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Who Am I?


The information provided through Ask a Therapist is not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health therapy, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is solely for educational purposes. We encourage you to call United Action for Youth Counseling Department at 319-338-7518 and set up an appointment with one of our licensed mental health professionals to further discuss concerns and treatment options. If you believe you are a danger to self or others please call 911 or the crisis hotline at 1-855-800-1239.

Dear FIO,

Working on “figuring yourself out” is a lifelong task – and one that many people think is worth-while. It can be pretty upsetting to feel like you are “missing something”, but you already know that, FIO. The truth is most people struggle with this process because it is hard.

Experts, including researchers and psychologists, disagree about the idea of “identity”. A quick Google search will show you words associated with this idea like “authentic”, “values”, and “behaviors”. Some people think that our identity is housed inside our brains, and sort of “drives” us to be the person that we are. Others think that the choices that we make and the things we do start to pile up and make an identity. Still others argue that our identity starts with the ideas of our family and culture that we grew up with, and we kind of branch out from there.

For you, I think it can be helpful to think of your identity, for now anyway, like a game of Super Smash Bros. Stay with me here. In Smash, you have a selection of a whole bunch of different characters that you can choose from when you go into a battle. Most people have their “mains” which are the character or characters that you choose most often and are comfortable using. Some people like to mix it up and try to get good with different styles of characters – brawlers, range attacks, etc – because it makes you more versatile. And some people choose a different character based on what they know about their opponent and what they hope will give them an edge in the battle.

You, as a person, also have a bunch of different skill sets (just like each character in Smash) that help you in different situations and relationships. If you can get better at figuring out your strengths, you can learn about how to rely on those to help you in your life. If, for example, you’re a really good listener then you can use that skill to help you in difficult social situations by asking a lot of questions and getting the other person talking so that you are able to show off your amazing listening skills. In the metaphor, Listener would be like your “main” in the Smash. This process can also help you figure out which skills you may still need to work on building. If it is difficult for you to focus for a long period of time, then just like learning to play a new character in the game, you may need to try out different focus skills for a while before you get good at it.

Using Smash Bros. as the example, your goal is to become a well-rounded player. Learning to use as many different characters as you can so that you are ready for as many different opponents as possible. Building up your personal skills, FIO, means that you will be more flexible when it comes to dealing with challenging situations and more easily able to switch between skill sets when you need to. So get out there and start racking up those practice hours!

~A Therapist

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