The Concept of Personal Identity

Have you ever spent any time thinking about who you really are? Maybe you’ve wondered how other people perceive you – how you are “seen”. The visual impression we give to each other as human beings is in many ways transitory – we don’t necessarily have to look the exact same way two days in a row.

As we mature, we change – our visual appearance can be the first indicator of the changes we’re going through within ourselves. For example – your skin renews itself every 28 to 30 days. The “face” you are going to show the world in the next month is based on what you’ve done in the previous 30 days – so a daily focus and intention on taking the best care of yourself is important to help you achieve that love of who and what you see in the mirror every single day – the How to Love Your Reflection philosophy.

Who you are—your identity—is a powerful force in your life and speaks volumes to others who come into contact with you. Identity can be defined as who you are, the way you are viewed by the world, and the characteristics that define you. Your visual appearance is only ONE of those factors, and your true identity is much more than the visual.

Identity can also be defined as the distinctive qualities belonging to any individual – the things that make you who you are, and sometimes, what can create a sense of resonance between you and another group of individuals who share similar characteristics.

Your identity plays an important role in the decisions you make and the relationships you have.

Thinking about who you are – what drives you, what makes you act in a certain way – will strengthen the connections among your mind, body, and behaviors. Also, you can get a better handle of where you currently are in life as well as where you’re headed – or what you’ll need to change in order to effect a new direction.

Although there are plenty of psychological theories about identity, including its formation and how you maintain it, consider the following points as some of the basic building blocks of your identity:

  1. Your personal family history. Where you were raised, who you grew up with, and the experiences you had as you matured from an infant all the way through your early adult years are powerful factors affecting the development of your personal identity.

Consider sayings like, “You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl” and their implications. So where you’ve come from tends to play a major role in who you are today.

However, your history doesn’t have to be the end of the story when it comes to your present identity – you’re not “locked in” to a specific identity just because you were born into a big family, or because you grew up in a small town. An encouraging and empowering thing about life is that you can take steps to be the person you want to be at any time.

  1. The “group” of people you hang out with. Much of who you are today can be attributed to the people you most closely affiliate with and spend the most time with. Your friends probably share interests in the same kinds of things you find fascinating.

Perhaps several of your friends play golf and so do you. You’re into fitness and a bit of a health nut as are a few of your best buddies. Even though you may associate the idea of “cliques” with your teen years, it’s still true that we gravitate towards people who share similarities to ourselves.

You can be selective about the people you choose to hang out with. If you want to be studious, you can look for others who spend time in libraries and taking classes. If you want to be successful, choose to hang out with people you view as good at their work and successful in life.

  1. Your visual appearance. Your clothes, hairstyle, and how you conduct yourself physically combine to make up an important aspect of your personal and visual identity. Although your appearance isn’t the only thing that’s relevant about who you are, the fact is that your physical state – that “face” you show the world – provides people with a picture of who you are. Your first impression is made within 7 – 10 seconds of meeting someone for the first time, and a significant amount of the input they use to “catalog” or categorize you comes from that visual first impression.
  2. Your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about who you are. Your self-image is made up of how you feel about yourself as an individual. Also, what you believe to be true about yourself is a powerful force in determining your personal identity.

For example, if you believe you’re an overweight, unattractive person, then you might unconsciously portray those characteristics via your visual impression and your identity – affecting your interactions with and toward others.

But if you see yourself as someone who’s working hard to excel in her career and willing to give something to get something, you will present a more positive identity to others – despite what some may see as physical shortcomings or challenges.

What you feel, think, and believe about yourself are major aspects of your overall identity and whether you can show off your assets instead of being distracted by your challenges.

Make it a point to consider multiple aspects of who you are. Recognize that your personal identity is a complex mix of your history, affiliations, and thoughts and beliefs about yourself. How you appear to others is also representative of your identity.

Realize that you have considerable power to influence the type of identity you possess and show to others. Be positive and vow to be the best you can be!