Sunday, January 31, 2010

Identity - You are my sunshine...

My week-long series on identity was hijacked by the cold from hell. Instead of being a blogger I became a shambling consumer of tissues and cough drops.  Yuck. While identity is a topic that continues to interest me, I'm not sure if I will post on it through the coming week. Stay tuned.

For now, however, I want to look at identity in the context of other people. So far we've looked at identity through action and identity through sensory information. Both of these are ways we tell ourselves and others who we are. Today I'm interested in how we are viewed by others.

To my parents, I am first and foremost their daughter. They will always worry about me and love me as only parents can. I will always be their little girl, no matter how old I am, how self-sufficient and how capable. 

It would be wildly inappropriate for my lover to treat me the way my parents do. Instead he sees me in a completely different light, as friend and helpmate, as sexual partner and companion through life. He sees me as an adult and someone with whom he is particularly intimate.

My friends see me as someone else entirely, while my step-daughter sees yet another person, my co-workers someone else and so on.

We don different identities with each relationship, because each person with whom we interact sees us as someone different, depending on context, the power structures and roles in that relationship, its duration and so on. With luck, the person they see us to be has some correlation with who we are inside. We need to remember that our internal definitions may be at odds with someone else's definition of us and make allowances. Or not. The song You Are My Sunshine is a chilling example of what can happen when we think someone is a person they are not.

While we can never be who someone else wants us to be, it's worth just keeping their assumptions in mind. Sometimes they let us be better than we are.  And remember, the people you know may have a different image of themselves, so be kind. If you give someone the gift of being a bigger person than they are, they just might grow into it.

So, who are you to others? Do you agree? Are you a better person in their eyes?

(c)2010 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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