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“Every time I try to get close Trevor, he just gives me mono syllabic answers as if telling me to mind my business. But when he is with his friends, he never stops talking. It hurts! It’s almost as if he’s one person out there and a totally different person at home”
Almost every parent can relate to that statement above. Your child who used to talk with you about anything and everything before becoming an adolescent is suddenly keeping his distance and seems to have multiple identities depending on the social context he finds himself in. This in itself is not a problem (you can check out our course to know why they act the way they do) but it is crucial to find the balance because in extreme cases, you can as well call it a red flag. However, based on Erik Erikson’s theory, adolescence is when identity formation occurs and it is at this point that they have the most interaction with different social milieus. Identity development occurs within a social context. The concept of psychosocial development, according to Erikson, emphasizes the connection between biological and psychological development on one side as well as the recognition and regulation of social institutions on the other hand. An adolescent’s identification with self (that is, his identity) is determined to a great extent by his interactions between his individuality and the society so that the adolescent has the opportunity to see and be seen by the social milieu that counts. At the end of this phase, people will either come out with a distorted identity, especially if like Trevor, they are allowed to continue with multiple identities or they could come out with a consolidated identity if helped through adolescence. Who are today is a direct result of what our adolescence was and that’s what this article is all about. Although little research has been conducted on how different kinds of social contexts regulate this identity formation, we have carved out seven social contexts that play a direct role in identity formation. We call them the “Places”.
There are seven “Places” that every human will interact with at some point in time in their lives before or during adolescence. Identity is consolidated when “who you are” in all seven of these Places complement, rather than antagonize, one another. Having a thorough understanding of who you are in each of the Places will definitely help identity consolidation and give a solid sense of self-awareness.
1. The Home Place:
The home-place forms the foundational block upon which all the other social institutions will build on. An ideal home comes from a loving family living together to raise their children. In our day to day interactions backed up with creative research, we discovered that people want to
- Have healthy, harmonious and prosperous families;
- Experience undying love with their spouses;
- Raise children in a loving, safe and secure atmosphere; among others,
But quite a number, have residual experiences from childhood that have tainted the lens through which life is viewed and it ultimately distorts their sense of identity. Check out your areas of struggle and conduct an honest evaluation, chances are that some of those struggles have their roots at the home (during childhood). Even our interactions at work and our roles at work are usually first defined at home.
2. The Work Place:
The workplace is any place where work is done; basically a place of employment. It is another major place where we take on our identity and by which our identity is defined. When we are asked, “who are you?” our default answer oftentimes is usually about the work we do, and who we are at work. That’s how powerful workplace identity is! When we function in a workplace environment that allows us to
- Be part of a motivated, growing, and optimizing team
- Build healthy relationships among teammates
- Enjoy work-life balance
- Experience personal fulfilment in every dimension of wellness
- Translate personal wellness to corporate wellness,
it helps our identity soar. In the workplace, emotional wellness strikes as the number one factor in being a productive workforce or not. A solid identity helps form a foundation for emotional wellness.
3. The Learning Place:
The Learning Place is a learning environment that builds capabilities and competencies for wellness, wholeness and winning and it provides students with access to learning resources and spaces for teaching, learning, collaborating and networking. We spend a lot of time in school. and it’s clear that most of our identity is shaped by the environment that we are in. Schools do play an important role in adolescents’ identity development. Studies on how schools and teachers unintentionally impact adolescents’ identity showed that, at school, messages may unintentionally be communicated to adolescents concerning who they should or can be through differentiation and selection, teaching strategies, teacher expectations, and peer norms.
4. The Fun and Dating Place:
The fun and dating place is an invitation to deeper, meaningful relationships and life. This is the place where we open our hearts to love and keep it open irrespective of the external circumstances. There is a relationship between identity and intimacy. The quality of our relationships can make or break a person’s identity. Someone who started out with a healthy sense of self can lose it all just by being in a relationship with a narcissist and vice versa. We understand that heartbreaks and disappointments can alter the very foundation of our core but thank goodness that our identity isn’t built from just one source. Also, sometimes just being in a relationship can lead to a reduction in negative traits. Identity can flourish when the fun and dating place is characterized by:
- Living wholesome single lives
- Building lasting friendships and relationships
- Finding and giving true love
- Nurturing love
- Sealing and consummating love in the most endearing and enduring manner
5. The Market Place:
Understanding the competitive nature of the marketplace, the negative pressure that could emanate from the market place and the crushing disappointments that could ensue if things go out of hand, it is no surprise that this is another place where identity is forged or dissolved. The marketplace is the actual arena where trade and sales take place. It is quite different from the workplace in that the workplace deals with your internal relations with colleagues and employees while the marketplace is where external relations occur. This is where you deal with your clients, investors, etc. Some people are wicked towards their staff but helpful towards potential clients – that is an identity clash. It’s a fake and it’s only a question of time before who you truly are is expressed. How do you stay sane with all the pressure from the marketplace? In the midst of such stringent competition, how do you break even without compromising who you are? How do you win without losing your identity?
6. The Public place:
Law Insider easily describes the public place as any place that the public has access to, including but not limited to planes, trains, taxis, buses, shops, airports, railway stations, etc. Simply put, the public place is a community. It is incredible the power our communities wield in terms of identity shaping. Being a part of a healthy, peaceful, stable and prosperous community can do a lot of good to one’s identity. Have you ever felt prejudice towards someone you only recently met simply because of a stereotype you’ve been indoctrinated into? Why do you think stereotypes are powerful? It is because we believe that people take their identities from their cultural upbringings and their communities. And you’re not wrong. Except you deliberately choose who you want to be, chances are that you will easily be defined by your community.
7. The Soul Place:
Corporate irresponsibility and the absence of human connection and compassion is a direct fallout of spiritual unwellness which is reflective of the soul place. The soul place is a deep dive into your soul. This is a powerful place where identity is consolidated. The soul place has little to do with religion and more to do with how connected to your core. How in tune are you with how you feel and what you feel? Do you know what you are saying about yourself? Even if you were raised to be a goal-getter if you cant see that in the soul place, you will not become a goal-getter. The truest version of YOU is made in the soul place. The soul place allows you experience wholeness in the spiritual dimension, beyond the body and soul. It gives you an assurance of peace in the innermost being and guarantees you of the future and the hereafter.
Who we are in each of the Places can beam the light on how well we are in tune with our core. Sometimes, we behave differently when we are in a particular social context and that is not a problem if your anchor (who you are) is well defined. It is the definition of who you are that will help your behaviour in each of those Places. Identity consolidation occurs when who you are in each of those places complements your other selves. It is safe to say that our identity is a proposition. It’s a summation of who everyone around us has said we are right from the time we were born. Sometimes we can forget this and feel trapped, struggling to meet those expectations. But understanding that we are much larger than who we are told we are, frees us from those mental limitations and makes seemingly impossible new life paths possible.