MAKING IT BETTER: What Type Of Identity Are You? Where Do You Fit In?

Do you recognise any of the following statements? “I don’t feel myself”; “I feel out of sorts”, “I don’t feel right”. ‘This is not me’. I don’t recognise myself’. Have you ever made any one of them at some point in time? These are just a few statements we make from time to describe an emotional, even psychological state of mind.  But what do we really mean, what makes us who we are? Is it our relationships with friends and family? The things we own, our values? Psychologists believe that our identity rests on one of four central pillars and the emphasis we place on different aspects of our lives. There are four main identities: Social identity, Relational identity, Personal identity and Collective identity.

 

Think about it for a moment, what makes you uniquely you? No, really think about it. Does your identity rest on your roles in life i.e. wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, boss etc? Or is it something less easily labelled? In other words it is a combination of your background, experiences, dreams and aspirations. We also hold on to different identities at different times in our lives. When I was younger my identity was centred on being the youngest child in the family as well as being the only girl. It had lots of pros and cons, some of which stayed with me throughout my life and influenced my subsequent relationships.  When I got married I had children soon after so I was juggling my identities as wife and a mother. Fortunately the two identities were able to co exist and grow together. The former has gone through many tricky moments and continues to be a work in progress. However my identity as a mother has remained powerfully as an identity that never misses a beat with me. I am a mother before any other identity. My identity as a career animal has also been a deeply cherished, fiercely protected identity that has challenged, guided and taught me so much.

 

For some, their identity resides largely in their relationship with others, how they are reflected in the eyes of friends, colleagues and family. For others their real identity is more private, bound up with their inner thoughts and feelings, and perhaps rarely revealed to the wider world. Identity can also be rooted in other areas too such as nationality, culture or gender which may even define us more strongly than where we work or how many friends we have.  I know living abroad my culture, nationality and values shape more of my identity more so than when I am at home where my gender, personal achievements and relationships play more of a significant role in how I identify myself. In the few days I have been back in Nigeria I find myself having to reconnect to another part of me that I realise has not been in the forefront of my consciousness while abroad.  I know it’s going to be a delicate dance at times but it’s one I welcome and feel I need to enable me find a better balance and allow my authentic self to flourish.

For some, their true self may be intricately bound up with their partner’s; perhaps they feel most themselves when they form an intimate connection. Where our identity lies depends partly on our temperament, our upbringing, the wider culture in which we were raised and our early experiences. Finding balance between the four identity areas is key to getting harmony in our lives. It is helpful to be able to draw on the attributes of each type and to recognise when our identity may lean too heavily in one direction. For instance having a high social identity can be an asset, helping people to get along in life and at work is a positive thing. However this can come at the expense of a lack of personal identity. Once you have a clearer picture of where your identity lies, you can work out whether you are satisfied with your true self. Is your identity one that you have chosen, or one that you have had forced upon you due to circumstances. Are you frequently told you should be one way or another when you are perfectly comfortable and content the way you are.

The greatest gift you can give yourself in life is having as much insight as you can into who you are. Even the worst person in the world, whether they are a criminal, murderer or whatever, if they know who and what they are, it’s the first step to deciding if they want to change. Many of us either don’t have a clue about who we are or are in complete denial of the true person they are. I listen to and watch certain people describe themselves as good, kind, compassionate people but almost every daily action on their part demonstrates they are the complete opposite. A very good example can be seen in the hundreds of thousands of religious settings around!

Whatever your identity type, self-awareness is the key that can change it all. It has the ability to help you break your genetic and cultural personality disposition. If you lean heavily on one facet of identity but feel this is under-represented in the way you live, you can make changes.

With social identity you are very orientated towards your relationships with others and your identity rests partly on what you think others think about you.  You are good at getting on with people and at forging strong friendships and will enjoy jobs where you have good relationships with colleagues. You probably work very hard at maintaining your relationships and your sociability protects you from loneliness. Having friends around you is particularly good for your health and well being. However there is a danger that you can be over concerned with your reputation. A high social identity also correlates with susceptibility to shame, worrying about your flaws being exposed and fear of negative social evaluation.

If you have a relational identity you tend to base your identity on your close or intimate relationships and you are very keen to share your true self with someone else. You strive for authentic intimacy. You are happiest when you understand the thoughts and dreams of loved ones and friends. You enjoy being close to others, and forming strong and supportive relationships. If however you are too high on relational identity it may mean you are subsuming your own self in a relationship. Finding mutuality is vital to having balance. It is perfectly fine to put a lot into your relationships as long as you are receiving plenty in return. I know this can be really difficult to achieve for many, but again if you are aware this is what is happening, it’s the first step to making changes.

With a Personal identity, your sense of self is most likely to reside in your ideas, intellect, dreams and goals. Who you are is informed by your thoughts and feelings, your emotional responses and your sense of uniqueness. You are most likely to view your private, inner self as being the most ‘true’ version of you.  Personal identity is closely related to introspectiveness. You are reflective and have a strong sense of your values. You probably have a great deal of integrity and value non-conformity and independence of judgement. People with high personal identity and social confidence rely on their stable internal values as a guide to their social behaviour. At its most extreme, those with high personal identity and low on all other identity types may have alienated identity achievement, where you have a strong sense of yourself but feel distant from others.

People with Collective identity are likely to focus on their strong sense of national pride, family heritage and their religion. They may feel strongly that their gender, culture strongly shapes who they are. This could mean they feel grounded and secure with a positive sense of achieved committed identity. People with a high collective identity are rarely prone to egocentrism and are likely to feel deeply connected, which can bring feelings of security, contentment and respect for others within their group. This strong sense of connectedness may however become a burden and make it difficult to develop, change and grow.

Do you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions or Identity types? Which type of identity would you say you most relate to? Sometimes we may even be a combination of more than one but more likely lean towards one more than the other.

Remember nothing is set in stone! Regardless of how long it takes or how long the situation has existed, change is ALWAYS possible. If you have made that recognition and understanding within yourself; if you have the intention, motivation, desire; you can make a change…no matter how small! That may be all you need to give you more satisfaction and enhance the quality of your life or if you are lucky it may unlock something magnificent within you. It’s not always about the financial gain. There is so much that can bring you the sweetest long lasting joy, but you have to be in that space within yourself to see and receive. Remember it’s not over till it’s over!

Right now I’m rocking my inner Ogbomosho/Oyo vibe. See you soon!

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7 Responses to MAKING IT BETTER: What Type Of Identity Are You? Where Do You Fit In?

  1. Samuel October 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    It is not over until it is over. Thank you ma’am

    Reply
  2. DSEED October 24, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Such a great insight. Identifing once identity.

    Reply
  3. Wilson October 25, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    I am that person that finds solace in a closed room. I know that whatever I think about when I am alone, lasts longer than when I have people around me. Some call me weird, but I have birthed functional ideas via this.

    Reply
  4. Lota October 25, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Wow. I am that person that doesn’t give back the love I am given. It is weird but I will change. Thank you ma’am.

    Reply
  5. Femi Diipo October 25, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Wonderful and insightful, thank you ma’am for this great piece

    Reply
  6. Perpetua Dandeson October 26, 2017 at 5:20 am

    Mama! Thank you, yet again, for this. Truly insightful.

    Reply
  7. Eric Onuoha October 26, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Thank you for this article Madam. It is not over till it is over.

    Reply

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