Identity is a squirrelly thing, because it is the thing most tightly gripped in each individual’s palm, and yet that might mean aspects of it go partly unseen. And so identity, or naming and claiming any aspect of it, becomes a risk for the individual, because that self-claimed thing may be well known to her—may be as comfortable and dear as her heartbeat—but maybe be shrugged off as nominal or, worse, overlooked entirely by others.
And when this happens, she is made to wonder if she is at all right about herself, as she sees the identifications—the self-truths—she has claimed passed over, even in situations when others seek the thing she knows she has. Identity becomes a lonely island, a dark shop in the corner of the square that people hurry past.
It is the beliefs of others that dictate the power of a self-claimed truth. And so in this way identity becomes corporate, belonging to all. We have observed it and we agree that it is true. Or, we have never seen it, and so it must not be as you imagine.
Then the individual finds herself at an impasse: either she must find a way to retain her belief that a particular thing is so in spite of either active or passive ignorance in others, or she must give it up, diminish it, put it away in a box until friendlier contexts emerge—or she may cast it away entirely. We can renounce things we thought we knew. We can change.
And yet not all aspects of a corporately held identity are bad. Thanks to it, we can create believers for moments we can’t hold belief—for the moments we’re ready to let what we knew of ourselves fall from our fingers into the dirt. Others can, for a time, help us with our burden of self-awareness, and when we are ready to carry this self-knowledge again, they send it back into us as of by tipping a lit candle to an unlit light, and in this way we both keep it, and in this way, we are more likely to preserve it.
Today’s prompt: What makes you ‘you’? We all wear many hats in our lives, and different aspects of our identity are magnified in various situations and life phases. Write about one aspect of your identity – what does it mean to you? What would it mean if that aspect was changed/challenged/shaken?