While there are numerous ways to identify any individual, how a specific person identifies himself may be quite different from how others identify him. How an individual identifies himself can affect the social actions, cultural affiliations, the amount of self-esteem that is carried, and the relationships a person builds. Self-identification is also an important part of self-esteem, self-reliance, and ultimately, success as a person. Because I have always identified myself based on my qualities and behaviors, both positive and negative, rather than on my cultural or social position, I believe that a person’s self-identification is best reflected by how a person lives life, what contributions are made by an individual, and how a person treats others.

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How a person chooses to live life is one of the best ways to determine his identity. For example, my identity has been greatly affected by my grandfather. He chose to live his life working very hard to provide for his family. He was quite successful at this, and many members of our community remember him as a hard worker and as a person who was always busy. He was very proud of the fact that all of his four children went to college and he was able to pay for that for them. However, this came at the expense of family time. My grandfather was rarely available emotionally for my father, and he didn’t attend many of my father’s school events. He didn’t even take time to eat meals with his family. I learned from him that making a living is indeed important, but not more important than family. I can see how hut his children are even today that he seemed to be absent from their lives for the most part due to his diligence at making a good living and providing well financially for his family. I choose to live my life making time for family.

Making time for family is so important. It goes right along with the contributions a person makes to the greater good of his community, country, or world. These contributions are also key factors in determining a person’s identity. If a person is rich but doesn’t share his wealth with others, there is no contribution to the greater good. This wealth doesn’t have to be financial, either. It can be a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of food or goods, a wealth of discovery, or any other abundance or overabundance. So, what is the greater good? It is “used to advocate a particular course of action being taken, despite it causing some inimical consequences, because the benefits will outweigh these “unfortunate” costs” (Lobo). I knew a woman in my neighborhood when I was growing up that loved children. Her children were grown, but she still had the desire to share her motherliness with others. We would go to her house and make cookies or do crafts like God’s eyes and popsicle stick houses, and we played in her yard while she gardened almost every single day in the summer. She always had toys and puzzles for the neighborhood kids, and brought us water and sometimes lemonade on hot days in the summer while we played.

She even brought us a bag of balloons one hot day so we could have a water balloon fight. She never asked for anything in return. The best thing she did was take us to the mall at Christmas. She would give however many of us there were $5 each and we would buy a small present for the giving tree at the community center. I realized later that she lived in a fixed income, but her contribution to the greater good of our community is a lesson I won’t ever forget. She gave presents and drinks to us and to others, but more importantly, she gave us the ability to know what giving felt like. It was a delayed lesson that I didn’t fully realize until I was an adult, but it was a great lesson nonetheless.

Giving to the greater good feels great and is a good way for someone to identify you. It is very similar, yet distinct from, being identified by the manner in which a person treats others, which is yet another major determining factor to a person’s identity. Being kind, thoughtful, honest, compassionate, and giving is much more important that being Asian or Jewish or male. If you don’t feel like you are this type of person, you can become one if you want to. One motivated entrepreneur believes that you can build this type of identity by creating new habits. He states that “to change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself” (Clear). This means that even if I don’t measure up to my own standards in this particular category just yet, I can get there. Identity, in general, follows this pattern – if you don’t like your current identity, you can always change it. You can always become better in whatever fashion or function you choose. You can’t do this with race or gender or other ways of identification, which is why I have chosen to discuss behaviors and personality rather than fixed identifiers.

Because there are so many different ways to determine the identity of an individual, identifying a few of the key factors in how a person identifies himself can be very important. While many people choose to identify closely with a race, a religion, a culture, or a geographical area, I believe that a better way to determine the true identity of an individual is through observing how he lives life, finding out what contributions he makes to the greater good, and evaluating how he treats other people. These are the real indicators that can demonstrate the true identity of any person, regardless of race, religion, culture, or geographical location. I would like to avoid what Oscar Wilde felt about identity: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation” (Wilde). I’d rather determine my own identity.

  • Clear, James. “Identity-Based habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year.” James
    Clear. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.
  • Lobo, Adrian. “The Greater Good.” Everything Philosophy. 2012. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.
  • Wilde, Oscar. “The Delicious Wit and Sarcasm of Oscar Wilde.” N.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.