5 MIN READ
Driven in large part by political beliefs and values, in recent years there has been increased attention given to the concept of identity. From LGBTQ+ rights to racial equality there has been an interrogation on our identity: where we came from, how we currently identify and how we should be treated. While identity politics is fighting some very necessary equality battles and empowering a cross-section of people to be their authentic selves we believe there is not only a critical facet of identity which is being left out – that which is emotional – but that understanding our emotional selvies can help us to unlock what it means to be ‘me’. How well do you really know your emotional self? How true to your emotional self are you being? What are your needs and wants? What is your emotional identity?
As the wonderful Audre Lorde notes, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” Unfortunately, so many of us end up crunched into others’ ideas of what we are and who we should be. Taking the time and space to explore our sense of self, wants and needs can help us to gain clarity on our own life paths and consider what it is we want in our lives.
Understanding your identity and including emotional identity has a positive impact on your overall well being. Research shows people who have established their identity are in touch with their emotions, making them more resilient and less likely to be depressed or anxious.What is more, when we know what it is that we want in life, we live more authentically. Authenticity is linked to higher self-esteem, life satisfaction, vitality and adaptive life strategies, meaning… you can roll with the punches and you’re more resilient.
As has been brought to the fore with the rise of ‘intersectionality’ in fourth wave feminism and the LGBTQ+ movement, identity is multifaceted, complex and fluid. We are at once ‘me’ and ‘we’, a sister, a mother, a girlfriend, a friend, an employee – and that does not even begin to include our ethnicity, race, national identity, sexuality or any of our preferences, needs or desires. And none of that is fixed, our identity is always in flux, transient and constantly evolving.
However, for the purposes of the Paradym process and to begin your journey into understanding your emotional identity, we have settled on a definition of identity. At Paradym we define identity as “A person’s self-definition in terms of goals, values, beliefs and behaviours whether chosen, established, or ascribed, that ultimately provides direction, purpose and meaning in life”.
Identity is formed in a number of ways, but we can create our identity in three key ways. The first is quantitatively. Our quantitative identity is part of what technocrats called The Quantified Self, a rational way to explore yourself which includes tracking your movements, feelings and behaviours to deepen your understanding of yourself.
The second, is passively. Your identity is formed passively when you don’t want to confront components of your identity and instead are complicit in the way your identity is formed.
The final way identity can be formed is automatically. Automatic identity formation is when you adopt the identity of significant others and internalize their goals and values. An example of this is when we accept everything our parents tell us to be true.
Identity plays a fundamental part of our sense of self. Thus, understanding the origins of our identity and the ways in which our identity was formed become key ‘data points’. These ‘data points’ can help us to understand what we need to do in order to become our authentic selves.
With the rise in phenomena such as photoshop and filters encouraging us to display a performed and fake sense of identity, the notion of the ‘authentic self’ has garnered quite a lot of interest in recent years. However, while the concept of authenticity seems relatively simple, loosely defined as ‘being true to yourself’, living authentically is not as easy as it may first appear.
We believe authenticity has four key components; awareness, honesty, behaviour and relationship realness. As you will know if you have been traveling on your Paradym journey, awareness is the first Paradym Pillar and comes up again here because it is the foundation of everything. Becoming aware of our identity and identity formation is the first step towards authenticity.
The second is about honesty – this is applying everything we know from awareness. We often tell ourselves a story or a false narrative that is destructive to our identity. A very common narrative, which is exacerbated by the present of social media is that we must be beautiful, wealthy, famous in order to have a rich, fulfilling, loving and successful life, and yet in the present moment we feel we are in fact, none of those things.
The thing about these false narratives is they are often very exaggerated and extreme. Rather than getting attached to these sorts of narratives, being honest and taking stock of yourself without denying, exaggerating, minimizing or ignoring positive or negative parts of yourself can help you come to terms with yourself.
It is only with this greater self awareness and self honesty can we then start to change our behaviour, putting this insight into action and start to act in a more authentic way – living according to our values, needs and wants. It then follows that once you have this greater sense of authenticity in yourself, you will be able to practice it in your relationships – being honest and genuine in your close relationships.
As with many of the topics we explore throughout the Paradym process, identity is complex and multifaceted. We will begin with awareness and honesty – helping you to identify who you are and how you were formed. We will then start to dive deeper into goals, values and beliefs exploring the behaviours which will enable you to achieve these. We will also explore societies’ influence on us – ‘me to we’, the role of family, culture as well as how identity relates to sexuality and gender. Ultimately, the aim is to find a sense of balance and harmony in our sense of identity. Identity may be complex but if we understand what, how and why we can start to feel a sense of acceptance and tranquility in what it means to be us.