In my previous post, I spoke of how we resist other peoples’ attempts to label/define us, and resist we should! But in talking with readers since then, it became clear that how we choose to identify ourselves is as personal as the identification itself, and with far-reaching effects.
For some people, that choice is based on their own values. For others, it’s dependent upon their view of their self-worth or their perceived place in the world.
Identity can at times be something we simply settle on. Had I been born and raised in the South, part of my identity would arbitrarily be as a Southerner. If I were the child of John and Jane Doe, my birth parents, grandparents and a legion of ancestors would provide pre-determined aspects of my identity. But, the key here is that neither of these aspects would necessarily identify me.
Far more sobering is the thought that this incredibly personal thing we exhibit in this world – who we are – can sadly be given away, or taken away, depending upon the circumstances.
Truly understanding and identifying oneself, for oneself, could be the greatest voyage of discovery we take consciously.Our sense of self can be liberating or limiting; it can offer opportunity or inexorable “fate”.
Our identity can (and arguably should) grow and change. As infants we begin to experience ourselves as separate and distinct; we distinguish between “self” and “not-self”. Eventually we recognize relationships (though initially nameless) to others – we begin to understand that we belong. Our identity as both a distinct being and “as a part of” takes shape, yet is in no way contradictory.
As we mature beyond being toddlers we form a clearer understanding of family and friends, and now those relationships contribute to shaping who we are. Throughout our lives, our accomplishments, our learning, our experiences, all lend themselves to our identity. We then have the choice to accept them, incorporate them, or reject them, in whole or in part, and this is where the tremendous importance of understanding who we are lies. Choosing who we are may well be the ultimate freedom.
The power of self-identity is something to treasure and something to cultivate. So let me ask this question a bit differently – looking at your choices – who have you decided you are, and who have you decided – at this moment in your life – to be?