Our identities define us and to a large extent our lives. Yet for some reason, they are a topic we generally avoid. Here I’m not referring to your financial/legal identity that can be stolen for others monetary gain. I’m referring to your identity as an individual, the characteristics through which you and others know you.
In general, our identities are based upon attributes of ourselves that we either don’t have a choice in, such as our family and physical attributes, or that we can choose, such as our livelihood and life partner. The social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister refers to these attributes as identity components.
Identity and the self are two areas which he has studied and written about. He asserts that our identities play a large role in key aspects of our lives including our aspirations and the decisions we make to guide our lives. This role makes our identity highly important to each of us. (see Identity: Cultural Change and the Struggle for the Self.)
One challenge we have with identities is that we are susceptible to adopting aspects of our identity from what is readily available in our culture or that others reinforce. We do this whether or not it benefits us. As a result, it is possible for our identities to diverge from what we would choose and for them to not serve us well.
We also tend to treat our identities as static. Like with becoming an adult once established there is no going back. Good, bad or otherwise that’s that. This perception simply isn’t true.
Indeed there are components of your identity that are not changeable, such as those determined by genetics. Even so, most of what defines us is flexible. We as individuals can choose which aspects to emphasize and even change aspects with intentionality.
Why does it matter? Dr. Baumeister also asserts that identity is also linked to personal fulfillment. In essence, your fulfillment is dependent upon your identity encompassing aspirations that you believe can lead to your fulfillment and that you believe you can achieve.
This connection provides good reason to evaluate and actively shape your identity.
Today is Update Your Bio Day, the brainchild of Jason Jones who studies identity at scale through data. It focuses on one tangible way that we define ourselves, our online bio. Yours is a statement of your identity, or at least key aspects of it. The connection between identity and fulfillment provides good reason to evaluate yours.
One approach to consider is rewriting your bio or social media profile in a non-traditional way. Instead of education, employers and job descriptions, focus upon how you choose to define yourself beyond career. Include what is fundamentally essential to you and your aspirations. It will change how others understand you. Most importantly your fulfillment depends upon how you define yourself.