I might be wrong here but it seems that you have some idea what your identity is. I think the term identity, when discussed in a forum like this, should be much more encompassing compared to its academic usage. Identity is not about having a neat list of features that seeks to make the person look pretty; it is also not about trying to proclaim to the world "Lo and behold, world. For I am a purposeful human being!" Identity is about character and that includes both the good and the bad of the person.
You are aware that you're divorced and lost contact with your children for 3 months. That's a part of your identity.
You know that you are self-conscious - part of your identity.
You know that you are depressed, and sensitive to rejection and conflict - again, identity.
Those above are proofs that you have some semblance of identity. What is missing is any mention of things that would make you look better and more positive to the both yourself and others; I believe that's the cause of your identity crisis.
I think most people who say I don't know who I am is misleading themselves. It's not "I don't know who I am" but actually "I don't like who I am" or alternatively "I don't know what would make my life more satisfying than it is currently."
Thank you very much for your reply zanemwarwick. I think you are right that I cannot see the positives, and the negatives about myself are things that are very front of mind because it feels like everyone else can do these things easily but I can't. I also feel that the things I am interested in don't interest anyone else, so for that reason I don't communicate any aspects of my identity to anyone else. Everything I do I always seem to do it alone, and I hate that because deep down I crave some connection with someone.
It sounds like you could have depression, which would explain your lack of satisfaction from everyday life and difficulty with finding the motivation to go to the gym.
Finding some hobbies would be a great way to combat depression. It sounds like the gym is something that you're interested in, so you could look into finding a personal trainer to stay motivated. You could also look into doing exercise in other forms that you find enjoyable, such as running and cycling.
I think it would be great for you to reconnect with your kids as seeing them each weekend would give you something to look forward to. You could look into developing a hobby that all three of you would enjoy.
You could consider going to a men's support group, where you would meet others who are going through similar hardships in life. In Australia, there's the Men's Shed program that provides a place for men to socialise with each other through their hobbies.
Thanks for your reply analyticalan. Yes I agree that as well as social anxieties/shyness I also suffer from depression (variable) and also general anxiety too. It links to what I said above, I'm depressed because I always have to do stuff alone. I try to motivate myself to do it, but I'm still alone and I hate that.
I'm interested in the gym because I feel small and childlike. I have been underweight and am a thin adult regardless of weight training. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I already know more than any personal trainer because I have researched the best approaches. I have also cycled, doing mountain biking for nearly 2 years. But again it was a loner activity. Whilst enjoyable and challenging, I struggled to keep motivated and to see value in the activity when I am only doing it for me. There is something here about me needing some sort of recognition for an activity to feel valuable to me.
Regarding my kids, its not by choice that I'm not seeing them. I'd had them every weekend for nearly 7 years now but I was wrongly accused of abusing them by their vindictive mother and now they won't see me. It is incredibly upsetting but at the same time these past 3 months, although often feeling very bored, have felt less stressful because I haven't needed to spend every waking moment looking after my kids. I know that sounds horrible, but having the kids takes up your whole life and I felt trapped by it.
Regarding your suggestion about a mens group. In all honesty, and I don't want this to sound arrogant, I don't really want to connect with any men. I don't feel the need to laugh and joke about the **** most men talk about. I don't make conversation, I don't have 'banter'. I do have some long standing friends, but I'm not the centre of the group. I just follow. I'm the one that just watches the group, listening to the stories about other members of the group that have more interesting (chaotic?) lives. I don't act the fool, and I can't have outward fun. I hope my descriptions ring a bell with people here because I don't know if I'm articulating it right. This is why I'm here, I want to try and understand why I am like this.
Life can be confusing often times, your mind can make you feel confused, etc. Try just figuring out what you want. Also, i find that sometimes settling with an identity just isnt really the way to go. Why settle with a certain particular identity, a set plan in life, etc, when you can just be flexible and adapt to whatever life throws at you? Just do what you enjoy and if you are afraid of rejection then do whatever feels most comfortable. Also, if you dont find pleasure in anything then you may be suffering from depression or anhedonia. Hope this helped.
Thanks for your reply sad1231234. I don't know what I want. Or maybe I do but what I want isn't achievable or is in conflict with myself. I strongly desire peace, tranquility and a stress free life. But I also get bored easily and then I desire liveliness, hustle and bustle, popularity. I find comfort in being alone and intimate with a girl I know well, or with a small circle of friends. At the same time I desire to be some kind of sex god, 'lad', full of confidence and banter picking up girls in bars.
Mostly I feel inadequate. Because everyone else has these things but I don't. I see what other people have and want to be them rather than me. Does that make sense?
I know there are positives in my life but I can't accept myself for who I am and I am not surrounded by anyone who thinks the way I do. I can't even articulate very well how I think, as is probably clear from the confusion in my writing.