identity is not a matter for the individual alone

People are different. That might seem a bit of an understatement, but the truth is that we tend to assume similarity between us and others far more than is the case. The best symptom, relevant and explemary of this, is gifts gotten from relatives during the holidays. Somehow a dear, lovely person picks out the most horrendous, unappealing gift for you that you certainly will never use. A great gift, something that you actually would adore and love, is very rare, because people tend to buy things for other people that they themselves would enjoy. We assume similarity, so if you would adore a giant oil painting of a cat in translucent-purple glittery heels, of course so would they! Who we are is so rooted in us, we don’t even realize it’s our experiences giving us this bias.

Therefore, when it comes to finding out who you are, as a person, it’s hard. How can you somehow decode what you’ve been assuming your whole life? How do you know what you’ve been assuming? People are different, yes, but how we are different is harder to put our finger on. With the inflation of education, college is the new required norm. Higher education means more time in school, which means more time for trying to find out who we are, as people. For those between the ages of 12 and 28, the question of identity never seems to let up because it’s still being developed. Yet, in this age, even those who are older (or perhaps younger) are needing to re-ask that question of themselves: who are you?

America is a very western, individualistic culture. We think of things in the individual, the singular being, as if we were singular beings in little separated boxes. Humans are social creatures, and our bonds connect us and give us purpose. We like to think that one person can accomplish something amazing, but the truth is that one person can accomplish something amazing by inspiring lots of people to work together for that one goal. No great deed is truly done alone. Everyone you know, they know a bit of you. The mind of the herd shouldn’t necessarily define you, but we use bits of the whole to define ourselves.

Identity is a hard thing to understand, it takes time and lots of questions and trials and errors. What might help us along the way is finding people who see the greatest version of you, people who want you to truly care about and support you. You don’t necessarily have to follow the path people expect you walk, but advice from others can help you find the right one. Identity is what defines an individual, but it’s not a thing that occurs in isolation.

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