I think our society has an identity problem.

Firstly, people tend to stake their identity on 1 or 2 things. I'm a Liberal. I'm a doctor. I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs' fan. Whatever.

I suspect this can cause people a lot of trouble. Just think of a retired professional athlete or a retired CEO. Once they retire, they lose the 1 thing they staked their identity on. They didn't diversify their "portfolio of life". And, if they aren't X anymore, what are they?

I had big trouble with this when my high school girlfriend and I broke up. I sort of bet everything on her and once she was gone I was just 😳. Also, after deciding accounting wasn't right for me, I had huge existential crisis of "well who am I / what am I going to be???" I bet my entire identity on the profession of accounting and that working out.

Second, people often seem to be judging others by a single facet of their identity or a single thing they did. Just look at cancel and callout culture. I read somewhere that students at a university were protesting to take a statue of Ghandi down. I haven't looked into it myself but I did hear that Ghandi did do some probably inappropriate shit. And, he also inspired a nation to its peaceful independence and continues to inspire folks today with what can be accomplished nonviolently.

So, I just wanted to say a HUGE FYI:

You can have multiple facets to your identity.

And, I believe they can be conflicting.

I'm a HUGE Toronto Maple Leafs' fan. But, in high school, my hockey team went to watch a Montreal Canadiens game. I got chills when the lil kid skated out onto the ice with the torch (chills that I haven't gotten while at a Leafs' home game). A former player on the same Midget team I played on played for the Canadiens at the time, so we got to go to their dressing room after the game. That experience makes me really appreciate the Canadiens even though they are technically the Leafs' archrivals.

I think the solution to this is either:

  • Have a highly diversified identity I am a human, sister, mother, teacher, skier, artist, singer, Bachelorette fan, hockey player, etc.
  • Keep your identity small This is Paul Graham's advice. I think it goes in line with commitment/consistency bias. It's really hard to go with a point, even if it is correct, if it challenges your identity. Also, it probably means don't put too much of your identity into one thing. Just keep it small.

Written: October 21, 2020

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