Top-Rated Free Essay

Evaluate the Claim That Personal Identity Is Self-Defined

Powerful Essays
Evaluate the claim that personal identity is self-defined

In order to evaluate the statement, this piece of work will identify what defines a person identity, what conflicts in life can alter our identity, theories on identification and then a look into a person’s ethnicity and how this defines and alters a person’s identity.
The public are consistently being requested to complete forms that try and put our identities into a box for statistical purposes, for example, nationality, race, gender and marital status (Clarke, 2009). Are they trying to identify us as individuals or label us with identities we don’t necessarily agree with and take away our ability to self-define our identity?

Psychologist Erik Erikson defines identity as ‘a sense of continuity over time as a being or entity that is different from others’ (Clarke, 2009, Pg252). We all have our own identities that are different than the person stood next to us, but he believed that it doesn’t stay the same identity throughout a person’s lifetime. We all go through different stages during our lifetime; babies, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and then to old age – Each forging a new identity for us not only based on past experiences but on conflicts and experiences that challenge us in everyday life and the future.
In everyday life, conflicts dictate the identity we hold and portray, such as the relationships, ageing, habits and practices which can all profoundly affect our identity.
As we get older our body ages and our identity alters, this is something that we have no control over. Although, some people actually choose to change their appearance and therefore identity, by cosmetic surgery, changing their physique through exercise or simply changing your hair colour (Clarke, 2009). The clothes you choose to wear can define your identity, or at least the identity you want to portray to others. The past times people choose, for instance, the music they listen to and their leisure activities can often say a lot about person’s identity (‘Changing Identities’, 2009, track 3).
Our relationship conflicts can modify our identity when we have to make new friends, change job roles or move to another part of the country/world.
Identities differ to different people, dependant on what capacity we appear in their lives, especially to our friends, family and work colleagues. To our colleagues, we are professional. To our friends, we are funny and reliable. To our parents, we are their precious daughter/son etc.
Our identity could be perceived as something we define ourselves by the lifestyle we choose to lead, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear and the role we take in work and our family life. Our identity also modifies dependant on the situation a person finds themselves in or the people they are interacting with at that particular time.
But there are certain aspects of our identity we can’t control, such as, our race, our gender (although some people can choose to change this) and ageing.
Our identities can be presumed and prejudices can form, as shown through racial profiling for stop and search purposes both by police on the streets and airport workers in customs.

Roles within the household can alter identities, and this can be shown, for example, when the coal industry deteriorated in Wales, many of the men lost their jobs resulting in many of the women, who had been housewives, having to go out and find work. This role change dented the masculine identity as being the provider. As this practice of the woman going out to work and being the breadwinner becomes more embedded, it becomes habit that they have taken on this role and this then becomes their new identity.

In order to look further into how people’s identities change, the government funded a social science empirical research programme, which looked into a group of women entering motherhood. This subject matter was deemed to be suitable as becoming a mother, especially for the first time is, ‘life-changing‘ (Clarke, 2009, P260)
All participants lived within the same area in London which was known to have parts that were poverty stricken, but all the women varied in regards to age, race, class, living situation, ethnicity and marital status. The statistical data was gathered via qualitative methods from observational research and interviews both before and after the babies were born.
The information will be vital to understand how identities change, as motherhood is a substantial change in a woman’s life, seeing all habits, practices and relationships changing dramatically within the blink of an eye. They form identification with their own parents as they are now parents themselves. Their relationships with several people will alter; their relative and friends will see them in a different light as their new identity has formed.
Practices and habits when a woman becomes a mother for the first time will change dramatically as they now have someone who is 100% reliant on them.
There are a lot of positives to this form of research into identity change and therefore whether we define our own identities, especially as such a wide and varied range of different mothers were used. But, it could also be the case that the way of collating the information could be flawed as a lot of observational and questioning methods of gathering data will be open to interpretation by the interviewer/analyst. It is also not a natural situation, and people may adapt the way they would normally behave and provide the answers to questions with only what they think would be the correct way and what the observer/interviewer is seeking. As a result of this, the data collected is never going to be an accurate record, but this is something that would be difficult to change.

As we move through life, there are times when we identify ourselves with other people and can empathise with them and their life situation. For example, when a woman gives birth she is able to relate to the feelings felt by fellow mothers and even their own mother when they first held their child. This is called identification (Clarke, 2009)
The colour of a person’s skin can define their identity and judgement can be placed upon them before they have even opened their mouths and the colour of a person’s skin is a part of an identity that is impossible to change. The judgement is not purely on appearance alone, but is through ‘dominant social meanings and power relations’ (Hollway, 2009. Pg. 277). As social theorist Frantz Fanon proved when he came to Europe from the Caribbean, his identity as a black man was ‘inescapable’ and ‘overriding’ (Hollway, 2009 Pg. 278). Fanon stated that it wasn’t really about the actual colour of his skin, but the history behind his race that will follow him around and will always define their identities.
Negative experiences can also influence the identity you portray, but going back to the empirical study on identity, there was an instance where a black teenager changed his behaviour to fit in with what he believed the interviewer would have a perceived stereotype of. Hence, he is proving a point made by Fanon that ‘it isn’t the biology of skin colour that is the cause; it is the social meanings built up historically that have effects on black identity’ (Holloway, 2009, Pg.285). The black teenager was re-enacting the conflict against identity he faced everyday due to the colour of his skin.

Being a migrant in the UK can make it difficult to forge an identity for yourself, as you are seen as neither one nationality nor the other. A way people manage this conflict is by sharing links with their home country, this is described by the term ‘diaspora’ (Raghurum, 2009). People can then self-define which identity they wish to take on in certain situations.

To conclude the evaluation of this claim, personal identity is self-defined, it would be reasonable to state that we do have the ability to self-define our identity which we often have to alter due to the ever changing world that we live in. But there are something’s that our out of our control and that can define our identity for us, such as race and age. These are things we can’t change, have no control over and are judged on face value by others.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    People think that identity can be shaped by different things. Some could argue that identity is shaped more by culture or simply by your personal choices. This essay will discuss how identity is shaped by your personal choices. “To understand identity we must examine the choices we make in our daily lives” (Latterell 11). Some characteristics that are made by your personal choices are the music you choose to listen, your overall appearance like your clothing, tattoos, piercings, etc. and your social group. Personal choices are a major part of your identity simply because it defines who you are and how you choose to be as a person in your day to day life. “Identity is not fixed, but shifts over time and in different situations” (Latterell 13).…

    • 914 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Identities are the definition of who we are, our peculiarities which distinguish us from any other entity. Our identities could be extremely complex, processing our ethnic group, cultural background as well as family status. However, it could also be defined in an abstract way, containing all the lived experience we have concealed and our own perspectives. Through the integration with others, based on a derisive self-perception, we may tend to disguise our true selves to search for approval. While we often attain to make a forceful stand for maintaining our own personalities, we are being true to ourselves even to the detriment to our sense of belonging.…

    • 897 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Personal Identity has been a fascinating topic for philosophers all over the world. When you talk about personal Identity it makes you think to yourself “What is personal Identity?” Personal Identity can be a lot of things, to each person the meaning can be different. Personal Identity can be how you want the public to perceive you. Personal Identity can also mean upholding a certain standard/ attitude to maintain the status quo of who you are. This very question has left philosophers with many ideas on personal identity and the plus and minuses to it. Personal Identity is the concept you develop about yourself that expands over a course of your life. There are certain aspects of your life that involves personal identity that you have no control…

    • 1501 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Personal Identity Essay

    • 792 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Identity is something human beings hold dear. Humans are very complex beings and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes up who a person is or can be. Now, the most common generalizations as to what makes up an identity are: personality, likes, dislikes, experience(s), religion, soul, memories and beliefs. A physical form isn’t mentioned; because the body is a temporary thing. A body doesn’t necessarily mean that it is part of the identity since; what will last forever in not the body but the impact left by personality or ideas, for they are everlasting.…

    • 792 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Best Essays

    Identity is a fundamental part of all humans. Whether one’s identity consumes their personality or lies in the shadow of their persona, all humans share this personality trait. Identity is defined as the distinctive characteristic belonging to any given individual or shared by all members of a particular social category or group. In cognitive psychology, the techicange definition of the term "identity" refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self.(Leary & Tangney 2003, p. 3)The Weinreich definition directs attention to the totality of one's identity at a given phase in time, with its given components such as one's gender identity, ethnic identity, occupational identity as well as many more.. The definition is applicable…

    • 1648 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Best Essays
  • Good Essays

    For many a personal identity evolves over the course of one’s life. Personal identity is demonstrated through many aspects such as the way one dresses or their occupation. However it is really defined by ones interactions with others. How one interacts with others in society shows what kind of people they are. Whether they may be introverts or extroverts’ society labels them.…

    • 581 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    What makes us the same person as we were when we were ten years old? Is it because we have the same body, soul, or memories? What makes the person you were yesterday consistent with the person you are today? These questions, along with questions pertaining to sense of self, are the basic problems of personal identity. Since we do not look or act the same as we did when we were a child, can it be possible we are not the same person? Many philosophers ponder this problem of who we are and if are in fact an entire new person from our ten-year-old self. For instance, if you look at a photo of yourself from when you were a kid, there are many physical differences. The theories of personal identity try to explain how despite the differences, you…

    • 1101 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    It is easy to see oneself as the same person we were ten, twenty, or fifty years ago. We can define identity through our physical presence, life experiences, memories, and mental awareness of self. One can testify our persistence as a person through our existence as a person. But what makes us the same person? In this paper, I will argue for the “simple” view of the persistence of identity – that it is impossible to determine what single thing that makes us the same person over time. I will support my claim with the refutation of the main complex view claims of the body, brain and psychological continuity criterion.…

    • 1036 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Following early psychologists study, such as Freud’s three-level model of self-structure( ), ego psychology(Harmann, 1958), and self psychology (Kohut, 1907), Erik Erikson(1950;1968) developed the concept and theory of personal identity by linking individual biological changes and the sociocultural environment, thereby rejecting both absolutism of psychosexual development and the omnipotence of socialization(Janos L,2014). The identity concept adopted by cognitive social psychology focuses on self-knowledge and conceptual reflection, and in social science, personal identity is ofen opposed to social identity.…

    • 510 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Personal Identity

    • 659 Words
    • 3 Pages

    The personal identity of one's life can be represented in several different ways. The two essays that compare in personal identities are Wanderers By Choice and Chameleons and Codas by Eva Hoffman and Patricia Conrad. Personal identity determines whom and where one belongs in today's society. One's identity can be described with an adjective or a noun, which in the two essays are chameleons, deaf, a nomad and an exile.…

    • 659 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Identity

    • 875 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Many people think that the identity there born with is the identity they die with and although that, in most cases is true, their identity will change by their personal choices they make throughout their lifetime. We make choices everyday. For instance, there are positive choices like buying new shoes, or getting a job, and then there are negatives choices like not studying for a test or robbing a bank. Positive and negatives choices affect identity. Here I will discuss some examples of those choices people make that will affect there identity…

    • 875 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Identity

    • 720 Words
    • 2 Pages

    The question of identity has rattled the human brain for years. Many different things can help shape a person’s identity. The three most common assumptions about identity are: (1) Identity is what we’re born with, (2) Identity is shaped by culture, and (3) Identity is shaped by personal choices. The next three paragraphs will explain how each essay supports or refute one of the assumptions about identity.…

    • 720 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    TMA01 Final

    • 1695 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Summarise two theories of identity and compare their usefulness for explaining the real--world issues discussed in chapter 1, ‘Identities and diversities’.…

    • 1695 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Complexity Of Identity

    • 904 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Identity is created by the factors all around us, and also how we respond to them. In the article by Beverly Tatum titled The Complexity of Identity: “Who Am I?” she discusses how we as a society can get past our differences through understanding who we are. She gives multiple examples of how we relate to our environment and how a better understand of that can bring us closer together and even open new channels of communication through discussion. Tatum gives us a very well laid out way to ask the right questions, to get an outside perspective that ultimately helps us understand who we are and how we can relate with others.…

    • 904 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Often times, we go through life feeling confused, lost, and sad. Living life through various facades grows weary over time. Eventually, we are led to the inevitable search to strive for the discovery of who we really are. Self-identity is an important focal point in our individual triumphs and tribulations we experience in our journey of life. During times of conflict, we frequently struggle with only ourselves.…

    • 1276 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays