Quite a weighted word, don’t you think?
Google tells me it’s the “fact of being who or what a person is.” But is it that simple? I don’t think so.
Now, I’m no identity expert. I’ve never studied the social sciences or informally furthered my understanding of the subject. But it’s something I’ve been contemplating a lot recently. Why? Because for the past couple of months I’ve been having an identity crisis.
I know what I am.
I’m a 25-year-old, white male living in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m a father*, a creative, a traveler, a footballer, a dog owner and many other things.
But I don’t know who I am – especially when you throw in the curveball of other people’s perceptions.
You may think I’m contradicting myself (and I might be); but herein lies the problem. What makes me, me? Is my identity objective? Nothing more than the sum of what I do? Or is it subjective? And a collection of my personal thoughts and feelings?
Enter Professor Wikipedia.
Everyone’s favourite online information repository explains that a psychological identity is “the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person.” It’s a subjective, self-identity.
“A psychological identity is “the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person.”
To me, this makes sense. (And helps me solve my internal conundrum).
We’re all born into predefined families/communities and naturally inherit certain values from the cultures we’re immersed within (objective identity). That’s understandable. However, in order to truly figure out who we are, we have to revisit these genetic beliefs and decide what we value for ourselves (subjective identity). Living by the same set of customs our parents did assumes they were right. But if they did the same, when were alternatives ever considered?
Peter Weinrech furthers this point:
“A person’s identity is defined at the totality of one’s self-construal, in which how one construes oneself in the present expresses the continuity between how on construes oneself as one in the past and how one construes oneself as one aspires to be in the future.”
Or in simpler terms:
How we view our present self + how our past shaped this view + how we hope to present ourselves in the future = our identity.
I love this thought.
Our identities are far more than the things we do. They’re our life experiences. The combination of everything that’s shaped our behaviour over the years and affected how we approach the world. They’re flexible, subject to change and (arguably) our greatest strength.
Yes, I’m a 25-year-old, white male living in Auckland, New Zealand; but I’m also so much more.
- Am a kind, accepting individual who wants to leave the world a better place (for the benefit of my son).
- View the world with rose-tinted glasses and have faith everything will be ok in the end.
- Frequently get things wrong and make (somewhat) terrible decisions; but believe knowledge is a by-product of experimentations (and lots and lots of failure).
- Am a dreamer.
Whilst others may judge me on a small sample of the things I’ve done in my life, deep down I know what I (currently) believe in and that’s all that matters.
Never let anyone tell you who you are or be concerned when someone’s perception of you doesn’t match your internal beliefs.
Your identity is exactly that – yours.
Worry about being comfortable with the human being you are and the rest will take care of itself.