What is identity? Why do people try to define themselves? Why do people find it challenging?
All valid questions and everyone has their own take on this, this blog is mine. For any adventurer, be it through hiking, books or fashion choices, the theme that intersects with personalities such as these is the claim of finding comfort in a certain environment. For people who find solace in the warmth of their homes and don’t look for a challenge, the arguably less adventure-inclined, identities are an abnormal concept since the search for finding oneself in an everchanging world is an endless journey and their comfort is the end of questions for them.
So when I say identities aren’t for the light-hearted, I mean to say that it just isn’t a trait that occupies the idle time for people who don’t delve into conceptualities of human nature. Much like some people’s disinterest in chocolate. (how that is possible still eludes me)
Before you read the upcoming subheading and conclude that I have the answers all written down, you are in for a series of disappointing paragraphs because I particularly don’t know the answers myself. This blog is my attempt at a journey to find answers to questions noted further. Maybe my story and writing will add value to your journey.
What is Identity?
One of the oldest arguments for discerning one’s identity has been the nature vs. nurture argument. Is the concoction of genetics that is the parent for fluctuating temperaments or is it the larger picture, the environment a person grows up in that makes for such fascinating personalities. As the case is with most such arguments, the answer is never one or the other, black or white. The underlying gray area suggests that both these factors come into play. A person’s predisposition to certain mental illnesses may come from a genetic background and yet the real impact of mental illness can effectively behave like a building block for a growing personality.
A rather boorish stance that homophobes have displayed is the displeasure towards a flamboyant personality. This kind of behavior, demonstrated by even close friends and family, under the pretense of caring has led to many people in the LGBTQ community to suppress their rather magnificent personalities leading to cases of mental illness due to lack of expression of self. So in a case as such, is it the genetic propensity that is the acting element or is it the societal pressure that openly discriminates? Such a question cannot be easily answered and yet it is something that aids in forming an identity.
For an individual, experiencing body dysphoria, and battling the prejudice can prove an even more taxing exercise as even the comfort of one’s own skin is not a luxury they have. This is what I mean when I say that exploring one’s identity is not for someone with the luxury of already feeling comfortable in a world full of varying elevations of preconception.
To me, identity is the understanding of oneself with the consciousness of knowing your limits. Identity has multitudes of elements playing a role, defining actions, morals, intentions and other decision-making factors in life.
Why do people try to define themselves?
This is a tough question to even think about. Since this question functions on the premise of the fact that people do indeed try to define themselves in nature. Psychologist tried to assign personalities to people according to their body shapes. Some tried to associate people with the boundaries that they live in, stereotyping them. Constantly making and adding tags to others, asking questions like who is your type and so on. So although it isn’t entirely applicable to everybody, people trying to assign tags and names and giving definitions to each of these terms is a working reality.
Moving on to why people attempt to define themselves, I think is because humans don’t live in solidarity. We aren’t social Yetis. We don’t live our lives without communicating with other people. That makes us into groups, silos or at-large – categories. Biologists are constantly grouping species of plants and animals to better understand them. What is the goal of humanity if not to better understand ourselves, where we stand, why we take actions and what we can make of life? This inherent push to put ourselves in a category is a fairly natural state of mind.
It is common for people to say that this is what my family taught me. After all, the phrase ‘children see, children do’ struck a chord with the majority when the no-smoking campaign was propagated. It’s what we see and learn that makes us each unique. Defining ourselves is just an attempt at trying to tell the world that you are special. Let me take a moment here to say that you are very special. The world gives us so many chances and opportunities in life so that we may forge our own path. It is these tags and names we use to call on these paths that we have forged for ourselves. For many, it can be a profession, it can be someone’s sexual orientation, could be a familial relationship. Go on to Barrack Obama’s twitter account and you will see ‘Father’ as the first word in his bio. Defining ourselves gives us comfort and that is completely natural.
On the flip side, there are other people having a go at giving us labels. This is not okay at all. Why I say this has a basis in the fact that it is us who know the paths that we have taken in life. Someone can come up to me and give me names that I may not conform to, even though there is a possibility that this ‘other’ perceives us in that way. That is stereotyping. That is bad.
So, although we find ourselves in these names, tags, and labels, it is a right that only we have as owners of our identity. Giving other people the power to tag us is harmful to us and even to the idea of a society that lives in harmony.
Why is Identifying yourself challenging?
Now, this may seem like a rhetorical question but when asked, one can suddenly become speechless. Out of words to describe what it is exactly that is hard. It’s surely not understanding your likes and dislikes, we have tinder to prove that point. When I begin to answer this question, I spiral into thoughts of finding myself. Clearly I am more than my job and my sexual orientation, but, they still are a big part of my life. They form the way I communicate, my interests – inter-personal or otherwise – and have a contribution in so much that I do. I think giving yourself and identity is hard because it takes time. Patience is truly a virtue and it is something that we have to constantly strive towards. Adding to the mix, the fact that as we age, our interests evolve and adapt. So it takes time to find something that is constantly changing and evolving with time. That can seem like an unfortunate cycle but there is a beauty to it. You don’t actually have to worry about having terms or labels any more. Yes, you get to decide what your interests are, but you don’t owe a solid stance to anyone. In fact, most times our opinions change as we grow. Yes, I liked ketchup on everything as a kid, but not anymore. I may not know why this change happened, but, I don’t owe people the answer to why that change happened. Obviously, this is a fairly trivial example, but it does also apply to the larger things in life.
Confidence in what you like and prefer at the moment is the key to being happy and that’s all that there is to it. You don’t have to go around searching for answers you don’t necessarily need. Find comfort and you will definitely find your answers.
Identities aren’t for the light-hearted because they have already found it. They have found their comfort, they don’t pick apart their lives constantly and know what they desire in time. When you know yourself, most times you don’t go an adventure searching for it.
Just a tiny story to add in the end –
Last year I was really unhappy. I didn’t know where my life was going and I wasn’t comfortable being me. I wasn’t comfortable planning each second of my life. So I decided to do something impromptu where my plan was to just start it. In a week I decided to fly out to New York City for 5 days and roam around an unknown city alone. I went there and found out a lot of things about me that make me comfortable and found out what my identity was. Although this goes against what I said about people going on adventures for answers, it wasn’t the adventure that showed me my identity, it was the realization that I was uncomfortable in how I functioned then.
This is really not like one of my classic blogs and really a piece written for myself, but, I hope you gain something out of it and keep reading my blogs. ❤️