society and what is expected of us in line with our gender, class and culture?
Can we change our identities to fit in with how we want society to see us rather
than how society expects to see us?
Firstly we should not confuse personality with identity. Personality traits may be
something we have in common with people we meet but identifying with a certain
social group is something we choose to do usually as a result of the things we
have in common. Personality is categorised as an internal characteristic not a
choice. (Woodward 2004, p.6)
Identity is, on the whole, how we are seen by society. Our identities
are first formed by the initial factors that are present at birth alongside the society
we are born into. This is based on several factors; gender being the most
obvious of these. Other factors include skin colour, language and ethnicity.
These factors are combined along with others to create what we come to know as
‘ourselves’, our identity.
How we are perceived by others also forms part of our identity as it puts us into
an identified social group. How we see ourselves comes later as we develop our
own sense of self. As we grow and become more self-aware our identity changes
and we begin to mould ourselves developing our own personal identity. This is
done through choices we make (agency) and through interaction with forces
beyond our control (structure).
When we meet new people we tend to question their identity to establish where or
if we fit in with their social group. This inevitably includes looking for ways in
which we are similar but also different.
On occasion we won’t have to ask questions as the badges people wear can
answer these for us. In this situation we can establish an immediate
connection even if we have never met them before. Someone wearing a T-shirt
References: Woodward K, Questioning Identity: Gender, Class, Ethnicity. Chapter 1, Questions of Identity. London, Routledge/The Open University.