I have been thinking a lot about identity and what makes up a person’s identity. Mostly this is because of English Class but I have to say when we look at identity and what we consider ourselves to be philosophically it becomes a bigger and deeper question. Like it or not, things have a way of defining us regardless of how much we try to fight them or think that they do not. Our identity is not just what we think we are but it is what others perceive us to be. Some of us may not care what others perceive us to be but then again is that true for everyone who perceives us. no matter how you try to be truly original and ‘be yourself’ there are always pressures to compromise your personal identity for the sake of maintaining a public identity that is more palatable to people around you.
We have many things that do this to us. Our jobs and careers sometimes cause us to hide our true identity so that we can get along, get promoted or even to keep our job. Our faith can have a significant effect on this as well. How many go to church, synagogue or mosque and wear masks saying what the religious leaders and influential religious folk in those places want to hear but at home our feelings and view points are entirely different? Family sometimes has those cultural expectations and traditions that rub against what we truly think or feel. We spend an inordinate time trying to please our friends so they will continue to ‘like’ us.
“But what about the ‘rebel’ and the one that says ‘I don’t care what people think” Rabyd philosopher?” one might ask. I am not sure the rebel mindset is not in its own category of things that shape identity. What if the rebel finds that the only reason they are being a rebel is because they have created an identity of being a rebel? Are they truly original or now are they trapped in a rebel identity and even if they felt or thought differently than their ‘rebel’ friends? Rebellion itself can also pull one into a false identity that is not true to self as well. The rebel makes a decision to act in a rebellious manner even though they fell they should not to maintain the identity of being a rebel to others.
It leads me to ask the question of what it truly takes to be truly ‘yourself”? Is the concept of being yourself some thing that is even static, or more likely, what is ‘yourself’ is constantly changing and adapting as you engage and explore your world. It makes being yourself more of a ‘being yourself in the moment rather than a persona that is always maintained. It means that each and every choice can be one of true genuine self or a self-betrayal that sinks one in more self-deception.
I am not sure of the answer at this point other than I seem to be wrestling with the concept of what it means to ‘be myself’ and what my identity truly is. More on this another time.