Identity

by wil — Apr 2, 2011

I’ve been reading some books on Buddhism, Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction, and last night I stayed up late reading Foucault For Beginners. Then I watched Catfish — and all together they’ve got me thinking about identity.

You often hear people say things like: Facebook is just people putting up a front, a one-dimensional, edited image of themselves that doesn’t really reflect their true nature. And I think that’s largely true, but it’s not limited to Facebook. It happens all the time. On your resume, you probably don’t mention how you thought your last boss was an idiot and how you used to call in sick every couple of months just so you could enjoy a few three-day weekends. And you probably fix yourself up a bit when you go out to lunch with friends, don’t you? And you don’t share every thought that passes through your head, do you? And you probably think you’ve got your foibles — you’re not perfect — but basically you’re a pretty decent person with good taste and a sense of humor. You probably think you’re a bit above average. Or perhaps you’re feeling bad about yourself — you’re no good, talentless, whatever…. Either way, these are all just shorthand identities you’ve created for yourself.

As Tyler Durden says, “You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.” But you’re also not who you think you are. You’re not the image of yourself. You’re not your upbeat attitude or your depression or your quirky sense of humor or your conservative values. You don’t stop becoming you if you change your mind or stop identifying with the Democratic Party. You’re just you. Right?

But if you’re not any of these bits and pieces, these projections/reflections of yourself, what are you? What’s left? Maybe you’re a bit of who you used to be and a bit of who you want to be. Maybe all you are is a bunch of projections and reflections.

I don’t know. What do “you” think?

2 responses to “Identity”

  1. Imperatrix says:

    Wil, I have left this post unread since I first saw it because I was busy and your first line seemed interesting, and I didn’t want to give it short shrift. I think just like we can’t see the back or sides of ourselves, we can’t see our full personality. We don’t notice those quirks that others pick up on so quickly, but we are so drenched in our inner-life weaknesses (or maybe that’s just me), that our sense of self can be much more negative than the people around us think of us. You’re right that Facebook is blamed for tempting us to present a fake persona, but really, we do it all the time. (Who really tells all their friends how sucky a particular day was? Not me!). As long as we’re aware of this multichotomy (cause it’s much more than a dichotomy), we can keep realigning to “true”, or at least closer to a good blend of all the different personas we keep in our pocket. and maybe, not be so hard on ourselves sometimes.

  2. wil says:

    I agree — I don’t think we can really see our full selves (at least not “objectively”). I think we can be overly harsh on ourselves for certain perceived faults while at the same time being blind to faults that are obvious to others. So, yeah, I think it’s a noble goal to try to not get too hung up on any one our “selves”, to realize we’re multifaceted and constantly changing…and to be ok with that.