Category Archives: Identity

Identity and Conversation Manipulation

I was recently asked about rivalry between Berkeley and Stanford.  The question was: are Berkeley students passionate about school pride.  Followed by, are you passionate about school pride.

Now there’s two answers to this question that jumped into my brain, and here’s how I worked through them:

Answer with the Truth: there are people who care about the rivalry, and there are people who don’t care.  I am someone who doesn’t care.  Conversation ends.

Answer with a Lie: Very passionate.  Of course I care, *Make conversation interesting by over-exaggerating school pride*

I answered with the truth, because the context of the question was “Stanford students are cool as a cucumber, whereas Berkeley students are dumb for spending frivolous energy on trivial pursuits,” and if I made the conversation interesting, I would attach to my identity the accusation that I am someone who frivolously pursue trivial things like over-exaggerating school pride.

I remain convinced that, for this particular instance, I made the right decision.  However, I cannot help but be bothered by the loss of potential for fun, because the rest of the conversation was not as engaging or fun as it could have been if we played around with school pride.


The hypocrisy within this whole situation is that everyone spends frivolous energy on trivial pursuits sometimes: that’s what having fun is.  All work and no play is not the way to go.  As such, why hide the “truth,” which is that I am someone who frivolously pursues trivial things, sometimes?  From what I know about human nature, and perception, and how people for identities of others, I know that the imprint of this interaction on overall identity will take more work to erode than if I wait for another opportunity to demonstrate fun.  At the same time, I suppose it is fair to look at it from the alternative point of view, which is that I am strongly signaling that I am no fun.  Seems like a lose lose situation.

Understanding Your Body Image

People who focus on looks are often accused of being vain and shallow.  However, the wrong conclusion to draw from that is that you shouldn’t focus on looks because it makes you superficial: that’s not the whole story.  The full picture requires context (if a TV Show is looking for an actor with a certain look to play a part, it’s not shallow as much as trying to tell a story properly) and balance: If you focus on looks to the exclusion of all else, then you are imbalanced and more shallow than not, but if you use it as one of many possible metrics for judgment, then you remain balanced (A Time and Place for Judgement).  If you ignore it completely, that’s also an imbalance that isn’t good.

Taking care of your body image is tremendously important, because it influences how people treat you: whether you like the fact or not, it is still a fact that good looking people get treated better and have more advantages than less good looking people.  One example is of respect: it’s easier to command respect if you are well dressed than if you look sloppy and unkept.  You will lose a lot of time convincing people you are neat and organized that way; it is much more efficient to just show them you are–the communication is faster and more concrete and believable.  Research has also shown that psychologically, we make more positive assumptions about good looking people than not good looking people; if you make a mistake, we’ll forgive you quicker if you’re good looking than if you’re not.  If you don’t want to miss out on advantages in life, you should put some time and effort into your body image.

Some people use body image as a form of rebellion.  This is fine, I just want to say that silent rebellion is definitely the wrong way to do it: if you chose to look like something for a specific reason, nobody will know that reason unless you explain because no-one can read your mind.  If you don’t explain yourself, you are more likely going to disadvantage yourself in life, than succeed in making a protest or stand for something. (Manage Your Rebellion Intelligently)

You should also realize that body image is another form of identity (explained in Who Am I?), which means that what you think of your body is different from what each person you meet thinks of your body image.  Some will think you’re fat, others skinny, others normal.  You decide who to believe–no-one is objectively right or wrong, it’s a subjective opinion. You will also never be good looking to everyone, so don’t worry about it (in fact, it’s bad for dating if everyone thinks you’re cute: read the OK Cupid Study). Psychologically, who you think you are is heavily tied to who you were in your childhood, because that’s when you were forming your identity in the world: you can break free from that identity if you want, there’s no need to be trapped in the past.  You are constantly changing and you can guide that change if you want to.

An example of this is my story: I grew up poor and skinny from lack of food, so I never thought about or worried about being  overweight, because I figured I was underweight if anything.  However, life improved, I bought new clothes, then after a few years, I started exercising, and now none of my clothes fit–they are all two sizes too big.  This means my body image must have increased from skinny to normal, at least from the point of view to other people, but I personally never noticed.  Therefore, your body image identity to yourself really comes from within, not from what other people think or say, and what other people say only affect you if you let it–when people said I was loosing weight after I started exercising, I didn’t believe them because I didn’t think I could lose any more, but doctor’s records prove that I did.

Extra reading

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What is Self Worth?

Self Worth is how much you are worth to yourself.  Too many people mistake self worth for your worth to the market, economy, government, other people, etc.  But that’s not self worth, that’s Market Worth, or Economic Worth, or how much Bob or Alice think you’re worth.  Self worth is how much you think you’re worth, so you are in control.  

You don’t have to be perfect to have self worth, unless you choose to make it a requirement, in which case you should realize you’ve chosen to make it impossible to have self worth.  Remember, you are your worst critic, and no-one sees as many flaws as you do, so realize you have a skewed view of your imperfections.

If you decide to value yourself based on how much wealth you have, then you have chosen to tie your self worth to money.  It doesn’t have to be, you could instead measure it based on how popular or powerful you are.  Or you could free yourself from societal or external standards, and say that you have self worth because you give yourself self worth.  You are valuable because you say so.  Then, with a secure internal mindset, you can go out into the world and try to get external value like Market Worth or Popularity Worth if you want.

Believe you can have what you want.  This idea of “deserve” only exists within certain contexts: at home, you only deserve ice cream if you finish your vegetables; working in America, you deserve one because you can pay for it it; at a business, because you have connections; etc. etc..  Getting something has two components: believing you have the self worth to have it, and an opportunity to have it.  Opportunity is partly in your control, but the belief in your self worth is definitely in your control.  You are worthy of happiness, love, friends, success, if you say so.  Whether you get it is separate–if you don’t get it, it doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of it.

Unbalanced or Lack of Self Worth can lead to depression or over compensating, or denial and delusion, so take care of your self worth!

When you’re comparing yourself with others, be kind and use context: if you’ve been playing violin for 2 years, don’t compare yourself to a professional violinist who has had a 40 year career.  Make sure your comparisons make sense, or else you’re setting yourself up for depression.

More resources that can help:

Overcome Illogical Thoughts of Insecure People

Understand Judgments

Formally expressed, Self Worth is “Who am I to myself right now in this reality?”  (Identity and Reality explained in my: Life Education Curriculum).

Misc. Thoughts

Why do I always feel ashamed of who I am? While I was religious, they taught me to be ashamed, that’s why!

The market is imperfect.  If it was perfect, then we can say that the rich are successful and the poor are unsuccessful, and justly so.  But just because someone is poor does not mean they are unsuccessful or not hard working–they could just be unlucky.  Don’t think the system’s evaluation system is reliable, or accurate even.

A few days ago I talked to a friend and that friend told me I’m normal: Yay!  and I’ve been feeling more and more normal ever since I was told that.  See, I used to always think I was different, but I never asked around to find out from other people whether they thought I was different or normal.  If you ask around and they do think you’re different, embrace it I say, but if it’s detrimental than perhaps move to a different place: a fish is normally in water, not normally in the sky, so if you’re a fish in the sky, find water.

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