What is Identity?

Identity in human development refers to the stable,  characteristics of a person that defines them and makes them an individual. Having clarity of identity requires a deep understanding of oneself, including one's own traits, preferences, thought patterns, your frame of reference, strengths, and weaknesses. Exploring and learning how you "work" from a psychological perspective is empowering and enables you to move forward in your life.

What is Self-Identity?

One's self-identity (also called self-constructionself-conceptself-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of beliefs about oneself. Generally, self-identity embodies the answer to "Who am I?". One's self-identity is made up of self-schemas, and their past, present, and future selves.

Self-identity is different from self-esteem: self-identity is a cognitive or descriptive component of one's self (e.g. "I am a fast runner"), while self-esteem is evaluative and opinionated (e.g. "I feel good about being a fast runner").

Self-identity is made up of one's self-schemas and entwines itself with self-esteem, self-knowledge, and the social self to form the self as a "whole". It is made up of the past, present, and future selves, where future selves (or possible selves) represent an individuals' ideas of what they might one day become, what they would like to become, or what they are afraid of becoming. 

Who am I?

We can be so busy putting other people first that we can forget to listen to what the voice inside of you is saying. You could feel that the person you are looking for, who started off adult life with all of those ambitions, goals, and dreams about where they would end up is now lost or has disappeared.

Lots of people reach a certain point in their life and suddenly there is a realisation that they aren’t the person they thought they would be at this age. Or there might be a feeling of general unhappiness with their life and you don't know why.

Identity is a ‘‘configuration,’’ Erikson (1959, p. 113) wrote, an ‘‘integration’’ of ‘‘childhood identifications,’’ ‘‘the vicissitudes of the libido,’’ ‘‘aptitudes developed out of endowment,’’ and ‘‘opportunities offered in social roles,’’ all working together, as it were, to confer upon a life a sense of ‘‘inner sameness and continuity’’ (Erikson, 1963, p. 261). An identity, moreover, should usher in 360 Imagination, Cognition and Personality 37(3) adulthood, a new stage in life wherein a person now understands ‘‘life in continuous perspective, both in retrospect and prospect’’ (Erikson, 1958, p. 111). As such, the person who ‘‘has’’ identity is now ‘‘able to selectively reconstruct his past in such a way that, step for step, it seems to have planned him, or better, he seems to have planned it’’ (Erikson, 1958, p. 112).

Narrative Identity: What Is It? What Does It Do? How Do You Measure It? Dan P. McAdams

How can counselling help?

Counselling may help you discover and explore your self-identity in a safe, nonjudgmental space.  Once you have a strong sense of self identity i.e know who you are, you can think about how you compare to the person you think you want to be. You might even find that you have different goals to the ones actually in your mind. I am available for long-term and short-term counselling sessions either online or at my private practice in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. If you are looking for a counsellor in North Yorkshire please begin by reading about my approach and filling in a pre-assessment form.


Erikson, E. H. (1958). Young man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis and history. New York, NY: Norton.

Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle: Selected papers. Psychological Issues, 1, 5–165.

Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Norton.