A Journey of Self-Discovery and Self-Initiation
What is identity and how is it that we are socially defined by this one word? This term is so much more complex than the simple idea people give to it, the idea that identity is what makes us who we are. Individuals are made of what makes them themselves, nothing else. Our values, ideas, and beliefs make us who we are. Certain factors that also make a person who they are usually include their families, cultures, and people that they associate with. To try to centralize someone’s identity is impossible because no one has just one thing that makes them who they are. Creating one’s identity is a continuous labyrinth of ideas, likes, dislikes, and other factors that somehow end at one person and affect their whole character. Having read Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama over the summer, I found out how he formed his true identity through the knowledge he gained of the different events and episodes of his life. Some people find out who they are at a very young age, but for others it becomes a constant struggle to find out the true person that they are; and even after finding it, it isn’t easy to sustain. Your true identity is something that can never be taken from you; it is yours and yours alone. Barack’s story is not unlike mine, yet he has had to go through a lot more than I did, but we all have our own path and our own obstacles to overcome. Other things that aid in finding your identity are the places you grew up in and the people in them because they factor in your social being and sense of community. A community is generally defined as a group of people of similar background who have the same issues and view life in the same way. These people in neighborhoods, towns, states, and other countries that make up small communities are very important and are never really forgotten because they are the people we identify ourselves with. Barack Obama discusses how identity is formed and sustained through different accounts in his life in his memoir. He also explains how his sense of community was lost because he was constantly bouncing from location to location. Identity is formed by self-analysis and sustained by the confidence in one self’s unique, inner characteristics, values, and thoughts. A community is defined as people working together towards a common goal, and is therefore valued for support and growth for the group receives as a whole. Defining who you are is probably one of the most difficult things anyone will ever have to do. Identity itself can change throughout your life due to many different factors just as Barack Obama has shown in his novel. An individual’s identity begins to form from the moment of their birth and progressively changes throughout the course of their life. Early on in Barack’s life, he defined his identity through the things that were inherently given to him, his social economic class, physical traits, and gender. As a child he did not think his race to be a factor in his identity as he recognized the fact “that my father looked nothing like the people around me—that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk—barely registered in my mind” (10). However, as the years went by Obama began to look at the things that were given to him, as well as visible to the outside world. He became conscious of his family life and stated “I would not have know at the time, for I was too young to realize that I was supposed to have a live-in father, just as I was too young to know that I needed a race” (27). Learning this lesson, took Obama some time to process and fully understand. He acknowledged that he was different and accepted it on the basis that he knew his race was not the only thing that formed his identity. Obama recognized that the definition of identity went way beyond the physical, and rather dealt with the internal characteristics that formed his ideas and beliefs. Barack was born into a family that was not...
Cited: Obama, Barack. Dreams of My Father. Rev, ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004. Print.
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