One of the many struggles I experienced while growing up was trying to determine my sense of identity. I had poor self-esteem and I always looked out for external validation. I was a people-pleaser and I never found any sense of purpose. I remember looking at my mates back then when they would emphatically define what future they saw for themselves but I could not see anything about mine. I was boxed into different things by different people because they did not get to meet the real me. I found out that when I was with introverts, I behaved like one and when I was with the extroverts, I became one. I did things expected of me simply because they were expected. It was difficult for anyone to know me because I did not even know myself. The danger of living life this way is that you become unfulfilled with no sense of purpose or direction. That’s a terrible way to live life, don’t you agree?
So, What is Personal Identity?
Personal identity is your understanding of who you are and that uniqueness that makes you stand out from others. According to David Buss, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, the personal identity is comprised of a public self and a private self, each with its own components. There are three important characteristics that make up the public self:
1. Appearance: An important aspect of your identity is your awareness of your appearance. This is common practice across various cultures in the world. All cultures strive to enhance their appearances and enhance personal beauty, according to their own definitions. According to many philosophers, a sense of aesthetics is a necessity for living a good life.
2. Style: Everyone has a unique way of speaking, laughing or walking. The way they talk, their body language, their facial expression – it basically just screams, “this is ‘them’. It has nothing to do with being fashionable or not. It’s basically your uniqueness oozing out of you.
3. Personality: According to the American Psychological Association, personality is the individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. They are enduring and they don’t easily change.
The private self, on the other hand, consists of characteristics that are difficult for others to see and observe. Things like thoughts, feelings, daydreams and fantasies.
How Can You Build Your Sense of Identity?
1. Recognize your unique talents and use them to add value to others. When you learn to use your unique abilities to help others in need, you will always cultivate a strong sense of self-esteem. Recognizing your unique talents can begin as early as childhood.
2. Communicate your value through personal achievement, not just affirmation. People tend to believe that a healthy identity is built by being affirmed by others, but that’s not very accurate. It is built by doing meaningful work with what you have been given and by contributing something valuable to the world.
3. Connect to a larger cause or name, and play an active role in moving it forward. It is important to plug yourself into something bigger than yourself. I believe in raising wholesome adults right from childhood. Connecting myself to that cause has sharpened a huge part of my identity
4. Become emotionally secure enough to stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison can be healthy but oftentimes it is a thief of joy. When you find yourself constantly checking out your life against others and you seem to be picking on everything that’s not working out for you, watch it.
5. Latch your identity to something that cannot be taken away from you. Your sense of identity will invariably be a roller coaster unless you connect it to something (faith, cause, family, etc.) that can’t be stolen from you by others.
Do not ever leave yourself at the mercy of social media posts or validation. Set your anchor on immutable things. Before taking that step, remember to ask yourself this question, “Why Do I Want To?”.