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The Retirement Identity Crisis – Who are you?

Written by Nancy Stampahar for Villages Neighbors Magazine

Whether you lose a job title, your spouse, or are no longer in a caregiver role, you lose your most known identity. When your titles and patterns of living are gone, you may find yourself lost and traveling in unknown territory. The unknown territory of “who you are” - your authentic identity. You may wake asking yourself questions like:


Who am I?


What do I value?


What is my purpose now?


What do I do now?


Our career and relationship identities are the outer shell of who we truly and authentically are. The title identities of being a sales representative, CEO, partner, wife, husband, or caregiver describe “what you do,” not “who you are.”  Society tends to focus more on “what you do” than “who you are.”  It is no wonder why many people go through life without reflecting on who they are at their unique core level. While discovering who we truly are can be scary, it mostly is empowering and helpful to live an authentic life. When you live according to your values, unique interests, and abilities, you will live your life more content, purposeful, and fulfilled.


This later-in-life stage gives you an opportunity to be who you were meant to be. Every human being has untapped potential. You are born with certain talents and traits, and your life experiences have taught you skills, knowledge, and wisdom.  You can choose to look for the deeper meaning in the experiences of your life. You can choose to identify your talents and passions and make decisions to put them to work in your life.  You can choose to develop your potential and make your unique impact in the world.


The following three questions will help you begin your personal growth journey and overcome the common retirement identity crisis:


What are my top five principles to live by?


What came naturally to me? What was I good at?


What did I feel drawn to over and over again?


Values are the principles you hold to be of worth in your life. They are the essence of who you are. When

you live a life in alignment with your values, you tend to be happier and more fulfilled. When you do not live according to your values, strife and frustration occur. To achieve your greatest happiness and authenticity, your core values must match your behaviors.


To help you realize whether you are living according to your values, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?.” Knowing why we do what we do or do not do something is a critical driver for behavior change. Your “why” correlates to your “want-to.”  When we discover our “why,” we will discover why or why not we respond to different people and situations the way we do. When our “why” and “want-to” are aligned, we can do amazing things. Dig deep to discover your why. When you know your “why,” you can intentionally choose your direction and actions. Living intentionally according to your values, interests, and abilities will help you live your best life, at any age.

One of the biggest regrets people have is living their life according to society and other people’s expectations. You are so much more than “what you did”. Make the time to get to know yourself. You just might enjoy who you are and your new ways of enjoying life. It’s never too late to get happy!

Village of Sanibel resident, Nancy Stampahar, is a Certified Transformation Life Coach for seniors and an instructor for The Enrichment Academy. Nancy helps pre-retirees and retirees plan for smooth retirement transitions and get reoriented after experiencing retirement challenges.


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