Episode #18: What exactly is identity?
Hi. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Samantha Leith Show with moi, Samantha Leith. This month, we’re frolicking around that wonderful part of us, known as our identity. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to understand exactly who you are and to love it. There’s no right or wrong answer, no right or wrong identity. Only you. So let’s have a look at what makes us, us.
What exactly is Identity?
What exactly is identity? Is it a mask we wear? A cloak we put on? Values our parents gave us? The stars we’re born under? Labels we’re given? Experiences that haunt us? A collection of the known and the unknown? I’m going with that fabulous combination that is nature and nurture, an incredible gift that we have as humans to develop as we walk through the streets of life. It’s who we are. Our names and every little piece that makes us, us. It’s fact and fantasy. From the moment of conception, the seeds of our identity are planted, growing as we do, changing with the weather, yet remaining strong in their roots, steadfast on the parts of us which we know to be 100% true to us.
Even the once thought of unchangeable parts of our identity, like gender, are now more fluid. Our knowing of who we are, at a deeper level, can override the physicality of what we were born as. People embracing what were once traits that left them as fodder in a circus line up, and showing the world with great pride who they really are, beards and all. It’s wonderful. The world is truly a melting pot of people. And I truly believe that this will get easier and easier, in spite of the few that walk the earth rejecting that which isn’t how they see perfect.
Okay, I’m going to get off my soapbox now. Where was I?
The theories of Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud
What is identity? Some very wise minds have looked into identity over the years. Two I’ll touch on here are Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud. Erik broke it down into eight stages or cycles of psychosocial theory. Trust versus mistrust, which is our infancy. Autonomy versus shame and doubt, early childhood. Initiative versus guilt, preschool. Industry versus inferiority, when we’re school age. Identity versus confusion, adolescence. Intimacy versus isolation, that young adulthood bit. Generativity versus stagnation, middle adulthood. And integrity versus despair, when we reach maturity.
Each stage building onto the next, brick by brick, with conflict, important events, and outcomes, giving us the skills we need to move on to the next, giving us an ego identity, which allows us to merge all those different versions of us into one fabulous whole us.
Freud’s theory was that we were three parts, the id, ego, and super ego. And it’s, perhaps, one of the most enduring theories of all time. We develop, at different stages of our lives, these systems within each of us. People have looked at it as the ego being the sensible part of us, and acts a guide between our super ego, our angel side, and our id, the devilish twist.
The id commands our primitive and often irrational thinking desires and urges. There’s no reality here, and it’s usually selfish by nature.
The super ego, on the other hand, is where our values and morals live, where those lessons from the world around us, from our parents to greater society, are kept. They give us our moral compass, and that unconscious voice of conscious.
These parts of our identity are held together by our ego, or as Freud said, that part of the id, which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world. It’s our conscious personality, where we know what we are thinking. Sometimes, this wise, rational general of ours is weak, and allows the pleasure seeking id to rule the roost. And it can be part of our greatest self discovery to master our ego.
The truth is, I can’t tell you who you are, what your identity is. Nobody can. All anyone can do is to guide you, help you to discover and love who you are, so you can be extraordinary. So, let’s go.
They call me Sammy. Okay, not many people actually call me Sammy, but there’s a trend at the moment going around where we do videos about all the different things we’re called. And I love it to form part of this month’s stuff on identity, because we put on all these different characters. So it’s fricking hilarious and fun that the internet is just full, at the moment, with people stepping into these crazy guises and identities that we actually all have. Actually, I encourage you, go do one. Go make a reel or a TikTok on this and tag me in it.
The pieces that help to make up our Identity
Mirriam-Webster defines identity as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual, the relation established by the psychological identification, the condition of being the same with something described or asserted, the sameness of essential generic character in different instances. But that doesn’t answer what’s in this identity menu for us, at all.
Is it the same for all of us? It’s one of the most important questions we’ll ever face. Who am I? A great number of scholars, philosophers, psychologists, religions, and more, held firm in the belief that we are immaterial souls or pure egos. John Locke stated that personal identity is a matter of psychological continuity, regardless of whose theory you want to go with. It’s still a matter of self discovery and creation. The formation of who we are, brick by brick, from birth till death, and we’ll leave what happens after death till another discussion.
Some of the following pieces of our identity are given, like ethnicity. Others, we choose, like our career. And then there’s those that are at our core, our values, gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, language, physical attributes, social class, education, location, relationships, passions, values, beliefs, career, family tree, principles, emotions, talents, skills, character, interests, tendencies. The list goes on, your goals, your dreams. All of these pieces, and so many more that I haven’t named, help us to become who we are, who we identify as. Add into the mix, the ancient wisdoms, like Western astrology or the Chinese Zodiac, and you have some other dimensions to look at and to understand.
There’s no one, “this is identity,” grid or matrix to go by. Anyone that’s studied this area tweaks it in their way because of, you guessed it, their identity.
Identity is primarily nature and nurture, as we grow. However, to be fulfilled in life, we develop our self development by asking the big questions and by choosing our own path. Did we really agree with those values that were handed down by great-great-great-great-great grandmother Ethel? Probably not. Finding one’s self may take you down dark paths and you may struggle and end up cloaking yourself with the identity of others as you go. This identity we seek, it’s never done. It’s flexible and develops as we do. It’s a component of a growth mindset that helps us in our personal development journey.
Sure, we seek self-actualization, but it’s the being okay with who you identify as, in any moment, that makes us confident and empowered in our lives.
Sometimes when you’re struggling to know who you are, you may want to, and I actually encourage you to do it, clasp onto the identity of a historical figure. Sometimes it can even be a made up figure. Is there something that’s in Wonder Woman’s character that you really wish was a part of who you are? Maybe you can put that cloak on, to walk through your life in this next phase, own that little part and then be it. You’re disciplined. You’re committed. You are a queen.
Thank you so very much for watching this week’s episode of the Samantha Leith show. I hope you’ve loved it. Please head on over to Samanthaleith.com/freebies to get the worksheet for this month. And don’t forget to spread the love, by subscribing, pointing, liking, sharing, and everything else you do with the video. And remember, however you define your identity, you are worthy, you are enough, and you are extraordinary.
🎶 I Am What I Am Songwriters: Mark Owen
© BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group
🎙️ Produced by Samantha Leith / Michael Allen Vocals by Samantha Leith
🙏 Special thanks to Stonewall Hotel Sydney for the stage!