Career Identity Crisis in late 20s

Whenever people ask ‘What do you do?’, we usually give an answer with our occupation or job title.  In late 20s, young people usually face identity crisis at work. One common question that they may think about is ‘what is the meaning of work in our life?’ Is working just for earning money? All of these questions are related to our working identity.

James Marcia developed his own identity status theory based on Erik Erikson’s theory on psychological development. He believed that identities will develop mainly during adolescence and early adulthood. The two major components of his theory are commitments and exploration to explain how an individual builds commitment in life and explores one’s identity. The following are some examples of different identity statuses.

Identity diffusion: ‘I have never thought about my ideal job and future. Getting a job to makes end meet is already lucky enough.’

Foreclosure: ‘I got my bachelor degree and I can only pick the jobs according to my acquired knowledge.’

Moratorium: ‘People used to describe me as ‘’jumpy’’. In fact, I don’t know what I want to do so I keep trying different kinds of occupation.’

Identity achievement: ‘My current job is suitable for me and I have autonomy to make any decisions regard if it. I committed to my job and enjoy it.

James Marcia believes that not everyone will pass through all the four stages. Here are some few suggestions for those who go through different identity status.

First, all of us have to be aware of and accept the identity status of ourselves. If you are in the stage of foreclosure, you can try to encourage yourself to explore more first. Treasure the chances to meet up friends with different occupations and have better understandings in the current job market. Bear in mind that there is no need to rush in making a commitment right now, just pursuing in exploration first.

If you are in the stage of moratorium, do not push yourself to make a commitment. You can try to understand more about yourself by talking with someone who knew you well. You could have a better understanding of yourself and try to figure out what you want the most, then narrow down choices of jobs and further develop your career path.

There is never a deadline to achieve our identity status. The most important thing is we could raise our self-awareness and improve our self-understanding and gradually enhance our career development.

Our identity is still emerging in middle adulthood

It is beyond dispute that emerging adulthood is a stage for young adults to explore and create possibilities in ones’ life.  It is common for us to see that the identity of this group of adults is still emerging.  How about people in the middle adulthood?  Those around 40/45 to 60/65 years old are also facing different challenges in their lives.  Their resposibilities and commitments in different roles increase significantly given the fact that they may have children and elderly parents to take care of.  They may also become senior leaders in their workplace.  In the face of these chanllenges, people in the middle adulthood are still facing changes in their identities.  Many of them may even face midlife crisis when they feel confused about who they are and what is the meaning of their lives.  What are the identity issues in middle adulthood?  How can people in this age group live a fruitful and meaning life despite facing all the demands in their different roles?

Researchers stated that people in the middle adulthood shift their perspective in life as they start to realise one’s own mortality.  In the past, they may focus on striving personal success and achievement as they think they still have a long life to live.  Gradually, in middle adulthood, they shift to looking for cultivating peace and achieving mental and physical health.  It is because they realise that they need to shift their time perspective to prepare for retirement and old age.  It was also found that those in the middle adulthood also obtain greater sense of personal power.  They have more stable income in general or they already have accummulated enough wealth to sustain ones’ living.  At workplace, they may have attained higher management position.  In the family, they may be the decision makers because their elderly parents are depending on them.  These shifts and realisation actually bring them into a state for further exploration and adjustment in their past life goals.  In this sense, the identity of people in the middle adulthood is still changing and emerging.

For some people in the middle adulthood, it is also a period for them to reclaiming the opposite-sex qualities.  For instance, some housewifes can have more freedom in their lives when their children step into emerging adulthood.  These females may start to reenter into the job market or returning to the university for study.  In this sense, they may start to change their focus to the development of their masculine qualities.  They focus more on obtaining acheivement for themselves.  On the other hand, some men who used to work for many years as corporate leaders may start to think about early retirement.  They may slow down their pace of living and may also cultivate some hobbies, such as arts creation.  Some men may also involve more in helping to do household chores or cooking in the family.  No matter how ones shift their lives in the middle adulthood, it is common for these people to express generative concerns for their younger generation.  Many of them may start to coach their children or mentor their junior staff for personal or career development.

In fact, some people in the middle adulthood may not be able to adjust to all these role changes and still face challenges in letting go of their life goals in their earlier adulthood.  It is important for them to cultivate an introspective stand in reviewing ones’ life in this life stage.  Sometimes, it is not easy to step down from ones’ current roles if they are still in certain important roles in the family or the workplace.  With reflections, ones can analyse multiple variables in their lives and find a suitable way of living to adjust in this lifestage.  At the end of the day, it is the realisation that we are all facing a lot of uncertainties and we are not in total control in our lives that save us from the fixation of the illusion that we could be free to choose whatever we want.  In this sense, the cultivation of mindfulness and living in the present moment can lead us to a more fulfilling and meaningful midlife.

Overcoming Identity Crisis with the Elderly

Due to the rapid development of the society and technology, the average of life expectancy of human has been longer and longer. In addition to paying attention to the physiological needs of the elderly, promoting mental health among them cannot be ignored. As long as the elderly can maintain both their physical and mental health, they can enjoy more their twilight years.

What are the major problems that the elderly is encountering in their old age? The most common answer would be lack of financial support and desire to be accompanied. There is no doubt that we have to care the physical needs of the elderly. However, it is important that we should promote mental health among them too. As people enter the old age, both their physical functioning and self-care ability are declining, they may have to spend a large amount of medical expense and have to be taken care others.  They tend to believe that they have been a burden to the family. In addition, the social connections of the elderly have been narrowed after retirement, it is easier for them to feel lonely, anxious or depressed. It is important that we should spend more time with the seniors and support them to start their retirement planning as early as possible. 

In order to help the elderly to adapt retirement life, we have to understand more about the needs of the elderly.  In Eric Erikson’s psychosocial developmental theory, the final stage (approximately after 65 years old) is Integrity versus Despair. During this stage, old people start to review on the life they have lived and either feeling fulfilled or regret from a life. People who completed the integrity phrase means that they reflect the life with few regrets and feel satisfied. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.  In contrast, if the seniors are experiencing much regret in their life or finding themselves worthless, it might trigger depression among them.

As a family member, we can support the elderly to overcome the identity crisis by different means, like helping them to recognize and accept ageing, giving them autonomy and respecting them, making them feel needed and encouraging them to develop new interests and broaden their social network. One of the examples is that we can let the elderly to choose the venue of gathering and give them autonomy by making decisions within the family.

This can help us to know more the thoughts of the elderly and make them feel valuable and respected. Another example is that we can arrange some tasks for them like helping their grandchildren to schedule timetable for extra-curricular activities. This can make them to feel needed and meaningful in life. It is important to let the seniors that this is not a shame to be taken care by others but in fact they are overwhelmed with love.  Last by not least, family support is a crucial element to encourage the elderly to broaden their interests and social circle.

It is important for us to understand both physical and psychosocial needs of the seniors and accompany them in their old age. We can try our best to assist them in exploring the meaning of their life and support them.

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