Thus we want to change or even break free from the way that others perceive us, but we are also guilty of forming perceptions of others. By doing so we encourage the cycle to continue, and thus prevent others from changing or expressing their true identity at the same time that they prevent us. OTHER KEY CONCEPTS One must avoid the danger of focusing attention on identity at the expense of ignoring the other key concepts that are interrelated in the understanding of identity, namely insecurity, power and equality. One may come to question their identity if they experience feelings of insecurity.
Alternatively, can argue that the reverse holds true, so that feelings of insecurity can stem from the identity that we possess. As we progress through our lives we take on different roles, each of which may call upon (projecting) different aspects of our identity. Movement between these roles (periods of transition) can trigger off insecurity over our identities. Similarly, lack of role gives us insecurity in social system that is based on institutionalisation of expectations. For example, if upon graduation I decide against entering the world of work, others may see me as lazy and unambitious.
the way we perceive ourselves as an individual is largely dependant on society’s reflection of us and thus I can experience feelings of insecurity . The fear of inconsistency between roles can lead to ‘cognitive dissonance’ that manifests itself in the form of heightened tension and insecurity. One looks to resolve this to form a more grounded identity. e. g I can resolve my earlier problem by entering the labour market. CHANGING IDENTITY Last year I interrupted my studies to undertake a gap placement with an investment bank in London.
Living alone, away from home for the first time, I was free from parental influence and restrictions, thus I had the opportunity to break out of my conventional mould and in effect, create a new identity. But I found myself changing very little. Those restrictions which I felt were the attitudes of my parents projected on me had become internalised over time and came to constitute a significant part of my being. Therefore as much as I may have been tempted to go wild, I could not bring myself to do so, as by ‘letting go’ I felt like I would lose myself… my identity.
Theorists such as Fromm (1980) may explain this in terms of the fear of freedom resulting from (amongst other things) the insecurity attached to the uncertainty of the unknown. Sociologists such as Berger may describe my situation in terms of inability to change due to ingrained social expectations. IDENTITY AND RELIGION As a practising Muslim, my belief in God shapes my attitude and my behaviour by setting guidelines for the way I live my life. Thus one may view this cornerstone of my identity as a prison. However, maybe it isn’t a prison as much as a safety net, ensuring that I don’t go astray!
That I lead my life in the way that I have been brought up to believe is just and right, normal for a British Muslim. But from this stems the argument that living up to the label acts as a prison in itself, which has been created both within and by a social structure. By conforming I am repressing my true identity and suppressing to my communities expectations (based on Friere, 1972). As a British Muslim I am expected to blend into the Western way of living whilst maintaining my ethnic roots/ culture. This can cause a state of unbalance that may manifest itself in anxiety and feelings of insecurity over competing identities.
This reasoning leads me to question to what extent my identity as a British Muslim is a psychic prison? Am I trapped by the conflicting roles that are within me? The extent to which identity is a prison depends on whether one looks at the having or being mode of existence. This is best explained if looked at in a context, and thus will now look at it in terms of another key concept of security/insecurity. In the Having mode, security sees it as a possession… ELABORATE IF TIME. In contrast, in the Being mode there is no insecurity attached to losing what one has.
‘If I am who I am and not what I have, nobody can deprive me of or threaten my security and my sense of identity. ‘ (Fromm). Thus, identity is a framework (rather than a prison) that is built to accommodate the individual through its flexible rather than restrictive nature. At an academic level Friere (1972) sees the banking system of education as a mechanism for restricting expression of identity due to its dehumanising nature. Those who take on the role/identity as students, such as myself, lose their sense of individuality in the classroom.
They are transformed into passive recipients of information as opposed to knowledge that would encourage them to grow and question their perception of the world around them and try to discover where they fit into it. i. e. their identity. Thus the place that I am studying at can be seen as an institution set up with the purpose of ‘moulding’ students into managers of the future. This creates a sense of identity ‘I’m a graduate’ and a purpose ‘I will become a successful manager. ‘
This carries with it expectations from others, e. g. ‘she successful manager.’ must be intelligent, hardworking and ambitious’, traits which we may feel obliged to fulfil, reiterating the psychic prison analogy. SOCIAL IDENTITY We tend to ‘migrate’ towards others who are similar to ourselves, such as those who share similar interests, values and attitudes. One may argue that such groups can limit our identity, which is restricted to operating within the given expected framework of the group to which we belong. Thus the group can be said to represent the bars surrounding our identity. SIT makes distinction between personal identity (defined by traits) and social identity (defined by stereotypes).