isabelle thye

The beauty of an identity crisis (and how to handle it)


This is so frustrating.

Coming back from honeymoon, my life dissolved into a puzzle that I had to piece together.

Getting married is not just ticking off a yearlong (or half-year, in my case) to-do list and ended with a massive glamorous endeavour.

What nobody talked about, and what I didn’t foresee, are the adjusting, redefining, and recalibration that followed a fairy-tale ending — which, in fact, is more like a brand-new beginning of a very, very long journey.

Who am I? What should I do with my life now? What is important to me? How can I be useful? To whom?

These are real questions that I jotted down in my journal, the same set of questions I asked myself at 26, 27, 28 and now, approaching 30.

On the bright side, I have plunged the bottom to know how to handle this crisis before it spirals down to despair.



(How to handle identity crisis)

-> Hold space for myself

When my self-worth and identity were threatened, I must be kind to myself — gave myself space to break, to pause, to play, to wander, to imagine.

This blank page is the perfect canvas to paint anything I like. I don’t have to be like anybody else, I just need to be an ordinary human being honest about the process of figuring out life.

-> Do not resist!

“The only time we suffer is when we believe in a thought that argues with what is.” — Byron Katie

The more I tell myself that I have a problem, the more the problem in my head becomes a real problem. Life flows when I acknowledge that it is okay to hit a bump, and everything is changing every single moment, everything I perceive is a projection of my inner world — they are not real. I have full control of myself in this present moment, and I just need to work on this moment, the next, and the next.

-> Do not set a big audacious goal!

It is ridiculous to try to make something out of myself when I didn’t know who I am. There is a time to float and a time to swim — so float, when I have no idea where to go. Any goal I set at a low energy level will be a low energy goal that does not reflect who I can be.

-> Follow my curiosity

In an identity crisis, I truly understood what ‘dispassion’ means. I wasn’t interested in the things that I used to do passionately when I lost sight of the ‘why’.

It was a good time to break out of the old routines and ask myself — what is interesting to me now? What do I FEEL like doing?

It turned out that my current interests are painting and history. The more I learned about WW2 and Vietnam War, the more I understood how men’s ego shaped the course of history.

-> Life is short, and it is also long

How do I want to spend today if tomorrow is my last day alive? This is a question I asked myself every morning after meditation. I have to love myself above everything else and to feel good about myself on the last day of life (every day, in fact).

In the grand scheme of a life time, I can afford to take some time off to find my footing, and to take care of my mental health instead of running into the wall trying to get somewhere.

-> Be present

I wrote this piece in my favourite café, having my favourite long black coffee, listening to Billie Eilish’s ‘Wish You Were Gay’ on my earphone on repeat, swaying my body to the tempo, gesturing and talking to myself sometimes to determine the flow of a sentence.

So what if I looked weird? I was in the present moment, and that moment was my safe space that nobody can take away.

-> Express myself

A friend told me about ‘morning pages’ a while ago but writing 3 full pages every morning was a daunting task at that time.

Then, I started morning pages out of desperation. Guess what — I had so much confusion that 3 pages felt like a breeze. It is a healing process to be able to express myself freely. I could see myself clearly when all the bullshit in my head was transmitted into words, and I was able to work through the mess through Plato-ish self-questioning on the paper.

I was able to write this post after 3 days and 9 pages of morning pages.




I see life as some kind of fuel tank that powers the world around me. I become the source of energy when the tank is full; have nothing to give when it runs out of fuel. The point of depletion does not mean an end, it simply means the need to recharge. The cycle repeats itself in this lifetime, each one humbles me a little more.

Identity crisis could be the result of a shock in the environment, or life sending me a signal that I have worn off my path.

I’ve had enough evidence to know that at the end of each crisis is the birth of something new and beautiful.

It is so frustrating and yet so essential.

I am growing, and I am grateful for all kind of human experiences this life has to offer.

According to Rainn Wilson, “dig dip into your journey and the world will benefit from it.”

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