Finding Your Personal Identity in a World Full of Noise
A piece of conventional wisdom that holds true in most circumstances is that if you look you shall find. If you look for an answer on google then you will probably find it. If you are searching for a difficult piece of information it may take longer but you will still find it.
These questions pale in comparison the the more important one of who am I? This question has plagued the greatest minds the human race has ever produced since time immemorial. Great names from Plato to Descartes could not answer it but they were searching for what it means to be a man in general; this is about identifying yourself.
A personal identity is the concept you develop about yourself that evolves over the course of your life. Every day, the human race creates more than two exabytes of data (on Exabyte is one billion gigabytes) online and offline. We are literally being inundated with conflicting messages during every waking moment. This information tries in some way to shape us to become something that we may or may not identify with.
They say we can be whomever and whatever we want to be, that is nice in theory but how do we peak our heads above the 7,200,000,000 other people in the world. Your friends say to do this, your parents say to do that, your boss says don’t do either.
It is a daunting task to find yourself in a world with 7.2 billion unique robots, all different but all fundamentally the same.
Who are you are, have you discovered your personal identity?
Let’s take a moment for the sake of argument to say fuck everybody and everything and allow you to chase your passion. Drop all obligations this instant and do the thing that you have wanted to do above all else.
Would that define you or be a part of you, would that make up your personal identity? In North America and at least certain parts of Africa that I am familiar with, you are defined by the question, “what do you do?” I like to answer this question a little glibly.
Stranger: so what do you do?
Me : I’m a drug dealer
They usually lose interest in me at that point. I have seen situations where someone’s occupation becomes their name eg a bus driver becomes Driver a carpenter becomes, well, Carpenter. Over the course of the average working life, you may change jobs as many as twenty times, does that mean the person you are changes twenty times?
I have an aversion to ever being referred to by my occupation, it is a part of me but it is not my personal identity. I am a pharmacist, entrepreneur, blogger, children’s rights advocate, lifestyle designer, etc. etc.
These are just many facets of what I do but not what how I am. Your profession is not your personal identity, it is just the means by which you earn money to put food on the table and buy a few trinkets.
Who do you want to be in a year or five years?
In a world so full of conflicting messages and images, it can become difficult to find a personal identity. Even with that, people will insist on asking you who you want to be in five years. Hell, I don’t truly know who I am now. The other problem with this question is that people honestly do not know where they want to be or what they want to do with their lives. It is a rare person that can tell you with complete certainty what they expect from the future and that is OK.
Our lives are meant to be full of experiences and spontaneity. If we lose the ability to go with the flow then we become nothing more than robots.
The only thing that I can say with complete certainty about who, what, or where I will be in five years is better than I am today. Really what more can we say? Of course it is good to plan your life so that you are not a purposeless zombie but at the same time it is necessary to leave a lot of leeway.
Take the once in a lifetime opportunities
Once in a lifetime opportunities come but once that is why they are so aptly named. It may not be what you planned and it may not be what people want for you but in my experience, these once in a lifetime opportunities are what allow us to discover ourselves.
When I was eighteen years old I has a choice, go to Georgia Southern University and get an all American Tertiary education like the rest of my siblings or go to Nigeria and tough it out in one of the toughest countries in the world.
I chose the latter, when I look back I am not really sure what prompted me to make that choice but it has changed me in a profound way. It has allowed me to understand what I am and what I am not. I was able to get away from the influence of an entire society.
When that happened, only my true self was left behind, I no longer felt the need to act a certain way because I was in an alien land. This was one of the defining moments in my life and it has given me a profound sense of personal identity.
It is nice to have a little structure in our lives but sometimes it is even better to rip it all out from under us and throw caution to the winds. Take the chance Indomitable man, you will not regret it.
“I wake up every morning and ask myself, is this what I want to with my life? If the answer is no too many days in a row then I take a drastic reassessment of my life”
- Author unknown”
One thing that I do believe is necessary for every man, woman. and child is to understand what their core values are, if you can do that then you will be so much closer to finding who you are as a human being
Do you value loyalty above all else
Do you value friendship
Do you value experiences
Do you value travelling
The list is endless and you can use this simple worksheet to identify your own core values. Once you have them written down and hold them in your mind at all times then the ability to sift through the noise of life and find your personal identity becomes yours.
Since I know where I want to go, how do I get there?
This is the second trickiest question of all. Having an identity, a real identity, not the one given to you by pop culture or government school indoctrination; sets you up for a burden that many people cannot bear.
It forces us to act in congruence with our identity at all times. Peer pressure loses its luster and societal influences hold no meaning to the individual that is able to find himself. That person is able to stand tall above the crowd and tell anyone fuck you if you don’t like it, I am who I am.
Now, that an identity is no longer a problem, I’m sure that your goals will change as well. Is it so important to amass material possession now; is that something that you hold dear to your heart or are you more concerned with living life to the fullest.
The road to success, whichever form that may take for you, is fraught with obstacles that only you will encounter and only you will overcome.
Sure someone may have experienced something similar but each problem you face is unique to you. No one can truly relate to your grievances and pain points. There is no cut and dry answer to get to where you want to go, the only think I can say is be a ruthlessly focused fucker and everything else will fall in place.
If you can’t tell me how to get there at least let me know if it will it be worth it
Remember that the last part was the second trickiest question and this IS the trickiest question. Human needs are very limited but our wants are insatiable.
Maslow illustrated it best with his hierarchy of needs. The normal stalling point after securing basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and a modicum of safety is social acceptance. Most of us never really achieve trues self-esteem.
Can you say that you never doubt yourself and never second guess your decisions? You never once felt that you will not be able to measure up? That is your incomplete esteem but it is a normal effect of moving out of your comfort zone and one thing that you must always do is continue to push beyond where you are comfortable while remaining true to yourself.
I have digressed, will it be worth it? Yes and no. Modern economics was founded on the premise that human wants are unlimited and that is why we have scarcity. As soon as you get where you want to go then you will invent another target for yourself.
Man is only happy when he is engaged in labors that occupy his mind and body
We, by our very nature will never be content for very long but that should never stop us from trying.
Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you will land among the stars.
Search for yourself on your own terms. Do not allow what others think, say, or do to stop you from chasing your dreams whenever you find out what they are. They can lead you through the deepest valleys, the highest mountains, and the most amazing experiences but if that is what it takes to understand who you are then shoot.
It can be difficult to look through the swirling mass of irrelevancy that fill our world but it is a better option than accepting the life that has been handed to you on someone else’s terms.
Stand up and choose one thing, one effort or goal to work towards and achieve excellence in it. Do not divide your powers because there is no way for you to be the best in everything. You owe the world nothing that you are not willing to give of your own volition. I implore you, sift through the wreckage of your society and find meaning where there was none before and life will take on a new meaning for you.