Identity is complicated. It is influenced by many factors, here are a few:
- Your past, present, and future. The important take away from this is to recognize that who you are today is who you are in the present: don’t let an identity from your past linger in your present reality, and don’t mistake your future potential for your present reality.
- Reality and imagination. There’s who you really are, and who you think you are or want to be. Be honest with yourself about this so that details are clear instead of confusing.
- Actions and Intentions. There’s the interpretation of your actions (you pushed Bob), and the intention behind said action (to save him from being hit by a rock). Are you what you do, or what you intend to do? This leads us to
- Judgment, perception, and impression. Everyone judges differently, and the kind of judgment varies by context. In a math class, you’re judged on math ability; in basketball, you’re judged in basketball ability. Pushing Bob from a legal perception may be judged as Physical Abuse, but the impression given to Bob’s parent’s may be that it was a heroic action. However, if change the story to say that Bob is pushed into a wall, then questions are raised about whether you were trying to save Bob from being hit by the rock or whether you were trying to harm him with the wall. This example is given to illustrate how complicated actions can get, how difficult judging the truth can be, and how different the conclusions drawn can be depending on perception and impression.
- Three tools used to navigate judgment and identity are Statistics, Timescale, and Context. Statistics is used to measure how likely an event is: If you are kind to Bob 99/100 times, then you were probably trying to help him. If you are unkind to Bob 99/100 times, then you were probably trying to harm him. Timescale comes in to describe the data set used for your statistics. If I see you being unkind to Bob 99/100 times while you’re 7 years old, not see you for 60 years, and then see you being kind to Bob 2/2 times when you’re 67 years old, I can presume that even though the statistics show you’re more often unkind than kind to Bob, you have probably changed identities from mean to nice to Bob. Or I can say that because the 99 instances of you being unkind to Bob was spread out over 60 years, your kindness at age 67 was probably the exception to the rule. Context is used to bring understanding into the picture: I can understand that a 7 year old has maturity than a 67 year old, so I can understand the difference in behavior and perceived identity, and realize that the unkindness was just a phase.
- Age. As shown in the Bob example above, a person can change from harmful to kind. In fact, nearly all aspects of a person change with age: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, material possessions, abilities, etc.. As such, no-one’s identity is constant: if you think you know someone today, unless you keep up with them, you probably know them less well a few years later. However, for some people, there are core aspects of them that don’t change–that’s the first indicator of who that person is: what identity do they preserve and keep constant, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
- External details and Internal details. External details may change–body will change with age. Not all external details change–if someone is a passionate collector of Pokemon cards, certain aspects of the collection will never change. Internal details may change–someone can go from having a great memory for Sports Teams, to having difficulty remembering what game is on TV. Not all internal details change–someone will always enjoy watching sports, even as the memory fades.
- Experiences. You can learn about who you are by placing yourself in new surroundings and seeing how you respond–since it is a new surrounding, there is no default response to hide behind, so you are bound to reveal who you are deep down. Furthermore, as you experience different ranges of things, you’ll find the range you are comfortable with, and where you draw those lines are where you find who you are. How you compromise also reflects who you are.
- Whatever we experience, social skills and cultural awareness guide us to “act” in ways that are “appropriate” for the situation. On one hand, “When in Rome, do as Romans do” will allow you to gain the full experience if you’re trying to embrace local culture, but on the other hand, there is a lack of authenticity in such an act if it is not a reflection of who you truly are. Genuineness comes when we tone down the characters and polite manners we have, and speak heart to heart about the core values and beliefs that make up who we are.