Seth Godin’s apropos and brilliant piece today, Identity and Ideas draws an important distinction and raises an important question. The distinction is that some people receive their identities from other’s ideas, while other’s identities don’t derive from a dictated ideological position. The latter are free to examine various ideas, modify as needed, and feel no threat to their identity. This raises the question: Who gets to tell you who you are?
”One way to define our identity is to fall in love with an idea (often one that was handed to us by a chosen authority). Another is to refuse to believe our identity is embodied in an idea, and instead embrace a method for continually finding and improving our ideas.”Seth Godin
I am in the latter camp. I hope that is the case for you. If it isn’t, who have you allowed to tell you who you are? Whose ideas of what your life means and of your place in the world have you embraced and adopted as your own? Or maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you are independently finding and improving your own ideas. But your unwillingness to confront and accept evidence that destroys your current views contradicts that notion.
Can you not see this is the height of insecurity? Maybe you’ve allowed someone to tell you who you are your entire life. You look for someone to tell you through a lifetime of habit and conditioning. You probably adopt and parrot every new thing you hear (as long as it comes from a charismatic source popular with your current circle of friends). Because those who get their identity from outside themselves can never escape the bondage of fear over what other people think. Even though these same people who couldn’t care less about you; except as another ideological clone reinforcing their own beliefs.
Is this too harsh? Maybe. And just maybe it isn’t harsh enough. After all, I’m not the one trying to tell you who you are.