How Do Life Transitions Change Your Identity?
Life is about change … but most of us don’t like change. We know that change is inevitable and even good for us, and yet, we find ourselves avoiding it at all costs.
With each new transition comes the demand for a new identity, and that can be really uncomfortable. Big external changes like divorce require the biggest internal shifts.
Life change and identity crisis
From infancy to adulthood, life serves up a ceaseless array of transitions. You will inevitably go through many changes – maybe career changes, family changes, or the challenges of divorce.
Each change forms you into someone a little bit different from the person you were before. The more significant the life change, the more significant the shift you experience.
Some transitions can shake the very foundation of who you think you are. A change can feel so huge that you may look in the mirror and not recognize your own reflection. You may wonder if this is what they call an identity crisis.
How will you navigate the world as this new you?
Major life changes usually require a change in roles. The birth of a child makes you a parent, but it’s your new role as their caregiver that makes it important to you. If you leave a job, you also give up a role that may have defined you for years.
Divorce makes you single, but what may really jar you is the loss of the role of “spouse” and everything that came with that.
Every life transition requires you to step into new circumstances and a new role, often giving up an old one. And new roles can take time to get used to.
Remember when your only priority was to get home before curfew? Then, it was getting through school. Moving up the corporate ladder. Finding love. Being a good parent to a new baby. Every stage and significant change gives some things new importance, while your old priorities become so yesterday.
Shedding one role after the other as you move through life is just part of your evolution. But some transitions are more difficult to shed than others, and an inability to shift priorities can keep you stuck in identity paralysis.
Self-discovery and growth
Every major life transition comes with its own education. And even when it’s scary – maybe especially when it’s scary – it offers an opportunity for self-understanding and growth.
Of course, it may not feel like it at the time, particularly if the transition was unhappy and unanticipated. There are types of life transitions we look forward to, but then there are also some we read.
But holding on tight through the scary parts shines a light on your resiliency and courage – things you would never know about and be proud of unless they were tested.
Safeguarding your self-esteem
If you’ve tied your self-worth to a role, transitioning from that role can leave a huge hole. But that void begs to have something better take its place. You don’t have to know what that is right now, but you need to cultivate some trust for yourself and your process.
Internal changes take more time than external ones. This may be just the time to reconnect with and rediscover those things you hold deeply at your core that got lost in the chaos of life.
Tips for a healthy transition
You know that being stuck in the past is unhealthy. So how do you hold or even embrace life’s transitions, especially the unhappy or scary ones?
Lean on your support system
Don’t navigate your change in isolation. This is the time you need social support or just an ear. Sharing with a good friend, a trusted family member, or even members of a support group can lessen the burden of the changes you’re going through.
Consider a therapist
If done right, a mental health professional can be like a very knowledgeable, honest friend. A good therapist is one who is adept at making you feel more centered and powerful in your life while offering you coping skills to make it better.
What about life coaching or divorce coaching?
A coach can help you assess what you’ve been through, support you into the next phase, and hold you accountable for your actions. While a therapist can help you discover things about yourself that helped create your scenario, a coach is generally more focused on taking the concrete steps necessary to move forward.
Life constantly changes course, and these transitions are just a natural part of life and growth. Embracing change and the identity shifts that come with it can be challenging, but getting support and guidance can help you weather the storm. At Hello Divorce, we’re here to support you through divorce and other life transitions. We offer divorce coaching and a library of resources to help you along the way.