Identity Development

By Meredith Stockton, Clinical Intern


 As humans, we are often bogged down with the question “Who am I?”  To ask this question, however, assumes that you are inadequate the way you are right now.  Identity development should, therefore, be seen as a never-ending process you engage in to simply learn more about your own sense of self or how you want to live, rather than a way to criticize yourself for who you are not.

One of the best ways to understand your ongoing identity and discover more about yourself during your college career is journaling.  It is a private reflective process and all it takes is setting aside 10 minutes to write anything about yourself.  Your only goal is to be willing and vulnerable.  Here are a few journal prompts you can use to start the process:


1.  I don’t want to write about…


This prompt will help you let go of what you are protecting yourself from. Write about the most difficult thing you can think of. You can dispose of it after you are done.

2. Who am I now?

Consider who you were at different stages in your life, such as when you were 8, 12, and 16. Who you were you then? Describe the differences between who you were and who you are becoming. How will the future transform your life? Then describe the you that has been here at any age. What is that person’s vision of your life?

3. Things I love

Write about what brings you joy, like international getaways, your family pet, or time spent with your friends. Add to this list whenever you think of more things that bring you joy.

4. Affirm how great you are


Make a list of 10 great qualities, and tell yourself that it’s okay to be you.

5. Conversation with your 99-year-old self. Pretend that you’re 99 years old, wise and in great health. Ask that person, “What would you want me know now at this age? What should I concentrate on in the coming years? What things could I do that would have the most impact on my life?”

Regularly revisit these prompts along your journey of self-discovery, as your identity is always changing.  For more detailed information about identity development in college students and ways you can explore your own identity, check out the links below.


More on identity:

Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development:

More theories on student identity development:

Journal prompts to get to know yourself: