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06 November 2013 @ 08:49 am
Identity musings  
I've been trying to write this entry for a month, so may as well the unfinished entry go out and bather things, rather than waiting for perfection to strike.

I've been thinking a lot lately about identities. National Coming Out Day sort of sparked this chain of thinking, and then some other well-placed articles furthered it along. If you asked me what my identity was, I could probably respond with a series of adjectives and nouns, some of which describe single characteristics, others which function as shorthand for varied interests, professions, and practices that can give someone an approximation of what those mean as I implement them. Those are generally self-chosen adjectives, and are both positive and negative.

Then [personal profile] kate talked about how love memes can sometimes cause issues of self-esteem, based on whether anyone nominates you, and what they comment on if you have a nomination, and that seems tied into things of identity, too - if other people talk about adjectives different than the ones you would use yourself, then the idea of having people talk positively about you can backfire.

That happened in my annual evaluation, actually - lots of positive talk about my ability to work with technology and make things accessible to users and troubleshoot problems, which is nice and lovely, but as a youth librarian, not necessarily what you want as your main selling point, y'know? There was also good things about things more directly relevant, like enjoyable story sessions and reader advisory knowledge, but there's sometimes a worry of "well, i f you don't talk positively about me in the job I have, if scenarios like budgets change, does that mean someone will think I'm not good at my job, even though there's all this other lovely stuff about me there?"

And then there's the question of adjectives brought on by scenarios that aren't positive, at least at their outset. Things like the list of things Real Dreamwidth Programmers Do, for example, which suggests that people's identities sometimes are influenced by the less-than-brilliant things they do, if there's a supportive community around (one that encourages building confidence first, so that competence can be learned and there's resilience in the face of failure, for example). How many of those adjectives need to be adopted to be accurate, even if they aren't nice?

Finally, there's the question of definition. What adjectives and nouns compromise identity, and how do you tell? As a working guide, I tend to think of identity as involving those adjectives and nouns, that if removed or changed, would produce a significant enough deviation from "what I/they are now" that I/a reasonable person would say they/me is a different person without it.

With all of that in mind, though, I kind of feel like I don't have an identity, because I don't think of my adjectives as being that essential to me. (The Zen master says, "Excellent! Make your nothing No Thing, and all will be well.") There aren't physical characteristics or orientations or other such things to come out about or have to deal with other people judging someone by, and my job, while a lovely thing, isn't so defining that I can't think of other possible professions as working for me. Which sort of leads to two possible interpretations (those finding Third Options are welcome to share):
  1. All of these adjectives really aren't enough to be defining on their own, which suggests a lack of commitment to things (which isn't necessarily true).
  2. The more likely one is that I'm not savvy enough at self-awareness to notice which of those adjectives really are more or an identity thing. Which is sort of how things like the love memes were useful - checking in to see what adjectives other people were seeing. (And then doing the bad thing and comparing them against my own opinion of my failures.)
So, I'm of two minds about this, because some part of me says that without a defining identity item (or set of items), then I'm not serious about anything, but some other part says that not being defined by one thing (or a handful of things) makes me flexible enough to adapt to all sorts of things.

I suppose, if there's an answer, it's something like "The Way that can be named is not the eternal Way." Since right now is more, "A good man? Yes, But I confess, I don't know what they mean..."


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nancylebov: green leavesnancylebov on November 6th, 2013 05:00 pm (UTC)
I think identity is weird, and people construct it in very different ways.

I used to find it very odd to have a name and a face. I've more or less gotten used to it, and I recently found out that I'm not the only one with the same relationship to those very ordinary facts. Pathology? Normal variation?

You may have a similar loose relationship to some standard adjectives.
Silver Adept: Defaultsilveradept on November 8th, 2013 06:31 am (UTC)
Quite possible. Thanks for the input.
lilacstarprint: pic#109556630lilacstarprint on November 7th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
Nothing wrong with having more than one "identity". It just means that you're an ever-changing canvas keeping step with the annals of time which is also ever changing.
Silver Adept: Defaultsilveradept on November 8th, 2013 06:33 am (UTC)
I'm not sure it's a case of having more than one identity to change between, but not having one in the first place, because there's nothing strongly thought enough to count.
lilacstarprint: pic#109556630lilacstarprint on November 8th, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
Just like a canvas..... or a notebook page. You can fill it with anything. Doesn't mean you find it worth showing around. But you can still fill it with many different things.