The whole concept of having a unique identity is a strangely comforting, yet terrifying thing to comprehend. In some ways, it is a way to show the world that you do not conform to their stereotypes and ideals. In other ways, it makes you a target – an archery post of sorts, for those wishing to lash out with their arrows of steel-tipped mercilessness. And still in other ways, it is a shroud of responsibility, one that tells you that you need to uphold this very notion of self.
This is a fairly unconventional way for me to start a post.
The truth is, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking into the concept of the self. What is it? How does one define it? Why does an idea such as this even exist? And how is this supposed “self” formed?
I hear the rabble-rousing of dogs outside my window, somewhere in the streets below, in these dark and eerie hours of night. The humidity is deplorable; the sky taunts with promise of rain that won’t appear for a few weeks at the least. An Algorithms notebook lies open beside me, telling me to stop writing and solve some more problems about bombing the roads of enemy cities and helping shoemakers create the ultimate business plan without incurring large fines. And yet, as much as these problems may be of importance in reality, both in theory and in practicality, I finally feel like myself again, this word-stream pouring out of my head and through my fingertips, down on these rather annoyed laptop keys, and this is the most that I’ve written in ages, and I’m writing for me, and it’s the best feeling in the Universe.
See what I mean when I talk about Identity? Am I the person behind these words? Am I the person I’m striving to be, in my professional domain? Am I a hopelessly confused chaotic mixture of procrastination and pessimism and the occasional optimistic streak that surfaces in the worst of situations?
It is odd how people can shape how you view yourself.
Sometimes, revelations come your way that affect you in ways that you couldn’t have possibly expected. Sometimes, things you hope for have ways of turning demonic and sinking their fangs into you, leeching your sense of self-esteem and your trust in your own intuition. And at other times, you surprise yourself. The world surprises you. Instead of a creepy clown in a box, you discover a piñata filled with candy and toys, and you begin to feel like Dora the Explorer at the final checkpoint, singing “We Did It!”. But these instances are rare and few, and in order to get the most out of these moments, you learn to always keep your expectations despicably low. That, my dear humans, is just saddening.
It is also saddening that quite a bit of the time, we rely on other people to support us and motivate us. That’s not a bad thing at all, to be honest, but it does become disappointing when you do not hold this essential self-support and self-motivation within yourself at least 60% of the time. There is a lot that goes into shaping how our brain responds and reacts to situations. As much as one might think that one is surrounded by supportive beings for most of their life, that is not the case always. Situations of rather unexpected sorts pop up when you least expect it, and force you to tackle them head-on, on your own, without your trusty circle of support. Depending on how your brain has been moulded and conditioned over the years, your response here would either be remarkably strong and organized, or vulnerable, partly chaotic, a muddled mess of thoughts.
See, while I would like to say that I have a very calm and composed demeanor when faced with such occurrences, very often the first feeling that enters the mind would be one of disorientation. I realize I rely on people a bit too much for my own good, and it’s hampering the kind of creative progress I can make. It can be painful to realize it sometimes, but there do exist times when you need to let certain people go, to keep moving forward in life. It’s never good to be engulfed in toxic relationships, whatever kind they may be, or social circles that dominate and suppress, rather than setting your potential afloat.
Semi-helpful side note :
You, as an individual, must prioritize yourself over the conveniences of other people, if what they demand of you , either directly or indirectly, inconveniences you, or requires that you stomp down every little trace of your identity. No good social circle should require you to pretend to be someone you are not, just to be a part of it.
However, dear reader, if it is in your best interests of safety and security that you need to stay incognito, by all means, take a deep breath, assess the difficulty and intensity of the situation, and assume a different identity, like a disguise or armor of sorts, that temporarily shields you from the potential danger that you might encounter, should you find yourself in a situation where your identity may not be well-accepted. I know it may not be possible for you to immediately change your environmental variables to a more conducive and accepting set, but hold out a bit more, and maintain that circle of support.
Yes, yes, I contradict myself way too much for my own good. Unfortunately, that is the funny and not-so-funny thing about identities. They have a habit of contradicting each other. They also have a habit of morphing, which is rather annoying, but also provides a sort of evolutionary advantage. It’s also kind of like a software release cycle with a whole bunch of commits and version control inserted into it, where version control isn’t so much control as it is trying to figure out when you were yourself last.**
Now, when I talk about identity here, I usually mean something relevant to personality. I do not necessarily mean gender identity, national identity, religious identity and the like. However, that does not mean that these are any less important, should you choose to believe that they are. And regardless of how you perceive the concept of identity, it is exactly what it sounds like – you perceive identity in a way that is different from the way others do. Therefore, it would be wise to assimilate your notions within oneself and maintain a healthy appreciation for how others perceive their identity.
I understand that for most people, the very word that titles this post brings to mind a sense of belonging, a communal gathering that acts like an extended family. All the more power to you. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, identity is shaped by those that surround us. And yet, at the same time, please remember that you are who you identify as, and not how others identify you.
In conclusion, I’d like to make one last point, at risk of sounding like a psychotherapist, preacher or annoying know-it-all-pretender. A person’s actions or thoughts can be a good indicator of their identity, a good descriptor, in fact. But this does not necessarily mean that their actual identity has any sort of influence on how they act or behave. This may not make sense the way you may read it now, but I’ll try to explain it.
Consider a human being. Volunteers at local shelter, loves animals, has the childlike spirit of an eight-year old, a fascination for chocochip cookies, neuroscience and badminton. Atypical member of society, honor roll student, perhaps, or maybe not. A bunch of personality traits are attributed to this human based on his/her/their actions, and essentially consolidate into forming an identity. However, this is all just an external view of the situation. This human may perhaps be someone with severe sociopathic tendencies. Or a person who actually puts on a facade for other people to see, whereupon, on the inside, they are just old souls who prefer visiting natural history museums, read Ancient Greek and play chess at the local community center once every two months.
Simply put, I believe my train of thought has led me into writing this monstrously long paragraph just for the sake of saying ” Do not judge people to be what they are based on what you observe, because that, dear human, may be highly misleading”.
Essentially, what you see on the surface would not necessarily reflect the true character. Good novels tend to have this element. Good for gray characters. And protagonists. And antagonists. Much like Valette Renoux and Vin , from the Mistborn saga.
I speak from experience.
There’s not a lot of it, but it’s there.
And it’s not just in the context of fictional universes and characters, although I can say my experience with those far outruns the experience I have with real-world situations.
I’d prefer the rain and the wind and the 16-degree weather of the North at the moment.
This is, perhaps, one of my longest posts. And I’m still writing. I do not know why. Sleep is essential. I must do that. And so must you, if you are stuck awake in the middle of the night reading this. My corner of the Internet is always open.
Illuminate the world with your Identity, and you shall be a person worth remembering. Have fun and stay safe!
The Nerdy Snickerdoodle
**Pardon the horrific reference, computer humans. Side-effects.