WHAT IS IDENTITY?
”The distinguishing character or personality of an individual” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Everyone has their own identity - this is made up of memories, experiences, relationships, and values. Our identity makes us who we are and is how we identify ourselves in the world.
In most cases, who we are can be split into 4 areas:
Identity - how you internally feel about, experience and define yourself.
Expression - how you outwardly express who you are and how you identify.
Attraction - how you find yourself feeling towards others.
Biological Sex - the physical traits you are born with or develop (known as sex characteristics), as well as the sex you are assigned at birth.
There are arguments for and against whether these are defined at birth (nature) or develop over time (nurture). Generally, it is agreed that sometimes we are born with characteristics like race, sex, family, sexuality, disability etc but, most aren’t fixed; they develop, change and fluctuate as we age. Our identity is never ending, and ever-changing.
It can be influenced by many things, including, but not limited to:
Culture, Tradition, Religion and Spirituality
Morals, values, ethics and beliefs
Hobbies, interests, possessions/objects
Mindset, habits, practices and choices
Environment and location
Relationships - Friends, family, neighbours, partners, carers
Socio-economic group and/or demographic
Education and work
Childhood and upbringing
Disability and SEND
Mental and Physical Health
“The Japanese say that we have three faces: The first, you show the world. The second, you show your close friends and family. The third, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are” - Unknown
“Tale of two wolves. An old Cherokee told his grandson, ‘my son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.’ The boy thought about it and asked ‘Grandfather, which wolf wins?’ The old man quietly replied ‘the one you feed’.” - Unknown
HOW CAN UNDERSTANDING YOUR IDENTITY HELP?
Finding your identity can be tricky because there are so many factors that shape who you are. Not having a strong sense of self can lead to confusion and feeling like you're lost. Though it takes time and effort, it's worthwhile to find out who you are because it can help you become more resilient and boost your confidence.
When you’re confident in who you are, it makes living life on your own terms easier and more enjoyable.
Knowing whom you make you unique and stand out from the crowd.
Having a strong sense of self enables you to feel comfortable in your own skin and accept yourself for who you are.
Knowing yourself increases your awareness of how you react physically, mentally, and emotionally to the world around you, making you feel more connected to yourself and others.
WHAT CAN HELP?
'Self-help' tips don't solve the issue. However, they can help you/others feel more in control when experiencing strong emotions.
If you find that 'self-help' isn't enough, consider reaching out to a counsellor or your GP for help managing overwhelming emotions.
Remember: Anyone can struggle with feeling comfortable with their identity and who they are. Try to remind yourself/others that it is ever-changing and developing and normal to question.
Feeling a lack of identity can sometimes lead to feelings of low self-esteem, lack of confidence and sometimes depression and anxiety. Plus, Sometimes when our perspectives change from how we were bought up, we can feel lost and isolated from family/communities. Change is okay but hard. Reach out for support if you're struggling.
Reach out to like-minded people. This will help you regain a sense of community and feel less isolated.
Continually look for new perspectives and ways of living! This will help you to understand how many individuals there are, and you may pick up new traits you admire and connect with.
Reflect often to reaffirm your beliefs or seek out change for example:
What do I like/dislike?
What are my beliefs?
What are my core values/morals?
What are my goals/dreams?
Remember: It is okay to feel unsure of yourself. There are often a lot of pressures from friends, family, society etc. Take time away from others to think about how you feel and if you're being influenced.
Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. When you identify your strong points, you'll be able to see how those strengths can be applied in different roles, projects, and aspects of your life. Also look at what you don't excel at - this will give you a chance to decide if you want to eliminate something that isn't serving you.
Meditate and practice mindfulness. This just means take time to sit without distraction and think. Often we have revelations and ideas in these moments e.g your best ideas come to your in the shower!
Keep a journal, scrapbook or memory album and look back at it often. Reflecting on your past and what you want to do in the future is a great way to discover who you are. You can use a journal or a diary to help you get your memories and thoughts out of your head.
Going back into your past will allow you to reflect on the highlights of your life and see how you have developed/changed as well as allowing you to see your accomplishments and how far you've come in life.
Take a personality test. Whilst these are not definitive answers they can be helpful. You can look at the results and think about whether you do/don't identify with the traits shared.