Identity Development: Critical Self-Inquiry
Identity Development: Authentic Self
Narratives, serve as a vehicle to self-authenticate “who” we are and “what” strengths we possess through self-reflection. Chronicling these experiences from our past, in response to distinctive questions, function as foundational descriptors that attest to our character, value sets, interests, and abilities. They all pronounce, “this is ‘who’ you are and ‘who’ you have always been” before life got in the way.
If we embrace the world and its attempt to shape us, then we necessarily adorn different identities to meet its expectations. We morph into peer groups early on in life to fit in, model behavior to learn according to a performance driven educational system, and are measured by our achievement through grades that define our self-worth. However, is this really who we are?
Importantly, much of our self, uniqueness, and self-esteem have been stuffed down through this developmental process leaving mere vestiges of our self-hood. This is precisely “why” narratives offer a subjective insight into “what” makes us human and distinctive. When we unpack these experiences, and draw upon “what” they represent, self-reflection reveals self-clarity.
This newfound clarity constructs divergent experiences into a constellation that illuminate patterns. These implicitly coalesce into meaning-oriented themes such as the drive to serve the needs of others (Social), a preference for innovation to affect change (Enterprising), and or a creative flair for showcasing their uniqueness (Artistic). These subjectively composed themes and their descriptors validate “who” we are in the configuration of our identity. They become an animated visual confirmation of “what” we achieved in the past, “why” deploying our gifts held a sense of purpose, and “how” this activated our cognitive reward system that affirms contextual meaning in these goal pursuits.
Role Models: Future Self
Extrapolating “why” mentors impacted our lives enlighten “who” we wish to become. Recollections of “how” they gave of themselves and adapted to life conflicts, reveal experiential waypoints of “what” it takes to perfect self-management. It offers a visual aide-mémoire of “how” to adapt to life’s stumbling blocks while maintaining a pathway of congruence. What is actualized is the greater meaning that drives these goal pursuits to discern “why” staying the course holds inestimable value.
Narratives offer a cognitive platform to self-authenticate “who” we are, but they also allow for asking ourselves salient questions pertaining to “what” demands further exploration. Merely writing out these questions creates a rehearsal process that attempts to tap into these experiences for accentuated contextual reference points. This critical self-inquiry allows for constructive insight that guides the progressive meaning of “living into” our role as future self or “who” we have wished to become all along.
Drawing from our authenticated or true self and adopting character traits of our role models, allows for a co-constructive process of epic proportion. This identity manifestation of “who” we wish to become sets our sights on “why” occupational domains hold meaning for us. It is a process of extending and expressing our character strengths, values, and abilities in a way that becomes a vocational identity.
If nearly 70% of our present workforce is disengaged, then this disconnect reflects an underdeveloped vocational identity. Individuals yearn to discover the purpose of their work and to be rewarded for the efficacy of what they may offer. This is precisely what narratives furnish, essential component parts in order to assemble the foundational constructs that evidence congruence. It is that innate need to identity with “what” we do and that it represents our capacity to share our gifts with others.
Finally, what we require is a pathway to channel our gifts in a way that connects us with “what” we do in our personal and professional lives. It is a developmental process where our authenticated self elevates our perception of our intrapersonal intelligence sufficiently to be fully present when we connect with others. This emotional intelligence prepares us for owning a pathway that cognitively tunes our hearts and minds to a self-understanding that “what” we do truly matters. In that process, we find meaning and purpose through “living out” our vocational identity.