Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

The problem with “identity” (Fixing it is up to you)

Do you know what the word of the year was in 2015? It was ”identity” according to Dictionary.com.

Why has identity become a hot topic today? Why was “identity” the word of the year in 2015? Chalk it up to the new individualism — a world where we’ve become keenly aware of, and more vocal about what defines us, thanks to the opportunity social media has unleashed to publicly assert yourself. (Ironically, despite its many blessings, social media has contributed to the problem by enabling people to create “identities” which may have nothing to do with who they really are.)

Why does personal identity matter? Because it fuels not simply a sense of who you believe you are, but as a result, the choices you make such as where to work, whom to call a friend (or enemy), and indeed which political candidate gets your vote.

Taken together, our identity-centric lives are coalescing into potent, new communities demarcated by beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, that increasingly influence how well society functions — or doesn’t — economically, socially and politically.

So, what’s the problem?

For all the attention this “identity trend” is receiving, it reinforces an impression that actually diminishes rather than expands upon what it means to be fully human. Indeed, the notion of “identity politics” undermines the deeper meaning of human identity.

The actual ‘problem with identity’ may be a matter of meaning. As the word of the year in 2015,identity’ suggests the timeless fact that we all long to belong. We yearn to tie ourselves to a group, a tribe, a community we can call our own. But that isn’t the deepest meaning of the word.

What I’ve learned over three decades is that your essential identity – your distinctive, value-creating characteristics – springs naturally from the core of your being – a place that is blind to classifications, transcending gender, ethnicity, religion, and every other label we adopt as a way to locate ourselves in the world. You are simply you: unique and powerful in your own right.

With this in mind, identity’s 2015 “word win” may reflect the sobering fact that it was the most used, least understood term out there.

When your definition of identity is based upon a descriptive label rather than the special contribution you’re capable of making as an individual, you short-change yourself, those you care most about, and society as a whole. Why? Because, to paraphrase a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, you leave your music inside.

How you can help fix the identity problem

It’s pretty simple. To borrow another quote from Holmes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Don’t let the pull of labels or social media distract you from tapping into and applying your innate identity to your life. Everyone will benefit including your co-workers, your friends, your children, your spouse or partner and, most of all, you.

At bottom, having a clear sense of identity is the key to shaping a life marked by authenticity and integrity –- knowing what to do, what not to do, and why.

Here’s one more quote to take away. It’s from British artist, illustrator and teacher, Evelyn Mary Dunbar: “We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”

I hope you agree.

 

 

 

Post By Larry Ackerman (69 Posts)

I’m the author of two groundbreaking books on identity. The first is Identity Is Destiny: Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation. It’s for leaders – and those aspiring to lead – who want new and innovative insights into what accounts for success over the long term. The other book is The Identity Code: The 8 Essential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World. This work is for individuals who want to live more fulfilling, meaningful, productive lives. Bottom line: I help companies and individuals realize that they’ll be much more successful being themselves than acting like somebody else. In short, I help my clients find their true identity. When you find it, you have no competition. NOBODY can beat you at being you – especially if you consistently reinterpret your identity in ways that keep you fresh and relevant to the world around you.

Website: →

Connect

  • claude singer says:

    Great post, Larry. I share your disdain for the popular, superficial notions of identity. But still, isn’t your definition a bit deterministic? — or maybe that’s the point!

    I “identify” as a fan of yours. — Claude

    July 7, 2016 at 3:18 pm
  • Larry Ackerman says:

    Claude, thanks for weighing here. If by “deterministic” you mean pre-determined, then, yes. I believe that the seeds of our identities are formed at conception and who we are never changes…BUT, how we express who we are can change countless times. Thus, the Identity paradox.

    July 7, 2016 at 5:10 pm
  • Don Lawrence says:

    Hi Larry,
    I am glad to see you are taking your attention off of politics. The current quagmire is one of the worst we’ve seen, but historically, all of the political maneuvers are that way.
    I submit the following personal political philosophy, as personal policy policy: Obey the laws of your democratic city, county, state, and nation. That’s it…
    It’s so simple!

    September 29, 2016 at 7:43 am

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.