An identity is an intricate web of life experiences, choices and lifestyle. A person’s individual identity is nested with family, gender, ethnicity, friendships, morals and interests. While identity is a large term, applied to diverse areas of interest, defining aspects of personal identity can be examined in terms of what it means to be a unique human being.
A person must have self-awareness and self-knowledge to have a fully formed identity. Excepting severe mental illness or drug-related problems, every person controls his or her actions. Choosing a particular job, relationship, value and or making an impulsive act is a controlled action. An aspect of identity is a person’s choice to know they are responsible for every action and decision. This self-awareness, and knowledge of the true self, helps form identity.
Each individual needs to feel good about her contributions to the world. If a person has no self-esteem or extremely low self-esteem, he will likely suffer from self-destructive thoughts or thoughts of hurting others to make him feel powerful. "A person's self-esteem may be reflected in their behavior, such as in assertiveness, shyness, confidence or caution," writes R. Ryckman in his book "Theories of Personality." While one does not have to have extremely high self-esteem to have an identity, believing in his talents, positive traits and values lends him a helpful and healthy identity in his community or society. For instance, people may think that a person who is always down on herself cannot contribute or offer help to her community, while a person with a higher self-concept is sharing her identity with the public in a helpful way.
Beliefs and Values
What a person believes forms an identity. A person can believe in religion, abstinence or the importance of education, for example. These beliefs, when put together, form part of the individual’s identity. Because beliefs can change--for example, a person converts to a new religion or experience a life-changing event that introduces her to a new belief--this aspect of the identity can shift, mature or get stirred up often. When speaking with others or making decisions, a person goes to his belief reservoir to make a decision that relies on these old or new beliefs.
Each individual has goals she wants to accomplish in her lifetime. Whether she has admitted it or denied it to herself, these goals help shape her identity. For example, one might want to start a family, own her own business, write a novel or research to find a cure for a rare illness. While a person may not accomplish his goal, it is part of his identity--who he is--to purse that goal or goals. If a person cannot or will not try to fulfill her passions, she is missing a part of her identity and how she interacts happily with the world around her.
- Stanford Univeristy; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Personal Identity
- Theories of Personality"; R. Ryckman; 2004
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images
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