What is Self-Identity?

Self-identity is a concept that includes many different factors and perspectives. In general, we might think of identity as all of the different aspects of oneself that answer the question, “Who am I?” There are many different things that we might define ourselves by, such as traits like ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, sexuality, ability, culture, and socioeconomic status, among others. There are also things that may contribute to our identity that can be quite unique to each of us, like our experiences, thoughts, feelings, memories, preferences, personality traits, hobbies, interests, skills, values, goals/dreams, strengths & weaknesses, roles (e.g. parent, sister, etc.), communities, vocation, relationships, beliefs, sense of purpose, habits, and morals.


So what does self-identity have to do with mental health and therapy? How we see ourselves and the beliefs we hold about ourselves can greatly influence our overall wellbeing. Here are just a few ways that our identity might show up in our lives:

  • Self-Image & Self-Concept: This includes how you see yourself and what you believe about yourself. Limiting beliefs or negative self-concept/self-image may be detrimental to your wellbeing.

  • Self-Expression: This can include how people express themselves through various means (like appearance, social interactions, behaviours, etc.) or perhaps choose not to express themselves for various reasons or in specific situations. People may struggle with self-expression in general.

  • Congruence & Incongruence: This means that our identity and self-concept are either congruent (match fairly well) with reality, or incongruent (do not necessarily reflect reality). Incongruence may have negative effects on our wellbeing.

  • Self-Acceptance: Being able to accept yourself as you are can be challenging, but can also be an important part of feeling comfortable with your identity.

  • Authenticity: One aspect of your identity is how authentic you are able to be – and this may change depending on the situation. For example, some people may show a version of themselves on social media that differs from their identity offline. Acting in alignment with who you truly are can be beneficial for your overall wellbeing.

  • Changing Self-Identification: Self-identity is not static, and it can change throughout our lifetime. Parts of yourself you previously felt you had to hide might come to the surface, or your interests and beliefs may change as you age or have different experiences.

All of these aspects of self-identity can be explored in therapy. For example, someone who struggles with negative beliefs about themselves might discover where these beliefs came from and work on changing them in therapy. There may be parts of people’s identity that they have struggled to accept or had to actively hide for their safety – these can be safely explored and expressed in a non-judgmental way in therapy. Navigating changes in identity and integrating different parts of self-identity may also be something you can work on with your therapist.


Identity is a complex, ever-changing concept! If you are interested in exploring your identity or how your experiences have impacted your sense of self, book a free consultation with one of our therapists today. We want to support you in finding and accepting your true, authentic self!

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