I’ve become convinced that a clear understanding of personal identity is critical for well-being. It is this awareness that has helped me beat back depression and stand in a new way of thinking about myself. I will attempt to write it down in a form that will make sense and lead to a similar transformation to those that need this word.
What is identity? I define it as that picture of who I believe I am without even thinking about it. Its a subconscious orientation that governs my actions, whether good or bad. A more simple explanation. If I think I am a kind person, I will act consistently to that notion. If I think I am a fuck up, I’m going to act like one. If I know I am a poser. I will work hard to prove otherwise, and in the process will prove what a phony I really am.
It’s helpful to understand identity by developing a good grasp on what helps create and reinforce it. I believe there are two primary factors that create this inner picture of ourselves; experiences and and what I think about them. Let me explain it this way.
My grandfather drove Ford vehicles, my best memory was a ford Truck. As a boy, I remember riding in that blue and white F-100, no air conditioning and AM-only radio. He was also a Ford mechanic and could make any engine run. He taught this knowledge to my dad, who also drove Fords all his life and taught me how to change a tire, oil and replace spark plugs. My first car was a 1974 Mustang II that we both tinkered on and through that experience, I developed a good understanding of how cars work.
Since then, I’ve always owned a Ford, and for the last 30+ years, have owned a Ford truck. So when my wife’s car was totaled and she started the replacement process, she told me she wanted to buy a Kia Soul, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I had no logical explanation for denying her the Kia. It was going to be her car and she would be driving it most of the time. So why did I have difficulty letting go and coming to terms with owning a Kia?
My identity is in my heritage of driving a Ford vehicle. I just could not identify with a car associated with hamsters.
This identity is not logical. The Kia was affordable. Karen liked it and it was going to her primary vehicle. My relationship with owning a Ford was monolithic. It all came down to how I have seen myself in relationship to the cars I own. Even both my kids own Fords. I just could not envision myself purchasing anything other than a Ford.
My lifelong experience, beginning with my grandfather, through my dad and then in my own experience; all this has shaped my identity as a Ford owner.
This is just what I think about cars and trucks, an insignificant area compare to what I think about myself and my true worth and value. But I believe the same progression holds true. My core identity is shaped by the experiences over the course of my lifetime and the thoughts that reinforce it.
My depression was directly tied to feeling like a failure. Losing a business, losing reputation, losing friends, losing money, losing health. All this experience of loss reinforced my feelings, and created a thought process that led to an agreement with everything I was going through. Since this is happening and since I feel this way, therefore, I must be a failure.
To be continued…