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Erik Erikson, the psychologist who coined the term identity crisis, believes that the identity crisis is the most important conflict human beings encounter when they go through eight developmental stages in life. The identity is "a subjective sense as well as an observable quality of personal sameness and continuity, paired with some belief in the sameness and continuity of some shared world image. As a quality of unself-conscious living, this can be gloriously obvious in a young person who has found himself as he has found his communality. In him we see emerge a unique unification of what is irreversibly given--that is, body type and temperament, giftedness and vulnerability, infantile models and acquired ideals--with the open choices provided in available roles, occupational possibilities, values offered, mentors met, friendships made, and first sexual encounters." (Erikson, 1970.)

According to Erikson's stages, the onset of the identity crisis is in the teenage years, and only individuals who succeed in resolving the crisis will be ready to face future challenges in life. But the identity crisis may well be recurring, as the changing world demands us to constantly redefine ourselves. Erikson suggested that people experience an identity crisis when they lose "a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity". Given today's rapid development in technology, global economy, dynamics in local and world politics, identity crises are expected to be more common now than 30 years ago, when Erikson formed his theory.

If you find yourself (again) in an identity crisis, you can look at seven areas of difficulty in which to work towards a resolution.

  • Time Perspective
    Can you distinguish immediate gratification from long-term goals? Have you learnt to balance between jumping at opportunities as soon as they are presented to you and working steadily and patiently towards your long-term goal?
  • Self-Certainty
    Do you feel consistent in your self-image and the image you present to others?
  • Role Experimentation
    Have you tried different roles in search of the one that feels right to you?
  • Anticipation of Achievement
    Do you believe that you will be successful in what you choose to do -- whether your role is at the work front or home front?
  • Sexual Identity
    Do you feel comfortable being a male or a female, and dealing with others as such?
  • Leadership polarization
    Are you able to become both a leader and a follower, whichever is called for in a given situation?
  • Ideological convictions
    Have you found a set of basic social, philosophical, or religious values that your outlook on life can be based upon?

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