I and I Survive
A person’s identity is a combination of experiences and influences that will determine how one perceives themself and how others perceive that person. The mind is a fertile ground for concepts and opinions. Outside influences can have an affect on an individual’s thoughts and ideas. Mahatma Gandhi had an idea about individual’s identities. He once said, “A man is but the products of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes” (Gandhi 1). What a child is taught by her/his family early in life is reinforced throughout the development of her/his identity and can be seen to be truth. The family teaches a child language, moral values, and how to survive the surrounding environment. Also, a child can be influenced sub-consciously through media and advertisements seen on televisions and in magazines. Furthermore, when the child is old enough to attend school, education will be another large influence on the identity of the individual. Social institutions can have a great deal of influence over the development of an individual’s identity. Humans are social beings with the need to belong with groups to exercise the mind. An individual’s opinions, moral values, and even how an individual interacts with others come from some type of influence. With social institutions having a mass appeal on many people, an individual’s identity can be influenced through the family, religion, and education. With humans having a need to belong, individuals will adjust to social institutions to fulfill this belonging. Social institutions, such as the ones mentioned above, have set ideas, concepts, opinions, and roles affect on how an individual perceives the world. Although, it is crucially important to realize that social institutions have an influence on an individual identity because by obtaining awareness of how social institutions influence an identity, one can have more control of her or his own identity. Being unaware of one’s influences can keep an individual in an endless cycle of social trends and ultimately give power to the process of mass reproduction of identity. An individual will merely become a victim of “mindless” conformity. To understand where an identity comes from, an individual will have to go deep into the roots of ones identity. Family is the very first social structure a child identifies with. How a child is raised will determine the child’s outlook on life. The different combinations of traditions, moral values, and religion of the family, if any, play a big role in how an individual is raised. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau describes, in the “Origins of Civil Society”, that “the oldest form of society-and the only natural one-is the family” (59). When a child is born a name is attached, which, she or he will identify with for possibly the rest of their life. How a child is raised will affect the growth and development of an identity. A Professor of Social Work and Education at the University of Georgia believes that positive parenting is vital to a child’s social adjustment and sense of one self. “The research indicates that a consistent adult model of sharing, helping, comforting, and responsiveness is critical to the young child’s development of empathy, moral standards and self esteem. Thus, we would expect children who have been abused or neglected to display difficulties in socioemotional arenas” (5). Whether a child is raised in a positive environment or not has an affect on identity and what they may believe to be true. When a child comes to age where other outside influences are introduced the identity of that child will expand to school, where a child will use what they learned in home with others. School will open a child’s mind up to new ideas and concepts that also influence her or his identity. School also plays a huge role in the development of an identity. Young people in western societies spend an average of 180 days a year in school. That is almost half of each year that is spent in...
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