I have been thinking about identity, I can’t remember why, I think I had written the word in some notes and on rereading the notes it got me thinking.
Identity: one size fits all?
Identity, it sounds so concrete, it sounds like there should be a one word answer to what our identity is. If I asked to see your identity what would you show me? Would you show me your passport? We term passports as “identity papers”. But what is your passport? It’s a number which verifies who you are and where you are from, GBR0309657UK (or something, that one’s made up, so if it’s yours, what are the chances of that? but we’ll leave the subject of chance to another day). It’s your picture, an unsmiling photo, it’s your date of birth and any identifying marks on your body and maybe some stamps showing where you have travelled. Identity papers don’t show your identity, they show how we chart identity.
Identity and judgment
And clothing. Does that identify us? Well, it is an identifier, it’s a two-way identifier. Other people can and do judge us by what we wear, and we judge both others and ourselves by what we wear. Clothing groups us, making it easier for others to judge us: jeans and glamourous top and blow-dried hair, what do you think? Black suit, nude tights, black court shoes (sensible heels) what does that say to you? Consciously or unconsciously we make judgments on inner identity by external criteria.
Identity and Express
We also choose to manifest our identity externally. We say, “How do I feel today?” And if it’s free spirited or bohemian or fun, then we wear big earrings. If we don’t think jewellery is important, that it’s not a criteria for marking our identity, then we might not wear jewellery or only wear a small amount of it. But we might wear red lipstick and do big hair to express bohemian or fun.
The Source of our Identity
The source of our identity, however, lies deep within, doesn’t it? Not on the surface. Our identity is so deeply implanted, and sometimes, often, so deeply buried by life’s events, that it can be a struggle to connect with it. Instead of living by identifying who we really are (I am creative, I am loving, I am athletic, I am happy outside, I paint, I write, I think), we identify with events in our life (I am a mother, I work, I am a wife, I am on a committee). Slight aside, but when Moses says to God, “Who are you?” and God says, “I am”, this is not God being coy about the fact that his name is Colin or Brian, or Hilda, it’s God expressing who he is at the core; he is being itself, he is.
Often we get glimpses of our identity through negative experiences – “I wasn’t born to do this, I don’t want to live here, I can’t do this as a job anymore.” Sometimes we can’t conform our identity to the convenient role we would like it to play, which can be a crisis point in our lives. If you are born to dance (hard work, highly competitive, gruelling to the body), then a desk job (security, static, routine-driven) is not going to suit you or supply what you need for life to have purpose.
Facing up to our identity is scary too. I feel I’ve only just started the process. For such a long time I felt that my identity was really only a matter of dealing with what life threw at me. And also my identity was tied up in what other people thought of how I was dealing with what life threw at me. Maybe you identify with that. Actually I don’t want you to identify with it at all, so I should rephrase that, maybe this strikes a chord within you. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about identity and wardrobe and how the two are related and how to love what you wear out of your identity.
Has this post struck a chord with you. This is one time when I would especially love to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment in the box below. Have a great day.