Everyone around me seems so confident with who they are and what they love doing at Columbia. I will be a senior next year and I still don’t feel like I know who I really am or what makes me happy. I’d really like some advice on what I can do to explore my own identity and passions as I enter my last year of college in the fall.
Dear Identity Unknown,
Knowing who you truly are can seem like a daunting task. However, developing your identity is an ongoing process. We are constantly re-defining and re-organizing ourselves to become who we want to be. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to know who you are as you near the end of your college career, try to embrace a flowing identity – one that asks “How do I want to live my life?” rather than “Who am I?”
Identity is defined as an individual’s sense of self. For many college students, identity work involves creating independence while developing meaning. One of the most well known explanations of how college students typically understand their senses of self is one that separates identity development into seven stages, known as Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development.
Each individual student moves through these seven stages at his or her own pace and sometimes in varying order. During this progression, students develop competence, learn to manage emotions, gain autonomy, develop mature relationships, establish their identity, and create purpose and integrity. Students usually advance through the first four stages in their first and second years, and proceed through the last three stages during their third and fourth years. Keep in mind that these stages may be experienced differently depending upon an your gender, sexual identity, race, ethnicity, or culture.
Learning about yourself is a complex yet exciting process, and hopefully this information gives you an idea of where you stand in your own journey of self-discovery. Check out the article on identity development for exercises you can use to begin exploring your own sense of self.