Determining our individual identities can be quite the challenge. Who defines who you are?
At first glance, this seems like a simple enough question, especially coming from the individualistic western perspective. I define who I am. I make decisions that determine my outcomes in life, representing a strong internal locus of control. However, when you stop to think about how we choose to define ourselves, how we choose to determine our respective identities, we find that we are inherently bound to the people around us.
Who Am I and Why Do I Matter?
For instance, you may define yourself as a father and a husband. These roles are intrinsically tied to your children and your spouse, respectively. Without these people in your lives, you couldn’t call yourself a father or a husband.
Similarly, many of us define who we are based on our occupation or career of choice. When asked to say a little something about themselves, most people will mention what they do for a living. I’m a freelance writer. With this declaration, I become immediately aware of certain preconceptions and assumptions that people may have about people who work from home or people who write for a living. For a while, I felt like I almost had to defend my career choice.
All Eyes on Me?
It’s easy to say that you shouldn’t care what other people think of you. Be your own person and make your own decisions, right? If that were the case, why do we partake in acts of vanity like buying designer clothes or decorating our homes in anticipation of having guests? Humans are social beings, so we care what other people think. That only makes sense.
That’s also why you may find yourself wanting to be someone else at many points in your life. The grass does look greener over there, doesn’t it?
A Kitten, A Lion, or Both?
In the end, as with so many other things, you must find that delicate balance between an internal and external sense of self. You must simultaneously be complete within yourself and be mindful of how you are being perceived. You can’t please everyone all of the time (nor should you try to do so), but mere social awareness can go a long way in determining your own identity and happiness.
If you see a lion in the mirror but everyone else sees a mere kitten, that disjoint or dissonance needs to be rectified. Show your inner lion.