The idea of an identity crisis isn’t often brought up outside of jokes or banter between folk, and in an ironic twist of fate… that is precisely part of the problem with the modern day crisis of identity a lot of younger adults face.
A Stigma of Society
In a more philosophical world, the nature of identity would be the personal answer we have when asked “Who are you?”
In a modern day society however, our identity feels like it is increasingly shaped by the world and the people around us. Society has stripped away our agency to identify who we are, why we might be that way, and has instead told us what or who we should aspire to be. Deviation from the norm is still considered to be socially non-acceptable and it certainly isn’t encouraged. God forbid you become one of those weird people, one of those social outcasts who nobody really likes because they aren’t normal.
Worse still, we have further evidence of just how controlled the nature of an identity is by society when we look at the push-back towards sexual orientation, or towards mental disability. People the world over shout and scream that being “gay” shouldn’t be part of an identity, that you shouldn’t “identify yourself” as autistic or with ADHD because it… isn’t a… part of who you are…?
Conform, or Stay Quiet
You can tell, by now, what the modern day identity crisis is. And it isn’t the people who identify as gay, or bisexual, or autistic. The modern day identity crisis is, in fact, the reluctance of everybody else in society to accept the idea that an identity can include these things about us.
Being queer or being mentally disabled has been a stigma for so long that now, when these people try to reclaim what is rightfully theirs and shouldn’t need to be locked away, everybody else tells them that their identity should apparently not include these facets of themselves. The reality is that nobody wants to have to deal with an identity that makes them uncomfortable. For so many years, queer people had to keep aspects of themselves hidden so that they wouldn’t be disowned and physically beaten by their own families, or killed by their god-fearing neighbours. Mentally ill people had to forcibly try to adjust to an increasingly hostile environment or risk getting locked up in “the loony bin” from which they would never be allowed to forget their time there.
While turning this situation into an “Us VS Me” them is not ideal, there is no other way for the situation to be considered. And it wasn’t the queers or the mentally ill who made the situation that way, either. All the queers wanted to do was, you know, not be shot and killed for being queer. All the mentally ill wanted was a little bit of support because their brains simply do not work in X or Y way.
And the rest of the world collectively told these people – and others not mentioned in this post, other identities that have been summarily erased due to their nature as not fitting in – to go fuck themselves. The didn’t deserve to be an identity because society didn’t want to acknowledge that they existed. Because after all, if you acknowledge they exist, you then have to make adjustments to what is socially acceptable, and no good Christian man would surely ever tell his children that is socially acceptable to be gay because the good old Bible says that being gay is a sin! (Which, by the way… the Bible definitely doesn’t actually say. And if you seriously think Jesus and his disciples didn’t have some homoerotic subtext, then I don’t think you’re even reading the same book I studied in school.)
The Modern Day Identity Crisis is caused because society continues to try and impose arbitrary rules on what an identity can or can’t be and what it should or shouldn’t be based on. Definitely, society says, your identity shouldn’t include anything that might make people uncomfortable. Definitely, society says, your identity shouldn’t include anything relating to how your brain functions. Even if these facets of yourself are intrinsically a part of who you are – and again, your identity is the answer to that very question! – society does not want to have to accept these things that it made into stigma. Wherever possible, it continues to do what it can to try and warp the idea of an identity so that queers or mentally disabled or certain races or anything at all it doesn’t like don’t have to be considered as a valid identity – all so that it can avoid treating those with these identities as valid, real people.