So who are we? Do you feel you know who you are?
In my work as a counsellor I find that underlying many problems is the sense that people do not know who they are. I myself have been exploring who I am in a more meaningful way. Each of us is unique; from the experiences of our early life, our family of origin, location of our early years and the backdrop of world events. These all have an impact on who we are and how we see ourselves. Some of this may seem quite random, but imagine being a teenager in Iraq during the last decade. Whatever the family stands for they cannot remove the impact of the community and the world. All of our past goes into who we are now. This may now determine where and how we choose to live our lives, what we do with our time and how we maintain our relationships. As we get older and the world continues to change we could find ourselves, and our sense of identity, in constant flux.
Our identity is about our sense of self and belonging, how we see ourselves and our place in the world. For me it is a complex thing that is not fully captured by those who see us from the outside. I truly believe that only we can explore and own our unique identity.
For me it is about exploring and being connected to all the different aspects of who I am. So I am a woman and need to figure how I relate to other women, both in our similarities and our differences. Similarly, how do I relate to men generally and specifically? As a Black Caribbean woman who lives a very British life how do I relate to Black British women of a different background, Caribbean women living elsewhere and British women who are not Black? – I have some similar experiences to all of these. It’s about being aware of those points of connection. Add in faith, education, class, age and sexuality; these are all aspects of how I see myself and how the world might see me. But my internal sense of these observable identifiers may be different from that of the onlooker.
So how about you? What does it mean to be your specific gender, ethnicity, class, culture, sexuality and age? Do you have a difference that is hidden (e.g. deafness, epilepsy)? If you feel you are ordinary then imagine someone different from you in those identifiers. Do they remind you of someone in your social circle or someone you have never met and whom you may have strong opinions about? Only by truthfully looking at ourselves can we begin to figure out our identity. As we look deeper within we will have a better sense of the truth about who we are and how we relate to the rest of the world.
For me it is about trying to connect to all parts of me, good and bad, and having people in my life who reflect different parts of that to me as I do for them. What does identity mean to you?