Identity.

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Identity is fascinating. If we didn’t find it fascinating, there would be no interviews, no memoir, no ‘I’, as such. To identify each other, we talk about interests, beliefs, our dreams, our likes and dislikes, our passions. We talk about where we think we belong, what our past has been, what our present is, and where we think we’re going. Or we are ‘rebels’ in some sense of the word – setting ourselves apart from the culture we grew up in, or apart from the culture that people attribute to us.

It fascinates me because I’ve noticed that my identity has shifted, along with how I define myself at any one time. I used to define myself by what I consumed: my favourite TV series, my taste in music, what I wore.

Nowadays identity is something I consider deeper, rooted in a sense of my experiences and how I’ve responded to them, being a deaf person, my philosophy, what my dreams are and how I’m going about achieving them, my introversion. I do define some aspects of my identity by what I consume: my numerous geeky interests. However, people are more complicated than what they consume, no matter what it looks like on the surface.

Is identity shifting with each generation? When I look at children now, they are growing up in a world where they have never been without computers, the internet and a constant flow of information. I already find it difficult to deal with how much information it is possible to process in one day. How will the children of the future define themselves? Is there such a thing as a generational identity? Some people would argue that there is – that because I grew up in the late 80s and 90s, that my generation is particularly consumerist, that we define our identities by consumption, and the idea of the unique individual.

In past blog posts, I’ve written about belonging, and what it means to live in a hearing world. I still feel the same about the question of belonging, that: ‘Deaf identity is, then, not always about where you belong. At least not so much for me. It is an understanding and appreciation of culture and language, of access and shared experience. It isn’t one or the other – the deaf world or the hearing world – it is the best and worst of both.’

I know that I belong in a family, that I belong in a partnership with my fiancé, that I’m part of different communities according to what I align myself with. But it isn’t clear cut. You can be part of something but not agree with everything about it. There are factions and break off groups and different ‘levels’ of identity (for a hilarious example of this, look to the Monty Python sketch The People’s Front of Judea).

There is such a thing as a post-apocalyptic geek feminist (not really, I made that up…or is there?). Or should we consider the whole sum of our identity that voice inside us, our consciousness? The good news is that we can define our own identity, that we can create our own lives. Casting off labels is just as valid as naming yourself the above post-apocalyptic geek-feminist, whatever that is.

‘We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.’ – Chuck Palahniuk, Choke.

182 thoughts on “Identity.

  1. “we define our identities by consumption” I agree with you here. It’s annoying. People look outside of themselves to find their identity, including me. I’ve spent this year trying to find out who I am and I believe that we need to look inside to “create our own lives”. Good post. :)

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    • Thank you – I agree, its difficult to look within ourselves to figure out who we are, or just be. I’m still guilty of looking outwards too often, but like you, I’m working on it :)

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  2. I think identity is a fluid thing. It changes with your own experiences of the world. Identity cannot remain static otherwise it means that you are not connecting and understanding what the world has to offer you. As for labels, well…..they are there for other people to judge you by, so I don’t really like them, or use them. Nice post though :)

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  3. Reblogged this on Little Miss Anonymous and commented:
    Identity. It is not what others think of you but how you see yourself. As from someone you grow up from the writer’s generation (late 90s), I can’t help but wonder how the children of today’s generation going to cope up if life will be back to the Middle Ages where technology is not the same as today. What would their life be if something will cause a shutdown of the satellites, disruption of power lines and the like would happen? I kinda pity them in a way. The only solution is for parents to guide their children while they still can. Teach them little things that might be vital for survival. Lastly, parents should make their children that the technology they’re enjoying now also have an end like most things do.

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  4. Your perspective on identity is interesting. I tend to think that we are what we do. I wrote a post about this very topic a month or so ago. Good job and thanks for the insights. captsabino.wordpress.com===

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  5. Such good questions, Liz. Thank you. Once again, I draw hope from your generation, for the insight and commitment I see there. Three fourths of the followers on my spirituality blog are millenials, and they are very serious about their spiritual growth.

    I am happy to have found you.

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  6. I don’t know if your generation is particularly consumerist, but I do know identity shifts with each generation, not just for masses but for the individuals. I think for my generation, it’s that we can’t imagine actually living in a post-apocalyptic world like in Walking Dead or Revolution, because we can’t imagine life without Facebook.

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    • Interesting – yes I can imagine it would be hard to imagine a world without Facebook (or Twitter!). I think identifying identity with consumption depends on spending power too. I tend not to do that any more as quite simply, I can’t afford to do so, and it’s also a very flimsy way of creating identity, even if what you like (eg. a certain brand or certain films) does come into how we might describe ourselves :)

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  7. I found your post very interesting. I had to separate from my family and it was only then, free from their narrow, view of who I was, I discovered who I wanted to be. I tend to identify myself by what I do and the relationships I have – my job, being a mum etc..

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  8. I like the idea of identity, but to a certain extent life is many up of so many little markers that you almost start to reject it. I’ve posted quite a bit lately about identity. I grew up in Britain, so I’m British, I’m marrying my Mexican, so Mexico is in the mix too. I can’t identify myself as British or European or anything because I am all these things at the same time. Then where else does identity come from, you’re right about the “things we consume”, when you’re young and still finding your own identity – that’s how you are defined, what you wear, what you listen to… But that’s all external, how others define you. My first posts about identity starts here http://chilangaexported.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/spanglish/ and here http://chilangaexported.wordpress.com/tag/identity/ – have a look and find the rest! :-)

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  9. I like to think that nothing, but nothing, is defined by only a single criteria. So, yes, identity may relate to what we consume, AND to groups we choose to identify with, AND by what we create, discard, fight for, fight against, live with or live without. For me, identity is a bit like a good old fashioned Dionysian debauch: course after course of things you may or may not like combined (with any luck at all) with all the maenads we wish to run wild in the woods along-side of, AND the prey we chase — whether giggling or in earnest.

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  10. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on identity. I used to try and define myself, trying to find enough correct words and labels to describe who I was. Then I realised that all I was achieving was to create an ever shrinking box for myself, getting smaller as every new label separated me from more ‘unlike-me’s and identified me with ever fewer ‘like-me’s. So I decided to stop trying to define myself and now whilst I will describe the things that I do or like or aim for, I try to avoid describing myself in any but the loosest terms.
    I’m not saying it’s a better option, it just works for me. Not describing myself, leaves me free to discover and be myself.

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  11. Very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing. I’m thinking about this topic right now as well in my own life. I would say that environments play a part in shaping identity.

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  12. As a parent of three ‘third culture’, children, what is interesting is their clear need and requirement of a sense of national identity. It seems that the nature of their upbringing has heightened rather reduced this. They are clearly comfortable in dealing with and developing relationships with people from all types of background and nationality but this ability is based on a firm base…some people might see this as perception rather than reality but that’s beside the point! Your thoughts ?

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  13. Dear “cats and chocolate”

    I never found a blog written by a deaf person before, and since I`ve always wondered how that must be, I want to follow you. You are right: It isn`t what we do that defines us. I`m my fascinated by what we feel while doing them and how we make our everyday choices. Thoughts and attitudes underneath, is also something I enjoy to know more about. I also like the philosophical mind, which it seems like you have:) Btw: Have you read “quiet” by susan cain? Brilliantly about introversion:)

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    • Hi, thanks for commenting :) There are quite a few blogs out there by deaf people – for example there’s an online database/list called deafread http://www.deafread.com/ where you can find a comprehensive list of deaf blogs/websites :)

      Thank you – all these comments are lovely and its great to hear from people with a similar outlook or who have their own ideas about identity. I enjoy looking into thoughts and attitudes – or the ‘root’ of things, I did Sociology as a degree but always had an interest in psychology too. I have read Quiet – it helped me so much. I would also recommend Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe as she wrote the original book on introversion and I found her book has a lot more depth compared to Quiet.

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  14. Yes, we often forget the ‘I’ inside us. It is pretty difficult to remain connected to, and to discover ourselves. Easier option of course is to run away from it, thanks to TV, internet, etc. It is critical to create a vision of ourselves and then to roll it out to the world around us. Good post.

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  15. Great insights. Much of what you say about identity ties into both Buddhist Philosophy and cognitive neuroscience and psychology. Nice insights and well crafted. Thanks!

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  16. Great work. This really makes me think for sure. Right now I’m kind of in the process of kind of getting my life kind of together, and reading this really is thought provoking. Thank you. :3

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  17. This topic is very informative as well as entertaining. The most important thing of all is the fact that we don’t forget our own identity. It should start within ourselves. Thank you for this!

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  18. Identity is hugely fluid, of course. I found your point about our identities possibly being defined by the products we consume etc very interesting, as I would suggest this is a two way process i.e. our identities are defined by the products we consume, but the products we consume are also defined by our identities. But of course there’s much more to it than that as you say. Great post.

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  19. Pingback: Identity. | Paint the world with words

  20. Identity is always a difficult topic for people to process because it really is hard to figure out how to define yourself, this is an awesome post and definitely helps to put the topic of identity into proper perspective. Thank yo! :)

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  21. Reblogged this on ashley's corner and commented:
    Thought this was very fitting and absolutely perfectly said about our identity as we know it. There are so many changing factors in this world, in your life, and it is my firm belief that our identity is also one of those things. With other people, we talk about ourselves as a way of communication and exploration, and in doing so, we learn more and more about ourselves. This is a beautiful piece and I’m proud to share it!

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  22. Very insightful thoughts on our shifting attitudes about our own individual identities, and our identification with groups that we fit into. Thanks for this. Lots to continue chewing on!

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  23. Love your ‘post-apocalyptic geek-feminist’ phrase…might use that myself in the future! Identity as an ever changing and so continually intriguing and interesting investigation is really fascinating. It is what has inspired my artwork (as well as many others for centuries!). Look forward to following your blog. FS x

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  24. Great post! I would submit that we are ever evolving and therefore identity is fluid and cannot be easily defined…I’ve often pondered the importance of identity in the big picture and where it is important to know your own self (beliefs, thoughts, position) I conclude that labeling has served more harm than good to the human race. It’s a lazy short-cut to boxing people in rather than seeing others as an extension of humanity and getting to know people individually…what do you think? Sorry I went off on one there, I guess it’s a tribute to how thought-provoking your post is! Thanks.

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  25. lovely post, every felt like you don’t have an identity or meaning… I think I was tattooed in invisible ink when I was born. however, this can sometimes work to an advantage ;)

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  26. Pingback: Identity. | axeaxel's Blog

  27. Nice post! I have also grown up during the late 80’s and 90’s and I believe there is something like generational identity as you have mentioned. Somehow we do tend to relate to and understand those who belong to the same generation. Personally, I fail to understand the children today. I feel they are more matured than what we were at their age and I think is has happened through all generations and will continue in the future too.

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  28. The fact is, we are who we are. The sole purpose of our existence is to discover our real identity. Not our appearance, not our physical or mental handicaps, not what others think of us, but who our soul is. The closer we get to understanding who and why we are, the happier we will be.

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  29. Identity is both subjective and changeable from moment to moment. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so inward looking, constantly worrying how we are perceived and instead concentrate our energies on living a life we feel is worthwhile. It doesn’t really matter what others outside our closest family and friends think.

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  30. Loved to read this. Nowadays things go so fast that you can hardly find time to do everything you want to do; So you blend with day-today life, you blend with your work and family. It became harder to identify and separate you from all. Nice to read your thoughts.

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  31. I think identity is really more about being able to find a certain sense of individuality in the midst of all the shared human aspects, like we define ourselves not according to what race we belong to or to which generation we associate ourselves with – at least not merely – but it is created based on how we see ourselves as someone unique but part of a collective. Identity is not even constant. I think it changes with time, with necessity, with the presence of limitations in the world, and with the changing reality. I think we are trying to adjust all the time, but even so, it seems that we always hold on to at least one part of our identity that we can claim as what truly defines us as an individual, as ‘me’. And to be able to realize and constantly hold on to that one part of our identity for the rest of our lives is important because it is what pushes us to be different, to inspire, and to live in a way that we may call as our own.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post. This is really worth pondering on.

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  32. Very nice post. Enjoyed reading some of the comments too.
    Maybe ‘identity’ is the innermost, solid, ‘baby’ doll in a set of nesting Matryoshka dolls, the outer ones appearing in response to significant experiences as years go by. Maybe, when we get to know someone closely, we reach closer to the ‘baby’, the part that remains (as someone has said above) through all our shifting identities. Maybe a cross-section of ‘identity’ will look much like the cross-section of a tree, concentric rings…

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  33. Reblogged this on Feral Soul and commented:
    Jogged my mind. I agree with so many things you stated. Especially, how generations are pretty much depending on technology now-a-days; that touches home. My younger siblings are 5 and 11..hardly see the sun unless I take them out mysef sue to “Animal Jam” and other computer games.

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  34. Brilliant. I am not sure even now what identity really is. I dont think it’s any one thing at any one time. Perhaps as we grow and mature, as our needs change that our identity does the same. Music, clothes, tv shows…they’re things that interest us because of who we are, but only until we hit our next cycle of growth and maturity. But don’t quote me on that, lol

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  35. I like the idea of self identification tied into what you consume. For me, I identify myself too much of a survivor. I am working on letting go of this. As I get older, identify does shift because I believe it’s how people leave my life and I must move on.

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  36. I really love this post because it gave me a new insight on my identity. I’ve always allowed other people to tell me who I am and where I belong. I’ve never even considered picking my own identity. Thank you for opening my mind to a new concept. I agree with many people who have commented that you can be a mixtures of “identites” and that no two people are the same “idenity.” they may have similarities but never exactly the same.

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  37. Reblogged this on Create&Co and commented:
    I am just after mounting an exhibition of artwork made by artists with disabilities and mental health consumers. We have been exploring identity through portraiture . One of the artist said to me he struggled with making a wire portrait of him self , because he could not get all the kinks in the wire straighten out . Later he said to me that he had just come to except the kinks as part of his true self.

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  38. I’ve been, of late, reading about the study of myth. Mircea Eliade speaks of how action is only meaningful if it is a repetition of something done in the primordial time. I wonder if the freedom to create is really possible, or necessarily a good thing. It seems to me that sometimes it’s good to be grounded in something bigger.

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  39. Pingback: All of the NaNos and NaBlos and PoMos. | Cats and Chocolate

  40. “Nowadays identity is something I consider deeper, rooted in a sense of my experiences and how I’ve responded to them, being a deaf person, my philosophy, what my dreams are and how I’m going about achieving them, my introversion. I do define some aspects of my identity by what I consume: my numerous geeky interests. However, people are more complicated than what they consume, no matter what it looks like on the surface.”

    Also, I loved “The good news is that we can define our own identity, that we can create our own lives.”

    POWERFUL passage! Thank you so much for sharing. I am so interested in the construction of identity. You also pose a fascinating – the construction of identity for future generations. I hadn’t thought about it quite like that. Thanks for writing. Keep it up! I hope you have a beautiful day. <3

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  41. I was just talking, a little earlier today, about generation and identity. Specifically, about how we define a generation. It was serendipitous to find your post as it is kind of an answer to my question. Excellent read!

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  42. I think the confusion of identity is more confusing than it has been before because there is so much thrown at today’s generation that we actually confuse that for what identity is. Nice post.

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  43. It is hard to see who we are outside of the many binary relationships that exist in our culture. I find especially hard to talk to my kids about it and try to help them define who they are outside of what their peers tell them. Thanks for this post.

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  44. Reblogged this on victorialittle and commented:
    Identity is fascinating. If we didn’t find it fascinating, there would be no interviews, no memoir, no ‘I’, as such. To identify each other, we talk about interests, beliefs, our dreams, our likes and dislikes, our passions. We talk about where we think we belong, what our past has been, what our present is, and where we think we’re going. Or we are ‘rebels’ in some sense of the word – setting ourselves apart from the culture we grew up in, or apart from the culture that people attribute to us.

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  45. your post makes one look within and think about our identity…whether it is what we have always thought it was or are the parameters that define it different…do we know ourselves well enough to know our true identity..

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  46. Your take in identity is inspired and has really resonated with me. I recently finished a university subject that spoke a lot about how we classify our own identities and what experiences or traits help to mold those identities. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  47. Pingback: Abandoning Originality | Soliloquies

  48. As a newly free single woman I have recently begun to understand and identify who I was before I tied myself to another person and allowed my own identity to be hidden for so many years. And also who I am as an older and hopefully wiser person. I can completely relate to the idea of it changing over time, but I also believe that there is a core “self” that is always the base of who a person really is. The tree changes with the seasons, but the roots are always firmly planted in the ground. Very nice read.

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  49. I always love reading about people’s thoughts and feelings about defining identity. In recent years, it’s been really hard to know what it means and how to define it. I like your article a lot :) Thank you!

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  50. You are so right about the future generations, my daughter is 19 and I was born in 1966- so I did not grow up with computers, modern tech, gadgets, etc…I refuse to text and people think I am nutty. I don’t drive and text, or talk, ever. Its my RULE. I wonder what will happen in just the next ten years…great pondering question. Jackie your new fan find me here:http://jackiespeaksit2014.wordpress.com/weekly-writing-challenge-dpchallenge/

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  51. For many of us our identity is a reciprocation of past encounters . Our identity is ever-changing because of this we can be who we want to be and what others categorize us as. Great Post!!

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  52. Our identity is the sum of our life experiences…I loved your page, but it also makes me feel sad for my daughter, who has been taken by the State and being given mind altering drugs. I just worry how much of herself is she loosing, with her new unchosen and unwanted experiences. At lease at her age (42) I know she will have some good memories. I’m legally trying to get her released to my care so I can get her off the drugs, … and praying that can happen before the memories are destroyed.

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