Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 16, 2009

I mean, I'm still the same person…

By Ihsan B. Kabir

Identity, to most people the word probably means nothing and to others probably the movie. This week in the RS, we look at all the aspects that shape the word and exactly what those aspects mean to us.

Or am I? Don't you often find yourself acting one way, fitting one stereotype so to speak, with one group of people, and then flipping 180 degrees and pulling on a different mask with others? All these different charades seem fine at first; you get along with all the people you want to, and after a while you start to get accustomed to the role, maybe even grow into it a little bit. Soon, that annoying little feeling gnawing at your gut every time you played a different character disappears. The thought of being the same person even seems mundane. However, what if someone asks you to describe your identity? What would you do?

Most of us find that we have two distinct sectors of our identity. The first identity is definitely the more complex, and the one that most of you picked up on in the description above. It is our outward appearance to people. All of us act differently to different groups of people. It is most definitely not a crime in any way; it is just interesting to sit back and take a look at how many aliases exist. This is the identity that people not intimately acquainted with you will be most familiar with, or, they will be familiar with at least one of these identities. To the rest of the world, we are the people we portray- although that sentence seems obvious and redundant, it is not.

That is because we have another identity. This second identity is the inner identity- the identity that represents who we truly are. Despite playing along in this giant theatrical play known as life, the actor who resides inside the costume does not change. If one is cynical on the inside, but has to portray the optimist on the outside, his inner identity remains that of a cynic. Amidst the fast paced world we live in, it is hard to realize this identity exists at times, but, rest assured, it does. It takes a lot of deep thought and self reflection to truly understand it in all of its complexity. This is the all comprehensive identity that covers things other identities would see as trivial. If you play an innocent type character, then you don't need to falsify your favorite dangerous thing to do because your identity calls for it. Your real identity, on the other hand, comes with everything- even ideas that seem utterly pointless. But, once a sort of “nirvana” is achieved and you completely understand your idea, the potential for a lot of interesting things happen.

First, the question of how the inner and outer identities are related is posed. Are they entirely dissimilar, as we once thought, or are there a core group of ideas that binds them together? If you play a strong and fearless leader with your colleagues, but play an innocent and afraid child at home, are you all that different? Inside, you are still the same human being, and it is that idea that puzzles us as humans. How, if we are the same people, can we act so different? A relationship between these identities must exist, right?

Secondly, what happens if we want to change our inner identity? This question bodes some scary thought processes. The thought of changing the way we act around other people seems trivial in a world filled with much more daunting challenges. Yet, to change the essence of who we are (everyone under the age of 18 is an exception to this) seems equivalent to pedaling a rickshaw with 80kg of rice in the backseat during a heavy flood. If this inner identity is predetermined by some higher entity and no matter how hard we try to change we find ourselves back in square one, then what do we do? At a time when being an optimist seems fashionable; can we convert and see the glass as half full? Or, are we doomed to always seeing things the way our body developed.

Finally, can we use an outer identity so much it becomes a part of who we are? If we play the strong and fearless leader most of the day, do we end up becoming just like him? Humans are trained to learn by conditioning, so does conditioning the behavioral patterns and manipulating the mind work the same way? It seems quite probable, but at the same time it seems too farfetched to be true. The real life implications behind a proposition like this are appealing. The faults we find in our characters can be weeded out and replaced, if all of this is true. But, at the end of the day, if these faults in our character are only seen by us, do they matter? If the people around us believe us to be the amazing characters we think we are, do we need to change?

Our identity is a very complex entity indeed. There are so many questions that can be raised about it, and thinking about them can get frustrating at times. If we knew ourselves better though, and we knew the concept of an identity better, then what would that mean? People would adopt the roles they dreamed of everywhere. For some it seems like a dream, and for others, it seems like a nightmare. I leave it up to you to decide.



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