects of your life such as in your family. It may also lead you to uncover ways to find meaning outside of your work or previous roles through activities such as volunteering.
It’s important to work out who you are as researchers have found that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not.
So if you are unsure of your role in life or if you feel like you don’t know the ‘real you’, don’t worry as it is one of the most important conflicts people face in terms of their development.