Identity Exploration in Therapy
Truly understanding and embracing who you are is no small feat. You are shaped by your culture, your upbringing, your environment, your beliefs, and so many other factors. The result is an immensely complex person who cannot be summarized in one idea or one statement. Knowing who you are can help you organize your priorities, make important decisions, and surround yourself with people who are aligned with your values. When you know yourself, you’re more likely to live your life in a way that strengthens and empowers you. Understanding your identity can be challenging, though. There are so many layers to examine, and not everything remains stable. Your sense of self can change dramatically throughout your lifetime, so it can be hard to define who you are at any given moment.
Exploring your identity in therapy can be a great way to learn about yourself and feel more confident in your beliefs and values. While therapy is often a resource for working toward better mental health, it’s also a valuable opportunity to understand who you are right now. With this knowledge, you can make choices that improve your life and bring you closer to your goals.
Why It’s So Hard to Understand Yourself
You spend every waking minute with yourself, so you may think that you’re entirely familiar with your identity. In some ways, you do understand yourself better than anyone else. However, most people find it hard to fully identify their specific values, strengths, weaknesses, and other character traits.
Expectations From Others Affect Our Sense of Self
We’re in constant conflict between who we truly are and who the world wants us to be. Chances are, you have certain expectations set for you by family, friends, employers, teachers, or other figures in your life.
While you’re at work, you may have to act a certain way to fulfill your role. You might also notice that you behave differently around your family than you do around your friends. Often times, we have to conform to expectations from others in order to function in our communities.
It’s not always a bad thing to allow others’ opinions or expectations to influence your behavior, especially when they come from people you trust and respect. You may find yourself confused, though, about the difference between who you really are on the inside and who you portray yourself to be in various areas of your life.
Identity Is Multi-faceted
Identity includes so many different factors, and it can feel impossible to define each one. Everyone has a cultural identity, and many people identify with a religion. Your gender identity and sexual orientation can influence your sense of self, too. Many people feel that their career is a major facet of their personality as well.
Your identity involves more than your nationality, career, and the other external descriptors of your life, though. While these traits all contribute to your sense of self, you likely also have core values and beliefs that shape your identity. Here are some questions that can help you self-reflect:
- What are you the most passionate about in the world?
- When do you feel the happiest?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- When do you feel the most comfortable with yourself?
- What is your purpose in life?
Because there are so many layers to your identity, you probably cannot summarize it in a single statement. Your career identity may feel completely separate from your cultural identity or your core values. Understanding your overall identity involves understanding each piece of the puzzle and the ways in which they affect your life.
What Therapy Offers
Feeling unsure of your identity can be distressing. When you don’t know who you are, how do you know what to pursue in life? If you’ve come to a crossroad, you might have a hard time choosing a path when you don’t know what your goals, values, or priorities are.
Therapy is an excellent opportunity to learn more about yourself. When you feel lost, uncertain, or confused, talking through the situation with a mental health professional is a great option. No matter what stage of life you’re in or what challenge you’re facing, therapy can help.
Here Are Some of the Benefits of Exploring Your Identity in Therapy
One of the reasons it can be so difficult to explore your sense of self is because almost everyone has a tendency to put on an act in front of others. In therapy, though, you don’t have to worry about putting your best foot forward or impressing the other person in the room. You’re there to learn about yourself, so you can be completely open and honest.
Your therapist will be honest with you, too. They won’t tell you what they think of you as a person, but they’ll ask you the right questions so that you can find the answers you’re looking for. Therapists are keen observers, so they may notice personality traits that others have overlooked. These observations can bring you much closer to a strong understanding of yourself.
Sometimes, friends or family may have a biased perception of you, or they may tell you what you want to hear. If you want to gain a deeper understanding of your true self, speaking with an unbiased figure can be easier.
No one is perfect, but we all try to conceal our weaknesses in fear of judgment. Your therapist’s job is to support you, though, so they’ll never judge you for what you share. Talking through your experiences, your struggles, and your beliefs can help you gain clarity, and therapy is a safe and private place for you to accomplish this. Nothing you say will be repeated, so you can explore your identity without worry.
Your therapist will not tell you what to do, but they can help you discover the right path. Many people go to therapy before or during major life transitions to have guidance as they make important decisions. You have to know yourself in order to set meaningful goals, and your counselor can help you ensure that you’re making choices that will benefit you in the long run.
Therapists aren’t mind readers, and they can’t tell you everything about yourself from one conversation. Speaking with a counselor can help you learn a great deal about yourself, though. By exploring your identity in therapy, you can feel more confident and secure in who you are, and you can begin to set clear goals for the future.
If you’re looking for therapy in Los Angeles, the counselors at Menachem Psychotherapy Group are happy to help. We offer counseling for identity exploration, life transitions, stress, and many other mental health concerns. Contact us today to learn more about our services.