An Inquiry into Identity

This week we’re extending our inquiry by asking “What is the nature of the self?”

Watch this video and ponder the question above. Who are you? Are you the clothes you wear, or the group you belong to? Are you the role you play, or the brand you buy? What is the nature of the self? What makes up who you are?

Post your thoughts as a 100-200 word comment by November 6.

13 comments

  1. I think the things we say, the things we buy, and the decisions that we make on a regular daily basis all are based on our personalities, similarly to Jacques Lacan theory about literature deriving from the subconscious mind. I am not the clothes I wear or the group I belong to, but those things are just forms of expressing my individuality that could practically be endless. Like shown in the video, I agree that social rankings and gender do play a role in shaping an individual to be certain way, though there isn’t a definite set boundary from society’s gender roles that apply to every single person. An interesting point that the video brought up was the almost-always-true fact that ‘we’ tend to “spend the money we don’t have, to buy the things we don’t want, to impress the people that we don’t like.” I say this is an epitome of today’s first world problems. A crucial human need or the nature of the self, as we discussed today in class, is to have a sense of belonging, to receive approbation from other people, and so on. Buying things that are “in-trend” to impress people [strangers], especially luxurious, expensive items, gives us this ambiguous yet satisfying confidence (because those things are expensive, but come on, everyone uses it), like objects for ensuring that one is accepted into the crowd. The paradox of this whole idea is the fact that we try to be the same while being as different as possible, as if we need to be in our own singular circle, while being within a larger socially accepted circle. All of these things make up who I am and who everyone else is, though at the end of the day no person is like another, no matter how much in common 2 people may have.

  2. I think that people and their identities are greatly shaped and affected by those surrounding them- on a, younger level by the parents, and later, by friends, although both play an equally important role in the lives this individual. Humans learn through the imitation of those around them throughout their entire lives. At a young age, parents are the people who their children admire the most. Young children often imitate their parents, which is a huge part of how children learn speech, for example. Certain customs or cultures that are established within a family at a young age will remain with the children of that family for their entire lives. Information that they have learned about society through experiences has taken place with the people closest to them. As the children grow, they begin to want to establish their identity and find role models within their peer group rather than in their parents. They see a need to be different, but at the same time want to fit in. Often they prefer what is popular over what they would rather have. Personally, I don’t believe that the clothes I buy or the group I belong to fits any kind of label, and I think it is best to keep it that way. I do as I like, and I feel that this gives me freedom where labeling myself would bind me.

  3. We are affected and influenced by the people, culture, and media that we are exposed to. Humans all desire to belong to a group and to fit into a community, and one basic trait of humans is that we are judgmental. We judge people by the way the look, talk, act, or even the clothes that they wear. In this sense, the way we look defines us because of the way we are judged or misjudged by others, which can often lead to inclusion or exclusion of a community or role. However, we can also adapt to our role by changing ourselves to conform to the way society calls. People act certain ways to fall under categories and subsets, whether they are naturally the way they are, or are putting it on to fit into a certain group. The society roles we conform to define us in that they can force us to behave a certain way or have certain standards, but we can also define them through self-expression and having our own personalities.

  4. The human nature is unique and could be define variously depending on each person. So what we can say by this, is that, the human nature is distinctive and that each person has his or her own nature. Because of that, we are then inclined to become more alike to one another. In order to do so, we tend to develop our instincts from what we see from the environment, or even the media. Thus, the human nature is mostly the nature that follows one another in order to gain no difference in our environment, or in today’s world, our society. It’s the nature that occurred because in today’s society, we would never want to be looked down at for the difference we have from others. As a result, what we can see from this, is the human nature opposes to what they are given. Since we are given “difference” in life, (e.g. physical characters) we are unsatisfied with the difference, and that we have to follow others because we believe it’s right. Thus, the nature of the self can’t be defined without others, and that we can’t characterize ourselves without the environment of having another human being.

  5. Who are you? Are you the clothes you wear, or the group you belong to? Are you the role you play, or the brand you buy? What is the nature of the self? What makes up who you are?

    People are what they are trying to be. It is a well-known fact that people do not want to be alone but in groups or a community. We try to fit in with the group we consider the best, and a way to that is basically imitating what they are. This does not reflect our true identity, but it reflects our need to be included and not alone. Everyone is made differently since we were born like the video has said; we have differences in age, nationalities, genders and etc. therefore it is impossible for one to be alike as another. The society is what we want to fit into, so we must do what it is like. However, we are not what we wear or the group we belong to. Those things are external and changes with the trends. Who we are, though, is internal. Friends and parents have a huge influence on us, and they are leading us into different paths that they think are the fittest. The nature of the self is achieving what the self wants internally, and we attempt to follow our desires and ambitions. What makes up who we are is what we truly believe, but not what we are trying to act. People care about how people think about or judge them, therefore they try to be least different and blend it. However, that is not who are and will not be.

  6. People are what they are trying to be. It is a well-known fact that people do not want to be alone but in groups or communities. We try to fit in with the group we consider the best, and a way to that is basically imitating what they are. This does not reflect our true identity, but it reflects our need to be included and not alone. Everyone is made differently since we were born like the video has said; we have differences in age, nationalities, genders and etc. therefore it is impossible for one to be alike as another. The society is what we want to fit into, so we must do what everyone else is doing. However, we are not what we wear or the group we belong to. Those things are external and changes with the trends. Who we are, though, is internal. Friends and parents have a huge influence on us, and they are leading us into different paths that they think are the fittest. The nature of the self is achieving what the self wants internally, and we attempt to follow our desires and ambitions. What makes up who we are is what we truly believe, but not what we are trying to act. People care about how people think about or judge them, therefore they try to be least different and blend in. However, that is not who we are and will not be.

  7. In order to live, humans have to adapt in order to fit in with their society and the environment. We can see through the ways humans express, it can in the form of emotion and through physical actions. Each one of us has the choice. An example of emotion: families of talkative parents have a quiet child – usually the parents’ ‘aura’ takes over the child’s. An example of physical features: people who are insecure usually wear long sleeved shirts to make them feel protected. We are influenced by everything; the environment shapes who we are.

    Children are the ones with the creative ideas (the possibilities are endless), and as we grow up, the society shapes us according to what is ‘right’. Each one of us tries to be the same – to fit in. We are insecure, we’re afraid to do things differently because everyone has the right to criticize and judge you. We are scared to be different once we enter the world of ‘sameness’, and only brave ones can overcome the fear and decided to step out of the comfort zone. People need comfort – it makes us feel safe and protected.

  8. Everyone is different, the is never two of the same person. Everyone has their own interests and that is what makes an individual an “Individual”. It is human nature to be unique, but people are also shaped and formed into things they are not, through socialization and culture. Some people feel as if they have to fit into a certain stereotype just to fit in with the others. Most of the time these people are the ones with a “Fixed Mindset” and are followers, and people who actually dare to be themselves are usually the ones with the “Growth mindset. It is human nature to form a community and society, but sometimes the society or culture restrict the individualism of humans, because they might not be the stereotype that the community or society want, that is why there are so many stories in literature that shows that aspect. For example, Romeo and Juliet, they are not allowed to marry each other because in the cultural aspect, enemies can’t be married even though it’s not even their own feud. Humans are naturally unique, everyone of us is, but it just that some people don’t have the courage to express and leave the “pack” and be themselves, because they are scared of not being accepted for being who they are and do want to be an out cast to the others.

  9. Physical traits are all part of our nature in which we are without choosing. As we go through different stages of life, we tend to compare certain traits with those around us, which later on builds up our identity. Everything we have experienced throughout our lives contributes to our personal identity. What we wear everyday is basically what we are trying to express to the world. Apparently, looks can lie; therefore in some cases, you are not what you wear. This also goes the same with skin color; the skin we wear doesn’t make us a different person to who we are inside. We wear clothes not only to cover ourselves up but also to state about who we are or who we want to be, but it doesn’t erase who we are. Intentions, actions, and what we do when no one is looking are what our true identity is based on. One type of human nature is the need for belonging. People try to be the same because they fear of being different or being a stranger in the community, that’s why we try to blend in by following other people’s path.

    “You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you because you’re all the same.” – Lady Gaga

  10. We are what the circumstances shaped us to be. The way we respond or react to different circumstances tells us about ourselves. For example, we could see in “The Tempest” that Antonio was in a situation where he was kind of a “substitute” for Prospero. This led him to think more greatly about himself. He then started to want more power and authority which led him to join with Alonso to cast Prospero out. As seen in the clip, social status do shape our behavior which reflects the human nature. Antonio wanted a higher social status and he did cruel things to his brother in order to be the Duke. This shows us the human nature of greed for superiority. So, circumstances makes up a lot of who I am. What I believe also makes up who I am. When I truly believe in something such as my religion, my thoughts, my opinions, and how I think about everything will be influenced by belief. When the center of out thoughts are influenced by what we really believe, I think belief shapes everything of us since how we behave, what we do, what we say comes from our thoughts and thoughts can be influenced. The clothes we wear does not always show who we are deep inside but does show others of out status, styles, and how well our taste can fit into society. What we wear is a combination of influences from people we really want to be like and whom we thought was admired the most because humans want to be admired. For example, the reason why our fashion trends change the last 200 hundred years was because when something “unique, cool, fashionable” come up, we change to that. The actual thing that we are following is the values of the society. However, other times, we wear clothes based on what we really want to wear. But, no matter what we wear, as long as the idea of “be cool” stays, what we wear would always be affected. The human desire of wanting to stay cool, superior than other, and be admired has affected who they hang out with. Some people hangout with people they totally disagree with but they want to be popular. This shows us about the people who wanted to be popular that they care very much about other’s opinions. Other’s opinion shaped them to be who they are today. The brand we buy are affects by the society we live in. The peer pressure to buy cool brands are quite strong in some places and this reflects how humans are weak against the majority’s opinions. The human desire of always wanted to be accepted has forced people to be disgusted at their “different thoughts” and change it to match the people’s thoughts. The role we play in the society shows how the society’s values have affected us in what we do for the society. For example. the society wants amazing students who will one day be scholars, doctors, leaders..etc. These values of expectations of the society has pressured people to work on the jobs that seemed “professional” in order to be highly accepted and admired by the society. The circumstances that we are living in, the society’s values and exceptions, and our human nature of constantly needing shapes us to be who we are today.

  11. All humans are born different, and each one into different communities. The differences create identity and distinguishes the the individual from other individuals. However, humans do not work alone. Extreme individuality could isolate an individual from the communities he or she belongs to. Among their differences, humans find similarities between each other to connect and form a community. Like the video says, feminists believe humans are shaped by gender roles in society throughout history, and that is one community. As a human grows up, they are placed in different communities, and in order to cooperate and communicate well with those in the community, the human tries to find or create similarities. For example, a child is first placed in their family, their school, their interest groups, and different environments bring up a different child. This means the different communities and environment a person is put into helps shape their identity. Although this might seem like a loss of differences or identity from birth, belonging in a new community can also contribute to your identity. In the present, society has changed from when it was first created, and what you want to do – the factor that makes you, you – might not be what you get to do. The society’s desires overwhelm your own desire, and therefore the choices you make are not based on your identity. Therefore, factors such as the clothes a person wears or the job a person does might not be an accurate factor to base identity on. Their true identity might be expressed in some other form. However, I do think that a person that copes with the society’s desire well will be able to keep their real identity and show it through an important part of their life.

  12. Although feature appearances have a major role upon distinguishing individuals from others, however, the personality each individual developed throughout the courses of their life is what makes them unique, in other word it is the individual’s identity. The reason why personality is gradually developed because depending on the environment each individual is currently living in and the amount of affection they receive, it is what shape each individual upon who they are. Take Frankenstein as an example, because of the fact that he was isolated or was outcast from his own communities and may have not receive any form of affection at all, it may be one of the reasons that causes Frankenstein to act that way he did – calling for the attention of the loved ones. Thus, it shows that humans need affection.
    In my opinion, clothes, the group individuals belong to, etc. are just a piece of layer that covers the individual’s true self, where these layers could have had been added upon by the individuals themselves (being a part of the group), considering the fact that isolation is not a human need.

  13. Humans are never short of individualism. Every person is born differently, biologists would agree that (and going on about their knowledge of DNA), so would the ordinary man. I believe humans are born with 100% of their nature, the freedom to make choices, the freedom to be who they are. This is along the same line as Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on how “school kills creativity” and how he believes that the current education paradigm suppresses creative thoughts. Every child, he believes, are born creative, but the creativity decreases from time to time through the assembly line education. The individual is therefore confronted by society and their expectations. The human nature gets compromised. Humans feel the need to belong, and at certain times that once again decreases the individual in you. Everybody has their own identity, but belonging to groups, conforming to the society, slowly takes that away, just like how, according to Sir Ken Robinson, education kills creativity. The successful man knows how to keep their flair and express it amongst others.

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