Identity: What is it? How do I find mine?

“Who am I?”and “where do I fit it?”are questions that people ask themselves frequently over the course of their lives. And it’s not just young people! Plenty of people get several years into college, and even in to their careers after school ends, and think to themselves “How did I get here?” Our identity is a sense of who we are. How we think about ourselves. And how we fit in to the world around us. It is common for people to consider identity as a compilation of a number of different factors like your gender, race, age, religion, what generation you were born in, nationality, etc. But we can also think about identity another way. Consider the idea that our identity is a constant negotiation with ourselves and the world around us, from moment to moment. Some of our identity is a socially negotiated process, where we depend on others to help us construct portions our sense of who we are. We could think about those negotiated portions of our identity like our reputation—something that is dependent on the interactions that we have with other people. In short, some of our identity is up to us. And some of it is not.

            We can find our identity in our values. And remember that we explore our values using Mindfulness. After all, in order for us to explore our identity we must first be engaged with ourselves—in the present moment. Exploring inside of ourselves will help us excavate bits and pieces of our values, and those values will point us in the direction of who we are, and where we fit in. Once we start paying attention and remaining fully connected to the present moment in a way that helps us to act in line with our values, starting to understand what the different parts of our identity are becomes simple. Once I know that I value Family, Hard Work, Friendship, Honesty, and Physical Health, I can start to explore where those values fit in to my identity.

            We can think about the different parts of our identity like a bunch of different worlds that we live in. For example, who I am in my “Marriage-world,” may be a little different that my “Sibling-world;” who I am in my “Work-world,” may be a little different than who I am in my “Friendship-world;” and who I am in my “Sports-world,” is likely different that my behavior in the Classroom-world.” This is where values and identity meet. Because in all of these different places, although I may act differently from place to place, it is important that my values shine through in each place in the same way. Although I might behave differently with my friends than I do when I am at work (even though I get to work with many people who happen to be friends as well!), but my values are the consistent link between the two: Hard Work and Honesty will be links between the two different components of my identity. 

            First thing first: explore what your values might be. It helps to make a list (we will include some examples below). After identifying some of your prized values, think about all of the different worlds you live (the places that contribute to your identity (I will include an illustration below, as well). Once you list a few of the different worlds you live in, link the values you selected to each of those places, wherever they fit (Truth is a great value that happens to work well in every part of a persons identity!). And remember, in each of those areas that make up our identity, are a whole bunch of people who have similar values, goals, and desires that we do! We are all eager to meet people, find connection, create meaningful experiences, and live life to the fullest!

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