Identity: A Crisis or an Adventure?

By Serrana Gay

“Identity is an individual’s self definition that focuses on enduring characteristics of the self.”

As humans we are constantly asking the question: Who am I? This is a seemingly unanswerable question, yet we spend most of our lives struggling to answer it. We seek to find what it is we think about the world, what resonates with us, and to understand how these things define us.

There are many theories on how identity develops, and while these theories touch on what truly makes us human, they attempt to make it concrete, make it something that science can define. Identity is not something concrete. It is an abstract term we use to try and describe our sense of self.

Despite the fact that “enduring characteristics” are part of the definition of identity, I believe it is constantly in flux. It grows and shifts and morphs, much like an octopus does as it camouflages itself on a Van Gogh painting. Just like the octopus, we adapt to our surroundings, and grow and change as we encounter new stimuli. But who am I then, if I believe this? Will I ever find out? Will I ever know how the way I view myself defines what I do in this world?

One thing that most studies tend to agree on, is that children have a very limited sense of self and begin to form identity based on role models (Carver & Scheier, 1992), and that what we call “identity” begins to form around adolescence. “Before adolescence, individuals are not capable of the cognitive reasoning necessary in establishing identity” (Brogan). Then as we begin growing from children into adults, we start questioning. As we question we begin forming opinions about the world around us, and thus begins the process of defining “who we are”.  We observe the world, we take in the things we find useful, we note what moves and inspires us, and we discard the rest.  And it is through this long and torturous process that we begin formin what we call identity.

Personally I have noticed that my relationships: romantic, platonic, familial and otherwise have shaped me more than anything else. The ways in which I have chosen and learned to relate to other people has largely affected not only how I behave, but also who I am and how I see myself as a human being in this world.

This and my  posts to follow are an examination of the many and varied interactions I have had and the ways in which they have affected the shaping of my identity; as I understand it now, and as it is still changing as I grow. I would love for it to serve as a forum for discussion for others as well. If you would join me in my examination, I would love to hear what you have to say. How you my dear readers identify yourselves, and the ways in which the world and your interactions have shaped you as the humans you are, and are becoming.





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