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Who Am I?: Individualistic And Collectivist Identities

1544 words - 7 pages

In today's society, with the advent of modern digital communication and an increased focus upon global society and diversity, humans have a golden opportunity to evaluate themselves and how they identify both individually and in their broader culture. Although the question of “who am I” is perhaps one of the classical questions of the human cognizance of identity, our identity as both groups and individuals is directly related to the culture we are a part of, especially in regards to whether that culture is determined to be individualistic or collectivist. These differing mindsets have an inherent connection to the way that we view ourselves and the impact of interactions between different cultures.
To examine the impact of culture upon identity, we must first define what identity is. There is the age-old trend to view identity as the classical question of “who am I?”, when in reality, the common definition of identity is “...[the] individual's perception of self in relation to others” rather than the personality of the individual in question (Woodward). While personality is a way that we characterize ourselves by the traits that we posses, the identities that we claim are inherently a part of the groups that we assign ourselves. When I was young and in Sunday school, I was taught that the answer to the question of “who are you” is that I am a child of God, and I belong to the group of Christians. Now, some would reject that response almost immediately on the basis of that this answer does not define them, and in doing that, we have already segregated our identity based upon a group that we are a part of. Our identity is necessarily a product of our society and our relationships and the groups assignments that we give ourselves, because without the defining functions of groups, we are at a loss as to where we belong (Woodward).
Grouping, or stereotyping, such as this isn't to be viewed as an inherently negative aspect. In fact, grouping is a natural cognitive function, left over from a much more dangerous era far back in pre-modern human history when social categorization enabled us to respond rapidly to perceived threats (McLeod, “Stereotypes”). Today, we group individuals based on material and social factors, be that age, race, status, or gender, to determine whether they share one or more identities with us (Flora). We must assign identities like this be able to function in our societies whether it be as parents, employees, students, or any of the other hundreds of roles that we can play. The reaction of other human beings to our self or socially assigned identities further clarifies in our own minds what our true identities are, therefore ensuring that others will always have a role in the way we view ourselves. Personally, people in my life have a huge influence on my identity, because I hold myself individually to high standards and wish to be perceived as a general good person—A good student, a good daughter, a good worker; these are...

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