What is meant by identity?

Essay by cat_miaoow1 January 2008

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IntroductionPart (a)In this essay we will discuss what is meant by identity and why it is important. How identity is different from personality and how much engagement is needed on our part when our identities are formed.

Who we are is not given in advance but it emerges in a number of different forms. These forms of identity are never fixed but several are in play (Woodward, 2004, p16). Many aspects of identity derive from childhood experiences so that identity is constructed by the past as well as through the present. An identity is a fingerprint, a window to our existence. Identity may be contrasted with the notion of self. It is the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality. (Wikipedia.org). Identity combines how I see myself and how others see me, however how you see yourself may be at variance with others' perception of you.

Mead (1934) suggests that we have to think how others see us and to be self conscious (Ibid p7).

Identities are different from personalities because we can share personality traits with other peoples but sharing an identity suggest that we have chosen to identify with a particular identity or group (Ibid p6). Identity is marked by similarity, those who are similar and those who are different to us. We classify people according to where they come from and we may be confused if contradictory messages are given off (Ibid p33). Jackie Kay's (1991) poem highlights how identity is marked by difference that is by indication of what we are not.

Identities are formed through interaction between people. Symbols and representations are important in the production of identities (Ibid p12) Symbols help us distinguish between those who are similar and those who are different. Uniforms and flags offer symbols of identify...