ForumTouchy Subjects ► Identity
I think many of the folks here have a different idea about what constitutes personal identity.

Is identity made up of impermanent things, like hobbies and likes/dislikes, or should it primarily be informed by feelings of "self" that you have no control over, such as gender or sexual orientation? Personality and interpersonal interactions? Family, background, et cetera?

Is it healthy for one hobby to take over your identity? When does something you like become a big enough deal that it moves from a like or a hobby to being a significant part of your identity, and SHOULD you let that happen?

This is a rather fuzzy, gray area that is hard to define. What are your thoughts?
Someone tell me what “identity” is before I explode the next time I see the word. Is it just who I am? I’m me. What is this... picking through a bin of ideas and things and ascribing them to yourself? It’s as if it talks about what someone is, not who.
I think kinda cynically in that if you want to you can identify yourself however you like. If you want to use serious experiences like your race/class or calling, some faux pseudo science like MBTI or a star sign or some hobby or online avatar.

The caveat being that if you identify strongly with something trivial, you shouldn't be surprised if it gets trivialised.
I just think there’s something weird with taking into consideration people’s identities (or qualifiers, from what it sounds like people mean) so much. There are these sorts of people feeling empowered by their qualifiers, then there are conversations like I had with my mom before I was done with school:

“I hung out with my friend Nafay last night.” “Oh cool, what did y’all do?” “Just hung out, got some food. Talked a good bit, it was fun.” “Now uh... Nafay... where’s he from?” “Oh he’s from (town)” “No... no... I meant more like, well, what is he? Black? Brown? Mexican? Middle eastern?”
Identity is how others know us and not how we think of ourselves. It's trendy right now to talk about 'managing your personal brand' and self-identifying "as" one label or another; I think the former is on the right track because actions have always spoken louder than words and the latter misses the point because your identity is something that happens inside someone else's head.

Psychologists, is there already a word for this that I should be using instead of 'identity'?
I think identity as you have described it and identifying are two different ideas. Identifying is the internal counterpart where any good or bad feeling directed at the category you identify with is felt to be directed at you personally.
Identity is basically the answer to the question of 'who are you'/'tell me about yourself'. It's how you connect and differentiate yourself to/from other people in your social environment.
I definitely think there's a gradient or scale here. It's not like something is either part of your identity or isn't. There are things that can be very important to you, and things that are kind of important, and things that are barely important. A common factor might be more/less important to different people who share it.
Is this “identity” what we are or is it what we are to other people? We never show other people everything that we are, everything about ourselves. We have some amount of choice in what other people see us as. That’s for all of you to answer.
I think of identity as the functional image one person constructs to represent one other person in their own mind. How you think of me is my identity to you, and it's entirely up to the perceiver to form that image. Sure, it's going to be based on what I do and say, but how you think of me is for me to influence but never control or dictate.
So ultimately it has very little to do with you, rather what I think about you.
Right, because we all respond to what others do and say, not what's actually going on in their head. You can try to infer what someone is "really" thinking, but that's mind games.
Now I can make the point I’ve wanted to since the start; insisting that people think of you in a certain way is shallow. Even wanting to not be thought of as a piece of shit is asking too much, though wanting to not have cruel actions taken against you is not.
I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say about this until I thought about the question in the Q&A about changing your gender and sexual orientation.

I think that in general, someone's identity is comprised of those things about them that cannot be altered without changing who they are. I know that's almost meaningless and is not an exceptionally helpful definition, but it's the best I can come up with to frame this topic in the way that I've been thinking about it.

I also think there's a difference between identity in terms of how others perceive you and in terms of how you perceive yourself. I personally tend to think about it more in regards to the self, but I don't think either one is a more valid point of view than the other. Another person will understand my own identity differently than I will, and that's okay.

To me, my own identity is based on the experiences that I've had and the ways I've learned and grown from those experiences. One example comes from how I've struggled with depression. I wouldn't wish depression upon someone else, but I can say that having dealt with depression has made me who I am today. The ways I've had to deal with it have led me to have a certain worldview, and removing those experiences would fundamentally change who I am and how I perceive both myself and others.

Another person will not know about all the experiences I've had and how those have affected me, and so their idea of who I am will be different from how I see myself. I think when people ascribe labels to themselves, they're trying to find a way to communicate their idea of their own identity to others. While no collection of these labels will ever really describe exactly who it is they are or how it is they see the world, labels can give some information that will lead another person in the right direction. And I think that that information is useful.
Reputations are earned*.

*Subject to hysteresis and outside influence, see store for details.
That’s exactly why I find it shallow to implore of people a prescribed reputation. I’m not even going to ask or wonder what ‘my identity’ is to other people because I don’t care and plus it should be pretty obvious; normal white dude. I just ... I’ve never spent much time caring about what other people think me to be because I have people I know enjoy me and likewise. And wow, it’s been ages since I’ve heard the word hysteresis.
A big problem in debating this topic is that it is incredibly subjective. What may be extremely important to one person might mean nothing at all to someone else. And it's really hard to empathize with someone who insists that A is just as important as B if you don't think that they understand how important B is to you. It's sort of like the 'can a machine ever reach sentience' question - someone might claim it's incredibly important to them, but you can't ever really be sure.

insisting that people think of you in a certain way is shallow.
By that logic, screw trans people. Asking people to call you by a different name/pronouns is useless because your identity is how they view you already, telling them to change their views isn't going to work. /s
Obviously insisting that you're a nice person and demanding everyone think of you as nice is dumb and won't work. But telling someone a fact about yourself and asking them to re-evaluate isn't doomed to failure.

I have to disagree with the assertion that identity is based mainly on how other people view you. It kind of makes the case that a person's inner thoughts aren't real. If you only are as you are viewed, does that mean that you aren't really gay if you haven't come out to anyone? Does that mean that if you're middle-eastern, you are partly a terrorist because some people view all people that have brown skin with suspicion? Do the things you do when nobody is watching matter at all?

People can lie, but just because someone believes it, doesn't mean it's true. Just because you ascribe a personality trait to someone, doesn't mean that they actually have it. People act based on their own internal workings, not the perceptions of other people. If there is any inherent quality of self, shouldn't we define "the fact of being who or what a person or thing is" by that? After all, you're the person that knows the most about yourself.

We all make choices, conscious and unconscious, of how we present ourselves. But those choices (and people's perceptions of them) are just the lens through which our self is viewed. We all work to understand and know the people in our lives, but that knowledge is always going to be incomplete and warped because our own biases color how we view things.
I should have said insisting on being viewed a certain way that doesn’t reflect any aspect of you. A transman is, in fact, a man. I find that people often desire to be viewed as better than they are.



Coldfrost said:
I have to disagree with the assertion that identity is based mainly on how other people view you.
Almost. I've been saying that identity is how other people view you. Which has obstructed the discussion a bit because:
Coldfrost said:
We all make choices, conscious and unconscious, of how we present ourselves. But those choices (and people's perceptions of them) are just the lens through which our self is viewed. We all work to understand and know the people in our lives, but that knowledge is always going to be incomplete and warped because our own biases color how we view things.
Perception, that's the word I should have been using this whole time. Derp. In that case identity is...intrinsically meaningless and only serves as a mental reference to a person? But then that person's identity and my perception of them are going to perforce be connected. I'm not sure if this helps clarity or not.

To tell someone your identity is to ask to be thought of in a particular way but it's their choice it's not your choice whether they do or not. For one thing, sometimes words have two meanings.
Well identity is the definition of 'who a person is'. Not particularly useful in the first place. It doesn't become more useful if we define it by people's perceptions vs some internal truth. The only tangible benefit (that I can think of,) of knowing who someone is is knowing how they'll react to certain situations. Because people make hasty and incomplete impressions (brains gotta take shortcuts), they can't predict someone's actions better than they can predict their own.
Forum > Touchy Subjects > Identity