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It is primarily through identification through social groups that...

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It is primarily through identification through social groups that we define ourselves.

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  • May 20, 2004
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As primarily social animals, human beings naturally seek out different groups to which they feel they have a certain sense of belonging. But there are two different aspects of this issue involved: identifying oneself with a social group for its social implications and identifying oneself with a social group for internal needs. A person can have two different identities, one that involves an individual's self-perception and the way that others see that particular individual. There is a natural dichotomy between the two sides of one's personality that is usually displayed between the different types of social groups with which an individual may identify oneself.

Self-definition can either be honest or dishonest. A person may join a social group because he or she thinks that the people that belong to this type of group are the same as he or she, whether it is true or not. The important detail to the individual is that he or she would like to be the same as the people that belong to this particular social group. As one example, consider a person who grew up poor and poorly educated, but became wealthy through the luck of the lottery or an inheritance from an unknown but wealthy relative. This individual then joins a wine-tasting club and buys season tickets to the local Philharmonic Orchestra and opera house. Although this individual knows nothing about wine, orchestras or opera, he or she is seeking to identify him or herself as a culturally literate person simply because the person is now wealthy. Through joining these social groups, the individual is seeking to define him or herself as socially elite, although the only difference now is that the person has great wealth and in reality probably does not fit in with the other members of the groups. In this case, one's self-definition by identifying with social groups does not match up with how society still identifies the individual.

On the other hand, there are individuals that very clearly demonstrate who...