This is a strange post for me as the issue of identity appears to have been on the social agenda for most of my adult life. I meandered through some thoughts on group interaction in my last post and, to be honest, for an awful lot of people, the idea of identity appears to begin and end there.
Who are you when nobody is looking?
We all put on fronts. These are about surviving and thriving with others and can be as simple as acting cheery when you feel threaders, but can be a whole complex new persona. If I am to hope to communicate with others then I need to consider the limitations and adjust my process accordingly - in the same way that for Twitter or a telegram I need to pare my message down! The healthiest among us wear masks that are closest to natural appearance.
Even with that in mind, we talk about individuality, about diversity, about variety while all the time plastering labels and constructing pigeon-holes. What does your gender, your nationality, your ethnicity, your sexuality tell me? Something and nothing. It tells me a bit about your circumstances, a bit about your genetic roll of the dice, about things over which you have no control, no choice.
Does it tell me about your values, your personality(ies), your abilities? Does it heck! Does it tell me about you handle these circumstances? Surely these are what should be important in determining our dealings with people. The things that make them people and not just part of an amorphous group. I guess with this I am not a million miles away from previous comments about talent or potential. Having it is great, but it is what you do with it that counts.
It is not so much that I think that we are what we do, but I do think that what how we come to do what we do leaves a pretty big trail of breadcrumbs leading back to who we are. The way in which we conduct ourselves. The decisions we took and how we took them before we did something. These things give us an indication of who you are and a suggestion, as good as can be expected, of how you might be in the future (remembering the investment advice small print - past performance is no guarantee of future returns!).
Ultimately, behind the curtain there is a puppeteer. Dwelling in the cramped spaces, out of eye-shot, pulling the strings, directing the movement. The puppet is the focus of attention but ultimately, if you pay attention, you can make out the master's hand.
So I ask again: who are you when nobody is looking? In sporting or working terms, what do you do when left to your own devices without coach or supervisor? We posture, we strut, we pose but when the gaze is off us, what do we do? Do the hard yards or take the short-cut? Goof off or knuckle down? Train when you should be resting? Rest when you should be training?
Like as not, this will speak about the person standing before you. Think about it, what are you being told? What are you actually getting? What are you paying attention to?
On the other side of the coin, if you are in a hurry to transmit labels about yourself remember this - while convenient, labels do not always mean the same to the person receiving them as they do the person sending them. What are you saying about yourself? What are you asking people to pay attention to? Now, how does that stack up with who you are?