Without an identity card, freedom is restricted and movement devoid. Bank transactions are minimized: cash withdrawals from third-party’s account, loans, and overdrafts, account registrations, among others. The freedom to drive, school and sail across national borders as well as the opportunity to secure employment in any reputable organization is equally deterred—without a government-issued identity card. Someone would say, “But, an I.D card contains only my personal details: full name, origin, date, place of birth, sex, status, fingerprint, and other quite insignificant details, so why the significance attached?” Well, within a national or institutional setting, an individual can only prove his or her identity is through the identity card.
Identities are traits and characteristics, social relations, roles and social-group membership that defines who you are (Oyserman, 2007). In other words, identities are sets of distinct qualities and behaviors that differentiate an individual from everyone else in the world. This includes one’s greatest strength, distinguishable characters, abilities, values, potentials, skills, and personalities–that give you an edge over everyone else in the world. In a nutshell, your identity is who you are; it is the set of qualities, deep within, that makes you unique–different from everyone else in the world.
Now, the extent to which you can define, or rather, realize these qualities and uniqueness is what we call self-identity. Cheqq Study defines self-identity as “one’s concept of oneself, including the perceptions one has about one’s abilities, flaws, status, and worth.” Hypnosis defines it as “a global understanding a person has of themselves (their identities).” Apparently, self-identity is the extent to which individuals can clearly define and/or understand who they are, what they stand for and the reason for their existence. How you view yourself and your abilities and power is your self-identity.
Self-identity can be positive or negative. If the concept you have about yourself coincides with your true identity. That is positive self-identity. The negative side of it is the wrong concept. When we assume a wrong personality and undermine our real identity, then there is a huge problem, and that problem is what I call an identity crisis
According to a developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, an identity crisis is “the failure to reach an ego identity.” It is the difficulty in defining one’s true identity. Simply put, an identity crisis is a difficulty in identifying and accepting your true identity. Identity crisis is the greatest form of psycho-social problems bedeviling 90 percent of young Nigerians today. y years of interaction, observations and intensive studies on the emotional and mental capacities of women and adolescents coupled with my personal experience as a young Nigerian, I have come to realize the gravity and the prevalence rate of this psychosocial deficiency.
Each victim of identity crisis falls into, at least, one of these two categories: “who am I?” Or “Why I accept me?”
Who am I?
Growing up, this is one of the most complicated questions I struggled to get an answer to. As a teenager, I was only obliged to the triangular-style of life: from home to school; back home. Home to church; back home again. These three communities, however, contributed to the way I view myself, but from various perspectives. From the faces of each mirror, I see different faces of me. In the home, I see myself as a pretty good-for-nothing no-brainer, the odd one out of a million and the senseless loner. In the school, I see otherwise: a brilliant young chap, full of wits and wisdom, popular, highly influential among peers and well esteemed by all–teachers and fellow students alike. The church, on her own side, is a blend of the two. If my performance esteems, I feel special; if otherwise, I withdraw back to my shell. The flashes of different faces I see made my eyes sore with confusion and despondency. I needed to know who I am and where I belong.
On the flip side, is the case of Rosemary, a sister-friend. To her environment, she is below dormant–academically inactive, socially unfit and intellectually unbalanced which she believed. In the same vein, she could remember how she’d wowed her spectators during athletic competition and the decibel of ovation she’d got due to her outstanding speech, in a school debate, yet everything and everyone suggested she’s inadequate and empty brain. Consequently, she’s always struggling with the self-same: “who am I?” “am I really what people say?” “Why is God unfair?”—even though the words sound rather too strange for her 14-year-old self. Hmm!
Why accept me?
According to Carl Rogers, neurotic individuals do not have a self-concept that matches their experiences (their true identities)…they are afraid to accept their (identities) as valid, so they distort them, either protect themselves or to win approval from others.” These are the second category of identity crisis—why accept me? The victims, under this category, know who they are, that is, in one way or the other, they’ve been able to identify their uniqueness or true value, but the problem is that they can’t withstand it; as a result, they choose to “distort” or rather discard that uniqueness in other to suit the society around them. That is, these neurotics (as Rogers referred) deliberately choose to abandon their true identity in order to fit into the society. A typical example is British-based, an indigene of Nigeria who refused to be identified as a black man either to navigate the alienation.
Fear and the urge to please the contrasting roles presented by our environment is the major cause of this category of an identity crisis.
I ran into an old friend, a few months back. From the best I could tell, he was an A-student, a very good orator and highly ambitious. The day we spoke was five years after, and everything about him had changed, to my greatest surprise. He cracks pidgin more than a ghetto. Back then in school, Uzo was fluent in English, not pidgin. The worst came when I asked him about admittance into the higher institution, does he still hold on to those ambitions? “Forget those things jare. That was then. Now, guys get to hustle,” he said in the most crooked format. So sad. His environment changed, so he distorted his identity in order to fit in.
The self-same aura of disappointment fell on me after a brief chat with another friend, from senior high. Our discussion started after proofreading one of my drafts. She complimented it and I returned the compliment. Back then in school, Julie was a prowess when it comes to poetry and literature. She was even a major contributor to the school’s press weekly press release. But now, they were all gone. She doesn’t compose any more, and the worst is, she doesn’t want to believe the gift lays in her bosom.
Over the last five years, I’ve been privileged to work with young people like myself, I’ve also spent a quantum of my time observing some series of psychosocial activities of an adolescent. Based on several numerous obviously, if accurate records are kept, over 90 percent of young Nigerians suffer from identity crisis. Identity crisis, failure to define and equally accept one’s true identity, falls into two categories: the difficulty in identifying your true identity and secondly, the failure to accept your true identity. Whichever one, identity crisis has grown into a menace behind inadequacy and unproductivity, lackadaisical attitudes and the incessant freak for fashion and pleasure, over dependency and loss of values and above all, depression among today’s youth. Simply put, there is a high rate of identity crisis among young Nigerians.
If we parents, teachers, religious leaders and everyone that makes up a child’s immediate environment can take it upon ourselves to help a child feel special about herself, if we can constantly assure and reassure them that there is something spectacular about them and above all, if we can give them the freedom of mindful exploration, backed by love and admiration, it will go a long way building the child into self-realization; consequently breaking the band of identity crisis as they progress in years.
By Beatrice Mokwunye
Photot credit: ChinaDaily.com