Your construction of your identity

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Your construction of your identity

Post by Jayce on Fri Aug 07, 2015 7:02 am

I've always seen myself as an underdog. I've been wondering what everyone thinks about the identities we form for ourselves and how it impacts us, I don't think I'm some special snowflake that is different from other people, i think I'm an underdog because I've haven't been successful with a lot of my life and I don't have much stand out talent.

The good things I've gotten from this is that I'm willing to try things, I'm willing to be uncomfortable. I'm not good at anything anyway so I just have to go try hard and learn it. When I do succeed I feel really happy like yay! I'm consistently socialising! Achievement! Even if its not big deal to people who already know how to do this.

Something negative I've gotten from this is that when I screw up I think yeah I'm a loser, I have been for all my life. Another is that I tend to think about all those fantasy novels and manga where the underdog does succeed and wondering when I'm going to make that happen or why haven't I made it happen yet.

What do you guys think about the things you think about yourselves? Should it be avoided? Is it inevitable? Do you all have identities for yourselves or is it something that only few people do?

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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Aug 07, 2015 9:24 am

Very interesting thread. For my part... I don't think I have a very strong sense of identity. Advice like finding my archetype to develop style leaves me scratching my head, wondering what on Earth my archetype might be. Now, I have a lot of self-awareness, but in a not seeing the forest for the trees kind of way, I have little sense of how the whole fit together.

An upside to this is probably that I have less of an identity to hold on to, less reason to do a thing because that's what someone like me would so. A downside is that I'm confused about my own feelings, and about other things about myself – most of my threads in the forums are about that. Another is as I mentioned that I don't have a lot to work from when I read advice about self-presentation.

As for things I do know about myself, I've been better at absorbing positive feedback lately. I know myself now to interesting, intelligent, and likeable, as well as attractive to a certain subset of the population.

And then another thing that comes to mind is how I thoroughly reinvented myself when I was fifteen – the outer part of my identity, how I make other people see me. Even though that wasn't my intention at the time... I was just very fond of the kind of surrealism/absurdism/weirdness of people like Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and the Norwegian authors Bing & Bringsværd, and wanted to try to emulate it, by doing funny, out-of-place stuff myself. So I went about with projects like trying to substitute the phrase "here's the daily news" for "hello" as a greeting, did it persistently for years, but it didn't cach on. Or in the present, I act as a cuckoo clock imitator: That is when I remember it I say "cuckoo" the appropriate amount of times as the clock turns.

This over the top weirdness was very liberating for me at the the time. Life until then I'd spent with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome, and experienced much friction between me and others because of my temper, but also because the uncanny valley kind of weirdness about me. Being weird on my own terms made the part less frustrating to play; being weird in an identifiable way made it easier for other to relate.

The downside was that I didn't really feel I fit in any better, I just got along with people better. And after a while, I started overplaying to an extent that made people shy away again, and it took a while longer before I managed to tone it down.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by reboot on Fri Aug 07, 2015 9:31 am

I think all people have some self labels. In some cases (like Jayce and me, it seems) there is one dominant one, but I bet others have a few and probably ones that rotate in and out of dominance based on the situation.

Mine would be fighter for lost causes, partially based on my personality (I tend towards the combative) and partially based on the family mythology. My bedtime stories were always about valiant miners killed in strikes, brave serfs in uprisings, or Polish nationalists who fought for freedom from the Prussians, Hapsbergs, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Germans, Russians, and whoever else occupied Poland.

The good things I get from this identity is my willingness to take on difficult tasks in difficult fields and keep trying to make changes/progress  and to intervene in situations when I see something that is wrong or someone is being hurt.

The bad things is it can lead me to spend a lot of effort on something that is doomed to failure and can occasionally blind be to alternative paths to the same goal. This is why I ltry to make sure I work in a team or I would be that officer charging the Panzers with a sword and a horse.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by BasedBuzzed on Fri Aug 07, 2015 11:02 am

Trickster/jester archetype.

Pros: ability to get away with saying outrageous stuff because people know I'm trying to provoke, ability to make a point without receiving flak for it because the medicine is giving with laughter, creativity.

Cons: prevents serious investment in anything because failures can be reconstructed as pratfalls, directness feels like breaking character, malevolent side goes largely unchecked.

Mechanism in action: I instantly think back to the This Troper series when typing this out while a voice screams "self-identifying as an archetype is USI"(example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VejKTPkukcY - done by goons so the hypocrisy is hilarious).

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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Guest on Fri Aug 07, 2015 11:03 am

Unfortunately, my self-label is "joke to everyone I know", but I don't see how I couldn't apply that label. When you look at how people have treated me my whole life, from my family, to school, to work, to attempts to forge a social life outside of work, all the evidence is pointing in one direction.

The question I always ask myself is: can they all be wrong? Of course they can't.

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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Enail on Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:11 pm

Pagliacci, huge groups of people are wrong about things all the time! Or, another way to think about it, maybe 'joke to everyone you know' is where you stand socially right now - but that's not an omniscient label that covers every aspect of who you are and who you could be, it's just something based on how people (lead by a bunch of jerks) currently interact with you. They don't see any of what's inside you. Can you imagine any kind of way of thinking about yourself that's not based on how others interact with you?

For myself, I follow Reboot's theory and probably have a whole bunch of self-labels for different circumstances. Partial outsider is a pretty strong one for me, I always feel a little out of sync with any cohesive group, and tend to define myself in some ways in opposition to that. The good aspect is it makes me comfortable with being different or not fitting in well; the bad aspect is that it makes me contrary, if I feel like everyone in the group is X, I feel almost compelled to bring out the Y side of myself just to rebel a little, which is a pretty silly way to act.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:25 pm

I see myself as a stubborn person. When I decide I am going to do something, I am going to be working on that thing either for a very long time or until it is done.

A few times growing up, we lost track of a Gameboy game we wanted to play with, and rather than find something else to do I would exasperate my sister and parents by going over the house with a metaphorical toothbrush in search of it. It'd often take all day (probably six hours or so?) but I'd find it. "It'll turn up" was not an attitude that made sense to me then, and it still doesn't now (I can now accept that it makes sense to other people, but I'm not going to give up on something just because somebody else would).

This serves me pretty well in the occupational field I've landed in; long hours of intense focus are kind of an implicit expectation (even though some bosses have guilty feelings at me about it, they don't not have that expectation). If I decide there must be a "perfect" solution to a particular problem, it occupies my mind both at work and elsewhere until I have it figured out enough that I can explain it to my coworkers.

Also feeds the part of my identity that is "the reliable one". I don't ignore RSVP requests or click Maybe. If I Decline I'm not changing my mind later. If I Accept I'm going to be there.

But the attitude is perhaps less helpful when the task is evidently impossible and frustrating and I'm just bashing against a wall but still can't just stop. South-Going Zax won't take a single step East.




Otherwise though I mostly see myself as a bland boring "0.58 child". I can never come up with an extensive list of hobbies or things I regularly "do" or active-participation things I am interested in doing, and consequently exaggerate the degree to which I do things other than work, think about work, and read in bed (because that is not a good answer to the interview question). I sort-of know math, sort-of know/remember small things about the cultures I'm "ethnically" associated with, sort-of care about <anything>. Liked by most people but not loved except by Clingy Parents. I've been in the same room as someone else, or even standing directly in front of them, and had them not realize I was there.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Guest on Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:52 pm

Enail wrote:Pagliacci, huge groups of people are wrong about things all the time! Or, another way to think about it, maybe 'joke to everyone you know' is where you stand socially right now - but that's not an omniscient label that covers every aspect of who you are and who you could be, it's just something based on how people (lead by a bunch of jerks) currently interact with you. They don't see any of what's inside you. Can you imagine any kind of way of thinking about yourself that's not based on how others interact with you?

The problem is that for me it's not based just on how people think of me now, it's how people have always thought of me and treated me my whole life. To say that all these people, from every period of my life, from everywhere I've been, who have all independently of each other come to the same conclusion about me....to say that they're all wrong would be lying to myself. How can I think of myself any other way? It would be like the people on TV talent shows who audition despite having no talent at all, and then lash out at the judges and insist they don't know what they're talking about when told they don't have what it takes.

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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Enail on Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:34 pm

Pagliacci wrote:
The problem is that for me it's not based just on how people think of me now, it's how people have always thought of me and treated me my whole life. To say that all these people, from every period of my life, from everywhere I've been, who have all independently of each other come to the same conclusion about me....to say that they're all wrong would be lying to myself. How can I think of myself any other way? It would be like the people on TV talent shows who audition despite having no talent at all, and then lash out at the judges and insist they don't know what they're talking about when told they don't have what it takes.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that what they think/have thought of you is only based on one aspect of you. On a TV talent show, the only aspect that matters is the performance, so if the contestant can't perform well and argues with the judges, they're ignoring the evaluation of people who are in a position to evaluate the performance. The judges aren't saying anything about how kind they are or how brave or honest - they don't know that based on the part that they see and wouldn't treat the performance as saying something about the person as a whole. And you are more than just the performance of social interaction that other people are seeing. Your social skills might be limiting your ability to convey other aspects of yourself in a way that allows other people to recognize them, but that doesn't mean those other aspects of you don't exist. People are more than their social skills.

This is probably getting to be a bit of a tangent, so if you'd like to continue this train of thought, I'll split it off into a new thread.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:53 pm

Probably the strongest labels I have for myself are "average" and "wish I had a label."

It's interesting, as I tend to view our culture (Western/American) as placing a lot of emphasis on being special, on being unique, on there something being totally awesome and amazing and special about you that nobody else has. I've spent years searching for that thing that makes me unique and special, that thing that if the fate of the world depended on that particular talent or skill, I could maybe step up and do it!

But in the last few years, I've realized that I just don't have anything like that. In fact, I am average and unremarkable to the point where I can't even properly fit a label. Labels or archetypes demand some kind of "specialness"... it hasn't been that I'm too unique for a label, it's that I can never achieve enough of a trait to own that label. I'm too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise. Yet at the same time, my flaws prevent me for truly blending in.

So much of my identity is based on trying desperately to suppress my identity, either to try to be extraordinary when I am quite average, or try to average when I am in fact below it.

I've also tried desperately to build my identity around how other people see me. I have a bit of a "sky is green" problem; nearly any trait I subscribe to myself, no one else agrees with. Positive, negative, doesn't matter, no matter what I see, people see the opposite. So my identity has become kind of.... bifurcated, where I have "inner me" (who I see in the mirror) and "outer me" (who other people see.)* I almost never assign myself labels when talking with other people, because the labels are always exclusively about "inner me", and that doesn't describe the version of me that others interact with.

It can be exhausting, however, because while people disagree with the traits I assign myself (if I label myself as stubborn, other people insist they don't see it), people also don't assign traits to me spontaneously. I'm not "the reliable one" or "the one who always makes jokes" or "the Mom of the group" or "the flighty one" or anything. Other people just.... don't see me.

And I think that is becoming more and more a part of my internal and external identity: the one no one sees, remembers, or thinks about. Sometimes it's sad to think about the fact that no matter how hard I try, I just don't have impacts on people's lives. I'm like the Silence; you forget me as soon as I'm gone. It's going to make for a lonely funeral.


*Good example: any time I think I look super cute in the mirror, other people see me as average or ugly. Nearly any time I feel genuinely ugly, people spontaneously tell me how cute I am.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:01 pm

Hirundo Bos wrote: I don't think I have a very strong sense of identity.

Get an outside opinion. I've found that a lot of people with that feeling are simple not giving themselves credit for the things that everyone else sees in them.

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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:07 pm

Gentleman Johnny wrote:
Hirundo Bos wrote: I don't think I have a very strong sense of identity.

Get an outside opinion. I've found that a lot of people with that feeling are simple not giving themselves credit for the things that everyone else sees in them.

Okay, what if the outside opinion is also "Yeah, you're just there"? I ask because sometimes I get the impression that there's this idea that when certain things are said, the automatic assumption is that the speaker has low self-esteem, and just doesn't realize how many people love them/value them/think highly of them. But what if the speaker is actually self-aware, and they truly are one of those people that folks just... don't really notice or bother with?
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Enail on Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:23 pm

I think there's a difference between not having a strong sense of your own identity and not thinking there's anything distinctive about you. From the inside, I often feel much too amorphous and situational to really feel like any particular label or package of identity suits me, but that doesn't mean I don't think I manifest any particular qualities more strongly than others, or that other people aren't able to come up with labels for me.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by The Wisp on Fri Aug 07, 2015 5:27 pm

I would say for me it is "different". Sort of like enail's partial outsider, but more extreme and applied to individual people as well as groups. I don't really feel like I can relate to other people very well, and whenever I interact with others there's always a feeling that something is missing, like they don't really understand me. On the positive side, I think this has allowed me to avoid toxic people and groups and also makes me less susceptible to groupthink. But on the negative, it make it really hard to connect with people, or to even find people I want to connect with, and it makes existing loneliness worse. Also, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what I actually believe on certain topics because I only know what I don't believe, but not what I do believe.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by bomaye on Fri Aug 07, 2015 7:54 pm

I think of myself as "the rejected." The things I liked or the things I gravitated too were not of interest to most other people, and it always seemed like they got the "normal people" handbook and mine got lost in the mail. Any time I tried to be "normal" or even just fit in with a specific subgroup ("geek" being the biggest one, but even among the freaks and geeks, their hierarchies and social structures are still like "normal" people) it didn't really work out the best, which didn't help things at all. Like any "rejected" I go through phases of being mad at "them", being sad that I'm not like "them" and wishing "they" would('ve) accept(ed) me, and being fine with not being "them" as long as "they" leave me alone.

I've kind of felt more like I never really constructed an identity as much as tried to fend off those with a shared identity or shared understanding. That fending off or deflecting has kind of changed a bit over the years, I think these days it's mostly a combination of trying to be a chameleon and trying to be invisible about it.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by readertorider on Fri Aug 07, 2015 10:14 pm

I've always thought of myself as improbable. As a kid I had a speech impediment and a ridiculous amount of allergies and read several hours a day and scored at the extreme end of most tests (sports in one direction, academic contests in another Wink). My parents were generous in letting me follow my interests--e.g. I loved balloons, so one year we went to a hot air balloon festival and watched them take off-- and I had a lot of unusual interests. Even now I have an apparently unusual combination of traits/hobbies/social groups and it amuses me when I mention another aspect of my life to someone who's only seen one facet of me and you can see the cognitive dissonance at work. My college people were great because they mostly rolled with whatever.

IDK, I guess I've always seen myself as slightly different (only girl surrounded by a bunch of boys, only white person on the dragonboat team, only person who would rather read than go to prom or the YMCA), which made it seem like seeming more different wouldn't be too much of a hardship especially if I got to do things like call a chocolate chip pancake and icecream burrito a balanced breakfast, or hang out with whoever takes my fancy, or stack all the condiments at a cafeteria table, or even sit differently from everyone else. I also typically read as meek/quiet/shy (some fraction of people have said I'm definitely shy, some have laughed at the idea) so I don't think anyone sees these behaviors as 'attention seeking' which helps somewhat.

My personal identity is "I am me" and I have a very good shrug for people who are confused by me. Obviously I've been very lucky that people have been generally accepting of me doing my thing which is probably rather different than the experiences other people have had.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Hirundo Bos on Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:34 pm

Enail wrote:I think there's a difference between not having a strong sense of your own identity and not thinking there's anything distinctive about you. From the inside, I often feel much too amorphous and situational to really feel like any particular label or package of identity suits me, but that doesn't mean I don't think I manifest any particular qualities more strongly than others, or that other people aren't able to come up with labels for me.

I think that's how it is for me, too, it's from the inside view I feel a bit amorphous. Come to think of it, I do have some things I identify with. Like writing. Or my long hair, because it's been with me since I was fifteen. My interest in nerd-stuff. My preference for theoretical thinking. My small eccentricities... maybe I'm not that amorphous after all.

I agree though that getting an outside view would probably help me make it clearer. Although the idea really scares me for some reason...

When it comes to being indistinctive, I don't think that about myself at all. Quite the opposite, I know I have a tendency to stick out, be someone people remember.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Caffeinated on Sat Aug 08, 2015 6:39 pm

The longer I live, the more I feel that my identity is shaped by geography, culture, family, experiences, and various other environmental influences. The ways in which I stand out from those around me seem like the intersections of some of those disparate influences. For example, if I'm different from someone who's lived in this city their whole life, it's partly due to having lived in certain other places. If I'm different from someone with a very similar class and educational background, it might be because of my religious upbringing. Etc etc.
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by Werel on Sat Aug 08, 2015 6:56 pm

Like lots of people, I guess I have a number of identity labels that surface depending on the situation. A big one's probably "cleric" (in the RPG sense), but I've got mixed feelings about that identity. Upsides are a willingness to step in on behalf of people being hurt or marginalized, a pretty large reserve of emotional patience, a genuine fondness for humanity, a drive to be of service to others, and leanings towards the metaphysical. Downsides are that I'm a pretty easy mark for con artists, manipulative jerks, and anybody else who gets a whiff of a bleeding heart; I sometimes have a hard time asking for help from other people cause that's MY job; and, especially when I was younger, I could get in way over my head with people who needed Serious Professional Help and/or were emotional leeches.

"Weirdo" is definitely another salient identity (probably the same as what others are calling "outsider"), with somewhat fleshed out sub-identities like "movie taste weirdo," "grim jokes weirdo," "sex weirdo," "worldview weirdo," etc. I've always been able to slip comfortably between different social groups, but as a marked outsider, which is how I prefer it. Everybody seems to get that there are parts of me that would be unpalatable to them if I were to expose them, and that I have other outlets for other parts of myself; I get to keep the complete picture of me pretty private, and that's nice in a way. Upsides are near-immunity to peer pressure, a sense of fond camaraderie with other weirdos, resistance to dogmatism, and that wonderful moment of disarmament when someone expects X from you but gets Y instead (e.g. as a punk kid with green hair, adults would lose their SHIT when I rolled up all polite and well-spoken). Downsides are... well, actually, I've never for a moment wished I weren't on Team Weirdo. The downsides don't really feel like downsides to me.

Seeing a lot of "outsider" themes in people's self-described identities here, which must explain why I like you guys. Razz
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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by litterature on Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:17 pm

Imo feeling that you are stuck with a particular limitation isn't a bad thing if that encourages you to move forward. I also agree that the images that allow us to see ourselves are structured so that the dominant one isn't always the same, but I think they orbit around some point in your personality which you don't necessarily have an image for (that came out a bit wanky lol).

Personally, I feel like I can never be what I supposedly already am, so I always feel like I've got to work harder to learn more stuff, produce more stuff and become me. A bit like "fake it until you fake it until you fake it until you fake it until you fake it", but I think I'm finally beginning to fall into a more comfortable position... also for the first time ever there are parts of my life where I'm not the "new kid", although I still stand out a bit because I've taken a lot of detours to be where I am if that makes any sense.

Other than that, I'd be really happy cooking for everyone. It's a bit odd to choose that as a label for yourself, but I really love to make little things for people and food is the most fun to share...

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Re: Your construction of your identity

Post by DoubtfulGuest on Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:00 pm

litterature wrote:Personally, I feel like I can never be what I supposedly already am, so I always feel like I've got to work harder to learn more stuff, produce more stuff and become me. A bit like "fake it until you fake it until you fake it until you fake it until you fake it", but I think I'm finally beginning to fall into a more comfortable position... also for the first time ever there are parts of my life where I'm not the "new kid", although I still stand out a bit because I've taken a lot of detours to be where I am if that makes any sense.

litterature, I really relate to this. I still feel a lot of pressure to "produce", rather than "be", and maybe I've been putting a disproportionate level of emphasis on that. I'm certainly not getting that sort of criticism from anyone who knows me.

I have a hard time finding a niche in the sense of finding some sort of "clique"...I've never identified with a particular subculture or anything like that. Never felt comfortable in...alternative? Hip?...circles. Part of this is just me being neurotic, and feeling like I don't want to have to maintain a look or persona that doesn't feel natural to me. I dress fairly conservatively and try to maintain a mellow, kind of goofy, generally non-confrontational attitude because that's what's comfortable for me (people are very rarely hostile to me, and if they are, it's generally not personal). I sort of embrace not being "cool", and gently joke about it. Ironic detachment doesn't work for me-I tried it briefly in my teens, and it didn't feel right for me then. It's not that I don't find a lot of things unintentionally funny (as someone who enjoys rifling through old records at Goodwill in search of terrible album covers) but part of why I'm really drawn to unintentionally absurd media is a sort of recognition of shared human vulnerability and dorkiness-I wouldn't want to stand out by putting other people down for not being hip enough.

(this is not to say there's anything wrong whatsoever with expressing yourself through alternative fashions or whatever. If it works for you, go for it! It's just not the only way to express yourself)

I've often hovered on the periphery of "geek" circles, but I never really got into competitive gaming or anything similarly social, partially out of a reluctance to be the "newbie" or novice, and having to initially fail or struggle in front of others. However...I really do make connections with people more organically. I've been in my current area for a little under a year, and I'm starting to develop some solid friendships. People invite me to stuff. I have a much easier time relating to people with similar personalities rather than just interests. Before I moved, I was part of a really solid pub trivia group that met weekly for several years, and the folks in it weren't uniform in any way.
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