Topic #346: How do you define your own identity?
We are all born into cultures, families and communities with certain values we naturally inherit. But in order to figure out who we are, we have to revisit those inherited values, and decide for ourselves what to believe, or what to value. Simply believing something because our parents or teachers did assumes they were right, and if they made the same assumption about their parent’s and teachers, when exactly did someone sit down and consider the alternatives? How can a person define their own identity? Is it good to do this? Why or why not?
When I was younger I was defined by what people told me I was, “daughter”, “sister”, “friend”, “student”, “a good girl”, “a hard worker”, “Daddy’s girl”, “Christian”,”teacher’s pet”, “stubborn”, “determined”, “ill”. I think the moment we start to grow up is when we start to think about ourselves and wonder if these labels are really us, really who we are and want to be, rather than what people tell us we should be.
For a long time I accepted other people’s definitions of me; but it wasn’t until the moment that I started to realise that the people around me weren’t all that they said they were, that I started to realise I had a choice. I was taught doctors and teachers were experts, untouchable; but when I started to realise that they didn’t know everything I began to question their authority and also the labels that they placed on me. Everybody has that moment when they realise that their parents are just people and that there are things about them that you pray aren’t in them too. I think those are the moments when we define ourselves. Some come from the way we want to be and others are through what we don’t want to be.
I don’t think our identity or definition of ourselves is set in stone either. I think that we redefine ourselves after every major event in our lives. When everything you’ve ever known, thought, felt and believed gets turned on its head, you’re left with more questions than answers. It’s a terrifying experience when suddenly life changes, the things you expected to happen suddenly never will and the people you trusted and respected most in all the world, turn out to be something completely different. I think you can either close your eyes and pretend it’s not happening or you can be incredibly brave and actually look at everything again and see what it really looks like.
For me this has happened several times in my life and each time it feels like the world is about to end and you don’t know how you will get through it; but once things have calmed down and you have worked through the pain, I think you come out better and stronger. I want to know who I am and I’m willing to put in the time, effort and pain to find it out, even though I know it’s a process that will never end. I want to fall in love, to find my soul mate; but how can I ever do that unless I know and love the real me. I want to know my opinions are my own, that I formed them through education and choice, rather than acquire them second-hand. I want to know that I’m reacting to a situation because of my own choices, not someone else’s in some kind of learned behavious. I want one thing, to be me, completely and utterly me.