Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 4-18-2021

“If you are so offended by me being me, don’t ask me why I’m being me. Ask yourself, why does it bother you so much?” -EaE

There is a good chance that most of us have multiple identities but are not seeing their power. Perhaps one identity overtakes another. Perhaps one identity is more socially acceptable, so that is the one we choose to nurture, while all other identities take a back seat or get neglected. Perhaps we have an identity already in place, but slowly we are growing into another and do not even realize it, then eventually feel lost/ confused. When I think of the commonly used term ‘identity crisis’, I believe it may have to do with the chronic compulsion to suppress one or more of our identities until it harms us mentally, emotionally, and/ or socially. Unfortunately, some people have had to suffer through an issue like this since they were…. maybe 3 or 4. Some may be a bit luckier and able to fit the social norm while embracing and growing into identities that they are proud of and can be open about. It all depends. What are we born into first? Who do we become? Is it acceptable? What cards have we been dealt within our environment and by our family/ peers? Then, what plays have we made? Or did we fold?

     A common line I have heard in session: “I’m not myself anymore”. I even have a chapter in my book “Unseen” labeled this. This chapter is under the category of pitfalls, which it can be, but it is also very much an issue of identity. When we ‘do not feel like ourselves anymore’ what does that really mean? What are we really saying?  In most cases, when a person tells me this line, it means they have changed. Okay, what made you change? Why did you change? What happened? Was it for the better or the worst? Is there even such a thing? In many cases people recognize that even some of the most intense and traumatic situations can both harm/ help us throughout our lives. With great pain comes great…. Wisdom…. actually. With new experiences, especially adverse ones, comes a new you. Yes, our identity can/ will change especially when we live what I call a very ‘roller coastery lifestyle’ full of unpredictability. 

      Identity Rejection

Identity rejection happens when a change takes place within us (often due to external factors) that we may not be comfortable with, and we continue to try and act like our ‘past selves’ even when our new identity wants us to be who we now are. This is especially common when we are burdened under the pressures of strict workplaces, family demands, judgmental peers and so on. Not only are we sometimes uncomfortable with the changes taking place in our minds/ personalities, but quite often we may find… so is everyone else that we know. I found that I could not be ‘myself’ when I came back home from my deployment. First off, it felt like the world was watching me (even though it was just my coworkers and family/ peers) and secondly, I felt that any change of personality I may have exhibited would be seen as a ‘weakness’ or an ‘illness’. I then feared I would fall into the stigma of a ‘broken/ traumatized veteran’ that needed help. Due to these fears, I rejected the ‘veteran that deployed to a combat zone’ identity as well as the pain that came with it. I rejected my traumas and my emotional pain even though it was still there. We cannot ‘will away’ what happened to us, and we cannot will away the memories and emotions that come with it. It is cemented in ink, it is an imprint in our brain and behaviors for life. We will change, it should be normalized and expected. It should be embraced, even.

      Other’s may feel forced to reject an identity that does not fit the ‘social norm’, that gets judged often or scares people. One of my quotes: “If you can be as genuinely yourself as possible, while doing your best not to hurt people in the process, then you are winning in my book”. It is a cliché thing to say, but still true, being you is brave. To be able to take on all parts of ourselves and all identities we have built over the course of our lifetimes is a very brave and hard thing to do. Identity rejection is a huge hurdle to have to overcome, it comes at different levels for everyone and we all have a journey to fight past this compulsion/ social pressure. 

     Embracing our identities

     The first rule of embracing our identities is to care less what people think. Truly, this is not something to take lightly or easily. It is in direct conflict with who we are as human beings. As social beings. It is in our survival program/ code to be accepted by our social environments, we need acceptance to grow and to get ahead from childhood and on. However, to do that often means risking parts of ourselves that are uniquely us. The parts that may be ridiculed or not accepted by the social environment around us. Can we embrace our identity, have it accepted by those around us and NOT get kicked out of our herd?  This is where terms/ concepts like “find your crowd”, or “find your types of people” come in handy. When we can find individuals and/ or a crowd that could take us in, offer support while also letting us be ourselves, does it get any better? 

At the age of 31, I find myself with multiple identities as does everyone else at this age and older. Examples: Female/ veteran/ writer/ martial artist/ therapist/ entrepreneur/ a sufferer of mental illnesses/ a cat owner etc. They can be tricky to juggle balance, some can overpower others, some may get neglected for a while, but they are all a part of me. Some are socially acceptable, and some leave people wanting to silence me or reject me. They exist within my mind and play into my daily actions/ behaviors. Which one comes out and exposes itself the most? It depends on: mood, the crowd around me, my sense of purpose on any given day etc. I believe the more important thing was learning not to reject any one of my identities. Also, being able to see the purpose they played during my life, how they both harmed and helped me. In one way or another, they developed for a reason. We are drawn to things for a reason, we are what we become, for a reason. We should not have to apologize for who we are or what we become, especially if we are not hurting people in the process.

    Bonus: Let’s use social media wisely to help nurture our identities: 

–          Find the groups you fit into!  For example, I find myself heavily involved in mental health social groups, MMA social groups, veteran groups etc. I also find myself more likely to leave those chats feeling validated/ comforted due to the amazing peer to peer support by those that have commonalities with me.

–          Learn to FILTER!  If there are groups or social media platforms you are a part of that constantly drench you in depression and/ or anxiety, hit that leave or block button. Learn to recognize when something is toxic to your being and practice the boundaries needed to cancel it out. 

–          But also, do not be afraid of growth/ learning and taking on new identities. Therefore, join something new that is interesting, but pushes and challenges your ideas/ views and helps you see things from a different lens or perspective. As we learn about other’s, we will learn more about ourselves, and vice versa. 


So, for those that ‘are not themselves anymore’, or struggling with a part of themselves that they do not want to admit to or are ashamed of I have always offered my support. Sometimes clinically, sometimes as a peer or even an advocate. I became a social worker by trade for a reason. I believe that societies teachings/ pressures are heavily impactful on every individuals mental health/ identity. We cannot and should not neglect this piece. Also, pay attention to that. Is what you are and who you have become such a bad thing? Or did someone try and make you feel it was a bad thing? Were they valid or was it coming from a place of ignorance? A lack of education? Was it coming from fear? Are you embracing all your identities and living as you want to be? Or are you holding back? Why or why not? This is the hard work that must be done in the name of living as yourself freely and unapologetically.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

3 thoughts on “Identity

  1. This post is hugely helpful to me. I have just walked away from a religion that formed my beliefs and views over the course of my life. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I’m glad that I did. I feel as if I’ve broken free from a very rigid mould. I’m interested in what you say about embracing our identities and it’s something I’d like to learn more about. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to this blog a lot. When I was a teenager I was seeing a therapist and I had a mental break and she told me I was wearing to many masks. One for friends, one for family ( patents were divorced so a mask for each side) and one for myself until I didn’t know which mask to wear. Many years later and I do mean many years later. I’m down to to just mine And I LIKE mine. I’m not perfect and that’s okay. I look forward to seeing more of your archives on this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Would be so much easier to cut emotion out. It’s never over…not good enough to measure up even when it seems like it. Space too easily turns to distance.

    Liked by 1 person

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