Having a child makes you a mother. Being someone’s child makes you a daughter or a son. Having a sibling makes you a sister or a brother. Certain identities are clearly defined, fixed and irreversible, while others are fluid and constantly evolving. We forge our identity largely based on existing frameworks to claim our place in society and experience a sense of belonging. At what point does one identity begin to take over another?
I’ve questioned my own identity for a long time. Growing up in one country, moving abroad as an adolescent to another, and again as a young adult – for a decade each time – has enabled me to build resilience. It has encouraged me to stay curious and ever adaptable to changing surroundings. And humble. It has taught me temporality in its purest sense; the temporal nature of relationships, home, and stability. Learning to let go of old friends and make new ones soon became common practice. Mourning the loss of familiarity has eased with time.
Above all, living in different countries has taught me the temporality, or the shifting nature, of identity. Each move has shed light on another aspect of my selfhood that I had previously overlooked and which suddenly appeared so clear and comprehensible. But it is has also led me to question whether certain ideals, beliefs and communities were still serving me. I’ve shed skins again and again, and since found peace with the fluid nature of growing older and welcoming change. Moving proved to be an effective means of starting new.
Identifying with certain constructs as a result of mirroring others reveals how easily we can be fooled by beliefs which are so far removed from our true nature. Although accepting the self can be a daunting task, it is an integral part of the process of being human. We sometimes have to adapt a false identity in order to get closer to who we are as individuals but having the willingness to learn oneself, and forgive oneself, is the precedent for personal growth.
What core beliefs do you attribute to shaping your identity? How has your identity evolved over time? And what does identity mean for you?
Photo taken in Varanasi (Benares), India.