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10 Habits of People Who Struggle With Their Identity

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Growing up, what are we constantly being told? “Be who you are” “Be whoever you want to be.”

As inspirational as this sentiment is meant to be, as someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have a very hard time with my identity. I’m insecure about how authentic I’m being. Why? Because I tend to mirror those around me. It’s a feeling of chronic instability and it can be very mentally draining because there are constantly conflicting feelings of: “Is this who I really am or am I just acting this way because of who I’m talking to right now?”

Despite the fact that I was experiencing this type of turmoil, I never realized I even had this struggle until it came up in therapy a few years ago. And part of the reasoning was that I didn’t have the language to articulate the experience and part of it was embarrassment. It always seems as though everyone knows who they are, what they want and what their goals are. But when you’re starting from a shaky foundation, we sometimes develop “habits” as coping mechanisms to help us navigate through our internal uncertainties.

As with many of the things that we speak about here on The Mighty, there is rarely just one struggle that is unique to a single mental health diagnosis. Struggling with identity is no different. We reached out to our Mighty community to ask what was “habits” they developed as a result of this identity crisis.

Here are some of their responses:

  1. “One way it manifests is perfectionism. I try to create a shred of identity in everything that I do, and it must always be good and perfect. Then, I struggle to maintain that constant feeling. The slightest perceived failure can trigger self hatred or fear of abandonment/rejection. If I’m not perfect, who would want to stick around with me?” — Kellyann N.
  2. “Automatically giving up at the first sign of a disagreement to let the other have their way. Then feeling hurt and disrespected.” — Nancy M.
  3. “Going through ‘hobbies’ constantly trying to find something that defines me, even though they never last more than a few months.” — Taylor D.
  4. “Taking on the identity of whoever I’m fixated on — I’ve had (very intense) phases of wanting to be a languages teacher to the point of doing everything in French and getting a job in Lyon, wanting to work in mental health and trying to train as a MH nurse, starting to run ultramarathons which took over my life for a while, wanting to be a primary school teacher and failing teacher training, doing a philosophy degree then panicking when the obsession faded partway through… I honestly have no idea who I actually am or want to do and it really scares me.” — Sirena A.
  5. “My life takes on the tone of whatever is most influential at the time. When I was reading ‘Little Women’ I was constantly cross stitching and when I wrote/spoke my wording became more old fashioned. When I was watching ‘Veronica Mars’ every day I became suspicious of everyone and was investigating things. Sometimes it’s really beneficial, sometimes it’s destructive.” — Mandi P.
  6. “Cynicism in regards to trusting people and as a result, more or less becoming highly reclusive. I generally don’t even allow the first phase of idealization or forming of a strong attachment to anyone because in my head, the outcome is inevitable. This leads to me putting up a wall of steel that you’d need a military effort to break through.” –Phil P.
  7. “When I watch programmes or films, I often mimic characters’ behavior without even knowing that I’m doing it.” — Shanise C.
  8. “I get really impulsive. I need to be different than everyone else. I crave unrealistic goals that set me apart, but then all of this eventually calms down and I feel lost.” — Louise B.
  9. “My sense of humor changes depending on who I’m around. Sometimes I’m super silly and sometimes I have a super dry sense of humor. I can fake laugh with the best of them.” — Becca B.
  10. “I take on traits and interests from people I come in contact with, thinking it will make me more interesting.” — Robyn L.

What are some of your “habits” when you struggle with your identity? Let us know in the comments below!

Header image via nadia_bormotova/Getty Images

Originally published: September 10, 2020
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