I recently heard the term “identity foreclosure”. Foreclosure to me is not a good word, so when we are talking about identity, I got curious. It’s a concept put forth by James Marcia, a renowned clinical and developmental psychologist, and is a crucial aspect of his theory on Identity Development. In general, the theory explores how individuals form their sense of self and make important life decisions. Identity foreclosure represents a commitment to a specific identity without thoroughly exploring alternatives. In other words, it’s adopting a view that was handed to you, rather than exploring and forming your own. Never a good idea, in my opinion!
Imagine being handed a script for your life’s role without the chance to audition for other parts. This is what identity foreclosure is all about – dedicating yourself to an identity or set of values prematurely and without compromise. It’s like choosing your life’s path without ever exploring all your options. People with Identify Foreclosure accepted the values that others, such as their parents, siblings, teachers, etc., instilled in them without considering whether those values fit their own values and preferences. In fact, they accept these values without ever forming their own.
Sounds scary, right? There can be some positive from this. Consider a scenario where someone wholeheartedly embraces their parents’ values and faith from an early age. Their identity may have been foreclosed upon, but it provides them with a sense of stability and certainty. Their choices are confident, their actions exhibit remarkable consistency, and they are content. This, of course, assumes the values support society and the common good.
But what about a college student who was expected to follow in their family’s footsteps and become a lawyer. They prematurely embraced this identity without exploring other interests. Over time, they began to despise their choice of becoming a lawyer. Or a child who accepts their parents’ values and, like them, becomes negative weight on society and loses what their true potential and value may have been.
Identity foreclosure is a double-edged sword; while it offers stability and confidence to some, it can restrict personal growth and lead to emotional turmoil when one’s identity doesn’t align with their true self. The beauty of individuality lies in embracing your journey and making choices that resonate with your true self. Every person’s path to self-discovery is unique. Some may find comfort in a committed identity, while others thrive through exploration and open-mindedness.
We’ve all heard stories of people changing careers because they realized they were on the wrong path. Lawyers became musicians, and investment bankers turned into restaurateurs. These real-life examples clearly illustrate the consequences of identity foreclosure when it doesn’t align with one’s true self.
Embrace the richness of individuality and make choices that align with your authentic self. Your path to self-discovery is a unique and evolving one.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Have a great weekend.