Who Were You? Who Are You? The Process of Identity Formation

Andy Santanello · April 8, 2019

Identity Formation

The concept of identity formation can seem strange to adolescents and young adults. After all, with such a strong societal focus on individuality and self-acceptance, identity feels like an intuitive state and not like something that is influenced and chosen. In reality, we all go through the identity formation process in adolescence through adulthood, and it makes us who we are.

Who Are You?

Identity describes all of the values that dictate the choices that you make, whether those choices are made in relationships, in the workplace, in a religious institution or elsewhere. Identity formation occurs as a result of all of the values we are surrounded by as we age. Some people internalize the views of their parents or the dominant culture. Others adopt the values of their friends or those prevailing in their career field. The same kids who are playing Fortnite and Minecraft today might morph into adults who thrive on minimalism and shun technology in the future. A sense of identity is vital to determining what we want to do in life and our path forward.

Identity becomes even more complex as we adopt new roles throughout life. For example, one man may hold numerous roles as a teacher, father, grandfather, friend and husband. Each of those roles has expectations, cultural meanings and characteristics associated with it. One of the primary parts of identity formation during adolescence is creating different selves to thrive in numerous social environments. The way that teens act around peers is different than how they would act in front of parents or an employer, which is all part of identity formation. Being able to maintain different selves as part of one whole is essential to being a successful adult. How many of your coworkers behave the same in front of their boss and in front of their children?

What Happens After Identity Formation?

Identity formation is a lifelong process that starts in adolescence, so there is no “end” to how we shape and change ourselves. Many of the questions pondered during the teen years are the same ones we think about down the road— “What am I doing with my life?” “Is this a reflection of who I am?” “Who do I want to be?” The answers to these questions can change drastically as we age, or even day to day.

Are You Struggling with Your Identity? 

If you are unsure of who you are, want to work on becoming someone you are proud to be or are interested in seeking therapy in Baltimore, we’re here to help.  Reach out to the CBT experts at CBT Baltimore at 443-470-9815. We would love to speak with you.