I wanted to organize some of my thoughts on the concept of identity. I thought it might be useful for people here, as the forum tends to be younger folks that are still discovering themselves.
Mods: Please move this if there is a more appropriate forum.
First, a disclaimer: This is based on my own experiences and some very light research I've done over the years. I have fallen into these traps before and I think awareness of them is the first step to avoiding them.
The concept of identity is pushed hard in today's world. I think this is related to how our idea of gender has evolved over the past decade. People are spending more time than ever introspecting and searching within themselves. I think this is a good thing, however, one can have a less than positive result if introspection is rushed and identity misplaced.
People are racing head long to fill their profile headers with all kinds of interesting identifiers. I recall being handed INTP in my youth and how great it felt to have this neat four letter acronym to describe myself. I think there is a lot of satisfaction to be had from 'figuring yourself out.'
Of course, identity is a serious thing, it gives people outside of yourself an intimate view of how you think the world works, how you approach some situations, and how best to interact with you. However, one needs to proceed with caution to avoid stereotyping folks.
As human beings, we all want to belong on some level, have relationships with people that are similar to us, or at least have someone that understands us. Above all, I think we seek to know people who have endured the same trials. In order to find those people, we advertise our chosen identifiers.
This is a plausible strategy to make connections, however, one must be careful when choosing to identify as something.
Let's take a step back, there is an aspect of the human condition that limits the usefulness of identifiers. Humans tend to adopt some of the traits, behaviors, and beliefs of those they spend time with. This is natural and a part of how we establish social cohesion within our groups.
Issues can arise when someone identifies as something and tries to force false attributes on themselves. Some people will pretend to have certain traits or behaviors. Some will claim they believe one thing when they in fact believe something else.
For example, I was friends with some people that enjoyed ghost hunting. They took me to an isolated rural church that was supposed to be haunted, it was late at night and a little eerie. I told them I wanted to get out and look around. Everyone in the car insisted they in some manner could 'feel' that it wasn't a good time to do it. I was asked if I could feel it too, I did not, and I was -very- tempted to lie about it. I wanted to fit in.
Identity can also lead you astray if you apply something negative to yourself. I am a firm believer in being kind to yourself.
Think about the people in your life, is there someone that talks down to themselves a lot? Do they use a lot of negative terms to describe themselves? It is possible they have had a series of experiences to make them feel that way or suffered mental abuse. Now that they are applying negatives identities to themselves, they will view themselves and their actions through that lens.
This influences their decisions and thoughts. "I'm not even going to try this. It won't work because I am an idiot anyway."
Once you are in the hold of these things it can be incredibly hard to break out of. In some ways, identity can be hazardous to your genuine self.
Identity can lead to conflict. This is because you now have a stake and emotional investment in that term. This also primes you to butt heads with an opposing identity, we can see a lot in politics. It is a shame, because I think some conflict could be avoided if we would stop labeling and stereotyping each other.
In summary, once you have determined you identify as something, you might start to interpret your new experiences in ways to reinforce that identity, even if the identity does not fit you. Learn as much as you can before deciding to identify as something.
Ultimately, I think we should focus more on our shared experiences rather than identity or labels. Focusing on experiences will serve to bring people together, and better enable folks to decide for themselves where they might find true camaraderie.