An Identity Crisis and The Wizard of Oz

Erik Erikson coined the term “identity crisis”, saying that the environment in which a child is brought up is critical in the formation of personal identity and self-awareness. Makes sense, right?

Obviously, the way we were raised significantly impacted who we are now. Imagine how different you might be if all the “moving parts” of your early life were the same, except for the folks who raised you. What if instead of having nurturing parents, you lived with people who really didn’t want you?  If you grew up feeling unloved, how different would things be now if you had been part of a nurturing home, filled with respect, support and care?

Merriam-Webster defines Identity Crisis as: “a feeling of unhappiness and confusion caused by not being sure about what the true purpose of your life is”. It’s natural to carry with us long-ago established belief systems about who and how “valuable” we are. Whether we’ve simply accepted what we’ve been exposed to as truth, or we question everything, the process of how we identify ourselves started when we were very young.

How do you identify/define yourself?
Do you ever think, “I really don’t know who I am”? 
Do you ever believe that you don’t matter in this world?
Do you ever feel like you’re still searching for your identity?

Is there internal conflict between what you do daily and what your inner voice is whispering?

Years ago, five friends were at my home and one of them asked if we’d be willing to share something important that was on our minds and in our hearts. It was a gutsy request, and she began by telling us about what was going on for her personally. I thought about remaining silent but then I realized this is exactly what people who have amazing friends should be able to do—share honestly and openly.

I talked about one of my fears. Sure, I’m afraid of many of the same things as other people my age—growing old alone, financial security, declining health—but what I shared was, my fear of failing; something I continually work on but had never spoken candidly about. I actually said the words “failure is not an option”. Wow.

I chose (intentionally decided) who I want to be. For a long time, I didn’t even consider the possibility of failure. Have I always succeeded? Of course not. Have I been disappointed in myself when I haven’t? Of course!

The Wizard of Oz tells Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

I empathize with that “Great and Powerful Wizard”. It’s tough to land somewhere that you didn’t expect to be, then take on a role you didn’t expect to play—having so many people depend on you that you create a whole “set” (curtains and booming microphones included). I’ve often felt like that man behind the curtain, trying to manage it all and be it all, while saying all the right things, looking the right way, and orchestrating the life I’m leading. The thing is, all that managing can take the place of simply being.

How much of your identity has been “smoke & mirrors”?
How hard is it to play out your life with the persona that you’ve finally landed on as the “right one” for you?
If you speak up and admit that everything’s not “perfect”, and no one else in your group does that, how do you feel?

Are you comfortable enough to share, at the risk of exposure, what you’re really feeling—to pull back the curtain?

During that sharing time with friends, no one interrupted, no one asked questions, and no one offered solutions. We simply listened to each other. It was scary and liberating. It was vulnerable and uplifting. But, in order for that to happen, we had to feel safe. We had to be unafraid of not fitting it.

We’re bombarded by media that shouts at us,
This is what you’re supposed to look like”, and “This is how you’re supposed to live.”
It’s no wonder we suffer from identity crises!

We stay in jobs we hate because we need to make that amount of money.
We dress the way other people expect us to, so that we fit in.
We worry obsessively about “what other people think” because we need to be accepted.
We label ourselves the way we think others see us because we don’t really see ourselves.

When we spend enough time acting as if everything is just perfect, it gets really tough (and lonely) when we hit a bump in the road and realize that, “heck, everything is not just fine”.

If you have no idea who you are because you’ve been playing a role for so long, take the time and be honest with yourself. It’s okay to be human…really.

The late evangelist, D.L. Moody said, character is what you are in the dark.
How do you identify yourself?
When you’re alone and thinking about life—about choices, about where you’ve been, about where you’re going—what are you in the dark?

So, God help us to be:
bearers of light,
harbingers of peace,
messengers of love
and speakers of truth—our truth—always. in all ways. 

Amen to that (and to friends who challenge us to be real),

©2018 Peace Full Home®

Twitter: @kaymclane
Instagram: @peace_full_home

Who are we when we "pull back the curtain"? ©2015 PeaceFull

Who are you when “the curtain’s pulled back”?©2018PeaceFull Home®.com


4 thoughts on “An Identity Crisis and The Wizard of Oz

  1. At Kairos 5 women spent 2 1/2 hours a month for 9 months…listening to each other. We went deeper and deeper…scary every time, but so powerful.
    Thanks, Kay

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicely written. I’ve done that exercise and it’s a wake up call to how much we typically interject, ask questions or just don’t listen. It’s a gift to have friends that you are able to be that vulnerable with.

    Liked by 1 person

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