Identity

What is Identity?

Identity is a sense of self- what is important to you, the stories that make you, the values you want to live and everything in between. We are all in the process of collecting pieces of our identity through different life experiences. As we have formative moments and realizations, we can create a sense of self that helps us navigate the world. Having an understanding of our identity informs our decisions, our goals, our frustrations and our celebrations. It also impacts our healing process. 

Personal v. Social Identity

We all have different components of who we are, and our identity is no different. The simplest way to view this is Personal Identity compared to Social Identity. Some of the differences are as follows:

Personal Identity
  • How you see yourself
  • Individual values and beliefs you hold
  • Composed of specific interests, hobbies and preference you possess 
  • Personal identity has the ability to fluctuate as you discover more about yourself and what matters to you
Social Identity
  • How others see you
  • Groups of similar people you may fit into
  • Can impact your access to resources 
  • Shifting social identities can be difficult, as it may be tied to unchangeable factors, such as race, age, sexual orientation and other factors


For many reasons, aspects of both your personal and social identity can be challenging. These different expressions of identity can make certain people and groups more susceptible to trauma, oppression and abuse. Therapy can be used as a tool to help you make sense of your identity and learn new ways to advocate for and empower yourself. 

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Making Sense of Your Identity

There are many moments in our life that can make it difficult to form a coherent sense of identity. Most notably, we can point to hard moments, traumas, transitions, and pain points that might find us feeling stuck in our identity development. What can make these moments really tricky is the lack of resources we may have had at the time to help get ourselves unstuck. It can often take another person coming alongside of us, sitting in the stuck with us, and supporting us as we sort through it all. So many of us aren’t given the skills or tools to make sense of these hard moments, and it makes sense that we would need a compassionate place to learn the ways to put all the pieces together.

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Symptoms of
Identity Confusion

When you’re having a hard time knowing who you are, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling overwhelmed by change
  • Lack of self-trust
  • Not being clear on your goals 
  • Struggling to ask for what you need
  • Isolating from others/community

Therapy for Identity Development Can Help

For many people, therapy can be a place where they are able to lay out the pieces they have collected, and the pieces that have been hard to make sense of or figure out, and begin to integrate a sense of identity that is filled with integrity and authenticity. The time invested in understanding your mental health can bolster your self-esteem, clarify your values, and impact your decision making. When working with a Willow Therapist, you will be given the time and space to explore past stories, present experiences, future hopes and the emotions and impact these things can have on your identity. 

When working with concerns around identity, there is freedom to try new things and decide what is right for you. You might find that you are able to connect new things together, feel more confident in the direction of your life, experience less anxiety and many more hopeful changes. However, it is not uncommon to have moments of confusion, grief, fear and anxiety along the way. The hope is to have a non-judgemental place to bring all the ups and downs and in betweens as you learn how to support yourself through it all.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”

Maya Angelou

Identity Development Practices to Try On Your Own

Want to try a few practices on your own at home? Try these 4 tips for strengthening your identity.

  • Make a list of your top five values
  • Collect photos of times in your life where you felt most like yourself
  • Create a playlist that helps you feel grounded to your current season of life
  • Write a personal mission statement for your own life
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Begin Therapy for Identity Development in the Nashville area

Willow Counseling offers therapy to help you develop your sense of self. Individual therapy sessions are held weekly or biweekly and last 45 or 60 minutes. Contact our counseling office or call 615-235-3508 to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

A willow branch illustrating the growth Nashville residents can get from anxiety treatment for panic attacks at Willow Counseling. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see if therapy with Willow Counseling is right for you.

Willow Leaf. Anxiety treatment with a therapist in Nashville can help you grow. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Begin individual therapy at Willow Counseling. Schedule an appointment to meet with one of our compassionate counselors.

Another photo of a willow leaf. Our Nashville therapists offer anxiety treatment for symptoms of anxiety. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Ready to stop walking this road alone? Explore our Group Therapy options to connect with others in your healing journey.

Other therapeutic services offered at Willow Counseling

Willow Counseling offers a variety of therapeutic services to help you on your road to healing & better mental health. Some of our other counseling services include counseling for trauma and EMDR therapy, therapy for compassion fatigue, and group counseling services for anxiety and compassion fatigue.  If you are ready to find healing and live in the Nashville area, our therapists are here to help!