Identity vs. Role Confusion

In today’s Western society, self-identity and social roles are important dimensions that are at times challenging to face. Social roles have always been a fundamental part of society and yet as time goes on, it seems to be increasingly difficult to understand. As discussed in class, in the medieval period, people were assigned roles based on family status. In modern days, however, societal roles have expanded and opportunities are endless, which raises the question: Is there more uncertainty about identity in modern society?

In entering adolescence, people heavily contemplate their ego identity. In the early 1900s, theorist Erik Erikson believed in eight stages of ego development from birth to death. For the purpose of this paper I have chosen to focus on the fifth stage: identity vs. role confusion. Erikson believed that young adults are meant to go through a phase called psychosocial moratorium, which is the exploration with different roles and opportunities. He also coined the term ‘ego crisis’ and believed that it was one of the most important conflicts people face in development.

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Ego crisis refers to the confusion between different roles, leading to prolonged moratorium, and intensified search and impulsive actions. In forming an identity, people achieve it by arriving at a sense of sameness and continuity. In parallel to Erikson’s beliefs, researcher James Marcia also refers to moratorium and identity achievement. However, Marcia expands on Erikson’s initial theory by identifying two additional identity statuses. The first, foreclosure, refers to a person who has made a commitment without attempting identity exploration.

The second status refers to identity diffusion, which occurs when there is neither an identity crisis nor a commitment. Marcia concluded that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not. Those with a status of identity diffusion tend to feel out of place in the world and don’t pursue a sense of identity. In today’s rapidly changing world, identity crises are more common today than in Erikson’s day. Exploring different aspects of yourself in the different areas of life has never been so pertinent.

As previously mentioned, there has undoubtedly been a shift of roles when comparing the past to the present. Traditionally speaking, men and women’s roles have been that of providers and nurturers respectively. Although through time, these traditional mentalities have transformed, allowing for more possibilities. Even though men’s roles have altered, women have emancipated themselves from a very narrow view of appropriate social norms and can now enjoy the freedom to choose from an array of roles.

The quest for self-identity is very significant in this time of my life, which is the reason I have chosen this topic for my project. I am a definite opportunist and I seize every occasion if the possibility of learning something new arises. Although it is very exciting to experience moratorium, it is also at times stressful and daunting having to continuously explore different roles and opportunities. Along with my peers, I am attempting to resolve many existential dilemmas such as “What career path should I follow? ” or “What roles apply to me? These questions give rise to the feeling of identity uncertainty and role confusion. Coming from an art background, I felt most comfortable expressing myself through sketch. Therefore, I chose to convey my internal struggles through a drawing of a ballerina who is surrounded by my inner thoughts. The ballerina in the drawing represents my love for dance, which I sometimes use to escape from reality when the existential questions become too much to handle. When frustrations run high, I find myself using dance as a catharsis to rid myself of negative thoughts.

This drawing is meant to represent me and others who find themselves facing the same struggles of identity confusion. Through this drawing, I was aiming to illustrate an important stage that young adults must confront. The majority of the words in the ribbon are roles that define me in the present, whereas a few words will apply in the future. The present roles I am partaking in are: woman, daughter, sister, friend, lover, coworker, leader, class member, role model, member of my community, dancer, artist, and problem solver.

Whereas the words: wife, provider, cook, nurturer, and achiever will pertain in later years. Instead of having the ribbon enclose the dancer (which would represent problematic role confusion), the ribbon is purposefully set as a backdrop to which she creates a harmonious relationship between herself and her opportunities. An additional attempt at symbolism presents itself with the ring that serves two purposes. The ring acts as a border to the drawing but ultimately it represents the idea that later in life, people form an ego identity by arriving at a sense of sameness and continuity.

In comparing opportunities from the past to the present, there is no doubt that identity crises are more frequent in modern culture. In general, society strives to open doors to young adults to aid on their journey to acquire identity, but achieving self-identity still proves to be complicated. Through my drawing, I had hopes of representing my inner conflicts in an artistic way. Although appearing as a simplistic drawing, I wish to illustrate how a quest to finding self-identity can be an enjoyable experience.

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Identity vs. Role Confusion. (2016, Oct 17). Retrieved from