We have multiple identities.
Lest you get concerned and think I’m talking about hearing voices instructing to do evil unto others, let me expand.
I’ll use me as an example; the identities I cannot change include:
- Born of Jewish background in Detroit, Michigan in 1954 to Ruth and Symore (sic) Marcus
No matter what happens, nor how long I live, those will always be correct. But, they alone don’t make me who I am.
Therefore, my “core” must be found by other manners in which I identify.
- 60-year old
- Resident of Eureka, California
- American Citizen
These descriptions, while accurate, are more fluid than the first set.
I mean, we know for a fact that I can only identify as a “60-year-old” for this year; but do I change who I am if I change my marital status, residence, or even my gender? I think we’d all agree, that I would still be me.
So, none of those identities really define who I am. Maybe, I can unearth “me” by digging a little deeper. Other selves, not so apparent, include: progressive, college graduate, and weight loss coach. At times, I also identify as brave or frightened, happy or sad, liberal or conservative, loving or angry (possibly even both at the same time). I would like to presume that I am accurate when I see myself as intelligent, humorous, caring, supportive, successful, role model, understanding, spiritual, and helpful.
There are many of Me, as there are of you.
So, which is accurate? Maybe more significantly, why does it matter?
Who we identify as eventually determines how we act.
Therefore, the identity we choose to focus on manifests itself in the actions we take, reinforcing or changing, the very paths of our lives. As illustration, because I identify as a husband, I have certain beliefs about how a husband acts. In my case, one of those includes that spouses are monogamous. Therefore, I am loyal to my wife. Should I alter my identity by becoming single or should I change the belief of monogamy, I will find myself in a completely different relationship with a different person. My life adjusts because my identity shifts.
What makes this situation so exciting is that since our identity is not singular, rather more like the nucleus of an atom with countless particles banging against each other non-stop, it gives us the option to choose which person we want to be and act accordingly. The self-description we focus on in the immediate become genuine for that time and guides our actions.
So, if a problem rears its head, instead of focusing on the identity that says, “I am overwhelmed,” I can search my database of identities and instead choose to be “I am capable,” even though I still might also be frustrated, annoyed, and even frightened.
Yet, Mr. Capable will think differently about the complications than will Mr. Overwhelmed, resulting in different outcomes.
If I opt to don the identity, “I am fluid, accepting of change, and smart enough to handle what comes at me,” I become open to great change. Of course, if my identity is “I am who I am and there’s nothing I can do about it,” I will also prove that to be equally true.