The month of June is home to the International Children’s Rights Day on 1 June as well as South Africa’s National Youth Day on 16 June. Childhood and youth are generally associated with innocence and exploration of the unknown. Risking and making mistakes while learning about life’s rhythms are equally part of the journey of childhood and youth. Youth in particular have a developmental challenge of searching for finding their sense identity is.
In present day society these stages of development also evoke from adults and caregivers, feelings of protection from harm insulating from a misdirected future and generally steering them in the direction of functionality and wisdom.
When we pause and consider South Africa’s stage of development at age 23 years old, the parallels with the youth development stage is vivid. Theorists in developmental psychology assert that the process of identity formation begins before adolescence and often extends beyond it. When this stage of development is successfully accomplished, a coherent sense of identity is achieved. When not, identity confusion results. This usually manifests in varied personal, occupational and social settings.
Some of the challenges that have plagues South Africa in the recent past points to our own identity crisis phase – from an articulation of a common national vision (beyond the national development plan) to national leadership challenges. These are indications of SA dealing with formulating who she really is. The crisis has manifested in various social ills – escalation of racial tensions, increase in service delivery protests and general diminished mistrust in political leadership. At an individual level we may not be able to do much about the macroscopic picture, which is often overwhelming. But at an individual level, we have a responsibility to address that which is in our control. Three key ingredients can help us restore a bit of identity control in our lives:
1. Risk to define who you really are in your eyes: Beyond the social and corporate roles that often define us. What makes you the person that you are? Is the person that you are living out the purpose for which you believe you are on this planet for?
2. Use your identity to help others find their own: more often than not, when we are clear about who we are and who we are not, it is easier to participate in life with authenticity. Furthermore, when we can from a position of authenticity, we allow others to become who they really need to be. So in turn our interactions whether in corporate or in social settings outside of work, shift and become effortless. Try it as a small experiment and see if it is not in fact true.
3. Your journey to your identity is not the only route there is: There are as many avenues to discover and live out our true identity as there are people. So while we get overjoyed with discovering out true identity, let us be careful not to impose our path on others.
All the best in daring to find and finally express who you really are! The world will be better for it! Try it!